Valentine Road

dir. Marta Cunningham, USA 2013

Sundance at Transatlantyk


Among all of this year's premiers at Sundance Film Festival this film has been commented on the most vividly. Why? Because its director, Marta Cunningham, wonderfully combined an objective approach towards the subject with an artistic attractiveness. In "Valentine Road" all of this was arranged with an inquisitive eye, so typical for documentary makers.

Oxnard is located in California, less than a hundred miles from Los Angeles. "Everyone knows where the City of Angels is, but only few have heard of us" - the town's inhabitants joke bitterly. Only few might have heard about the place, but it all changed when certain thing happened. All it took was one event for Oxnard to be talked about throughout the whole America. In February 2008, a 15-year-old boy was shot to death by his school friend. Victim of the attack, a Latino boy named Larry, came out of the closet a few weeks earlier and openly announced his sexual orientation in front of school’s community. Furthermore, in order to emphasize his identity (Larry felt he was a transvestite) he began coming to school in women's shoes, makeup and with a purse on his shoulder. Just before Valentine's Day he had decided to open his heart for the first time in his life - Larry was in love with Brandon who was attending the same school. The latter responded with hatred and took his peer's life.

Marta Cunningham does not point a finger at the one who is guilty of this crime, but the American society does it for her, because Larry's case was highly touted by the media - even one of the most famous TV personalities on the American coast, Ellen DeGeneres, has devoted much of her television talk show to it. Alongside voices of condemnation for the murderer, there were also some allegations directed towards killed Larry. Some felt that the victim was provoking with his daring outfits and behavior, there were even voices speaking of Brandon being allegedly sexually harassed by Larry! Meanwhile, the director tries to figure out what really led to this tragedy. She visits homes of both boys, speaks with their loved ones, and even takes a look at their things. It turns out that Brandon and Larry had one thing in common, they both had an equally difficult childhood. Unfortunately, everything else about them was different.

This poignant voice on tolerance heavily stirred the audience of this year's Sundance Festival. Will the same thing happen to the audience of Transatlantyk? Marta Cunningham's film will have its Polish premiere during the festival in Poznan.

Jacek Sobczyński

Major festivals: Sundance Film Festival.