Filmmaker Cecilia Aldarondo has created an honest and deeply personal documentary about her uncle who died when she was only young. Family lore said he passed away from cancer, but was that really the case? To learn more about this man, Miguel, that she so briefly remembers, she sets out to shed some light on unspoken things.
She discovers that her uncle was condemned for his sexuality by his heavily religious Puerto Rican family, particularly his mother, and moved to swinging Manhattan in the '70s, where he met his partner, Robert – another key player in this family saga.
Aldarondo tracks down Robert and he's willing to open up about his lost love and the ostracism they both faced from the family.
Bringing together old video recordings, letters, as well as interviews with others involved, Aldarondo presents a tale of a mother-and-son relationship fractured by religious fundamentalism and denial.
With a poetic and eye-catching visual style, Aldarondo delves into a not-too-distant time when the gay community was devastated by stigma and HIV/AIDS. She also depicts the power of faith to both condemn and provide great comfort. Incredibly moving, Memories of a Penitent Heart looks at the ways we grieve and survive.
Memories of a Penitent Heart is showing at Event Cinemas, George Street, Sydney at 9.00pm on Friday 17 February as part of the Mardi Gras Film Festival.