Bruising for Besos
Bruising for Besos
U.S. Narrative Features
(USA, 2016, 88 min)
QuickTime Pro-Res, DCP Encrypted
Southern California Premiere
Directed By: Adelina Anthony
Screenwriter: Adelina Anthony

Director Statement

"During graduate studies in Drama at Stanford University, I developed the first solo play drafts of BRUISING FOR BESOS in 2003 under the tutelage of my former mentor, Cherríe L. Moraga. The play was further developed and eventually premiered with great success at the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center in 2009. While very distinct from the solo play, our film preserves the story's essence: exploring the effects of growing up in a home with domestic violence and how we as queer and trans people of color (QTPOC) may carry trauma and learned behavior into our own adult lives. This is the story of one such character, Yoli. By no means is she meant to represent all of us, but she does offer up a mirror to many of us. The character of Yoli has been living with me for quite some time and her gender expression from a femme-macha on the stage to a butch woman on the screen has also been a thoughtful evolution.

Inspired in part by the dearth of Xicana butch representation in cinema and television, it was important to me as a two-spirit artist to create a masculine-of-center lesbian character. One of the ways in which we can tackle butchphobia within our own QTPOC communities-let alone heterosexual spheres-is by creating characters with varied gender expressions that can point us to meaningful dialogue in our personal and communal lives. In this regard, the film also works to balance sex-positive imagery, while preserving an emotional complexity of characters, story and tone. This means I have taken great liberties as an artist in the creation of this film. While I have always eschewed from calling this work autobiographical, as it is not a strict documentation of my life, I am grateful to possess insider knowledge about Xicana culture, QTPOC sensibilities, domestic/intimate partner violence, and other intersectional experiences that resonate with my communities. Bruising for Besos as my debut feature film (the first in a series) aims to take bold, creative risks, while bringing its audiences into a deeply intimate experience where they encounter a nuanced world not frequently portrayed in cinema, and a fresh protagonist with a distinct voice enmeshed with all of its lesbian, ethnic, class and gendered layers.

When I started to create the character of Yoli I thought deeply about the ways in which some queer women of color I knew (myself included) found ourselves in fraught relationships that resembled what our parents had modeled for us. And not until I found myself in an abusive relationship did I begin to understand my mother's difficult past with my stepfather. As a child, I never understood why she stayed with him even after the near death beatings. My own situation was not as violent as hers, and, yet, when I reflected on how long it took me to leave my own toxic relationship, I had to admit that I was not so different from my mother. The cycles and escalation of the violence I experienced, from the emotional to the physical, sadly resembled a textbook case. I had to accept the fact of my own denial, and of participating in an unhealthy relationship. I kept reasoning the abuse away with the erroneous notion that having a same-sex abusive partner is not really domestic violence, because unlike my mother, I could at least physically defend myself against another woman. Another misguided notion was the idea that same-sex domestic or intimate partner violence was not prevalent. However, statistics from two studies as recent as 2014 prove otherwise, showing rates as high as 35% to 61% for queer women experiencing intimate partner violence.


Confounding this experience is a web of emotions and stigma that surround intimate partner violence, including the shame and absolute silence one tends to self-impose as a way to protect a queer relationship, that might very well already be under attack by different societal or, at times, familial, forces. I intimately understand why Yoli is secretive and keeps her problems to herself. I know what it is to offer a façade of a relationship to the public and to struggle alone with my demons. I gave these parts of myself to Yoli. And in turn I learned from Yoli that emotional intelligence is not the same as one's intellect-which can get in the way of getting real help. Yoli and this story, which has seeds of my life in it, gave me the gift of breaking silence through transgressive artmaking, which is a way of offering up individual and collective healing by exposing wounds.

I have been a "sacred-clown" (a comedic performer intentionally using humor to heal and create dialogue) in my communities long enough to know healing does not happen instantaneously nor through a single experience. My healing process is also not the same as others. But for me, living and healing are intricately connected to making and experiencing art that speaks to and from my experiences. For these reasons, I take much care to always show the beauty and levity in our complexity as QTPOC. We are not just about the drama and conflict, we are equally the ways in which we joke, share, and love each other.

All of this exploration led me to creating an intersectional story, where everything Yoli knows about love, family and friendships collide. It breaks her open. By the end, it leaves her wounds exposed to the world, and, more importantly, to herself. As an intersectional story, the unconventional story structure and presentation invites the viewer to come to her/his/their own conclusions. It is an invitation for a highly personal and subjective viewing.

In the end, I wrote a story where our protagonist's journey is deeply internal, and what happens to her is as much her own doing, as is the past she continues to carry with her. The stories we tell ourselves inevitably shape our daily lives. For Xicana/o peoples we practice the indigenous tenets of returning and remembering, both in our lives and art. Yoli must remember-knowing that to remember is to re-imagine-through her art in order to understand why she must make the journey back home."
Post-Screening Party: Precinct, 357 South Broadway, 90013
Questions? please email or phone 213-480-7088

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