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Finlandia Is a Sumptuous Takedown of Gender and Appropriation

Finlandia Is a Sumptuous Takedown of Gender and Appropriation

'Finlandia'
Courtesy of Outfest Fusion

Muxe culture takes center stage in this tale of love, identity, and embroidery.

The medium of motion pictures was created for films just like director Horacio Alcala's Finlanda, which screened at this year's Outfest Fusion. Every frame is gloriously alive and -- like its characters -- a riot of brightly saturated colors. Although the narrative takes dark and even tragic turns over the course of the film, it remains a feast for the eyes that you can't, nor want, to turn away from.

Finlandia follows a small community living in Oaxaca, Mexico who identify as muxe, a third gender living outside the binary. There's Delrio, the matriarch of the group who pines for a lover in Finland who regularly sends postcards but will likely never return. Amaranta is a charismatic and beautiful sex worker who's also carrying on a doomed relationship with a married man. Mariano is the youngest of the group, a bullied school child who's torn between their mother's desire for them to become a priest and their truth of being muxe.

A young woman named Marta soon enters their lives. Unbeknownst to the locals, she's been sent by a European fashion house to covertly document the community's intricately rendered embroideries so they can be appropriated "and improved" by the fashion house. It serves as a takedown of the intersection of appropriation, capitalism, and the fashion industry. In a film already rife with themes about identity and queerphobia, it would seem an impossible balance, and yet it all weaves together in an subtle and intersectional way.

Finlandia marks Alcala's narrative feature debut but he cut his teeth in documentary films, and it shows. The film flirts with something akin to magical realism in parts -- particularly in the faux photoshoots Marta sets up intending to document the muxe's garments -- but Alcala's documentarian roots come through in beautifully composed one-shots that revel in and reveal the culture and humanity of the film's subjects.

Finlandia is a visual triumph rife with aching performances. But perhaps most importantly of all, it serves as a compelling glimpse into an underseen part of the vast (and exquisitely embroidered) fabric of queer culture.

Finlandia screened at Outfest Fusion. This review is part of our coverage of the Outfest Fusion 2022.

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