Celebrity Interviews

‘Liz’ Creates Scandal in Venezuela, Gets U.S. Release

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“Liz in September,” Fina Torres’ film version of the classic American play “Last Summer at Bluefish Cove,” may have caused a scandal in Venezuela, but it’s been enthusiastically received at film festivals, and is now available on DVD and VOD from Wolfe Video.

Filmed on the pristine Caribbean coast of Venezuela, the movie features some familiar Venezuelan actors, including former supermodel Patricia Velasquez (“The Mummy,” “The L Word”). The lesbian-themed film “seems to have caused a bit of a scandal,” said Velasquez, having just returned to her Los Angeles home from a string of festival screenings of “Liz.”

Torres, also a native Venezuelan, agreed that some of their countrymen “were not very happy with the gay theme.”

“It’s a little bit homophobic,” says the director in a melodic accent. “If they are to see a gay movie, they prefer to see some tragedy or some kind of abnormal thing happen, like murder. I think homophobic people don’t want homosexuality to become a normal thing. I think it’s more difficult to accept.”

Most of the cast is Venezuelan—dancer Eloisa Maturen is Eva, in her first featured role; Mimi Lazo, Elba Escobar and Arlette Torres, all TV veterans, and Danay Garcia (“Prison Break”) is from Cuba.

“All were straight people,” says Torres, “only one was gay, Patricia, who came out just after the movie.”

Velasquez is famous for her role as the Pharaoh’s murderous mistress in mega-hits “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns,” as well as for roles on “The L Word” and “Arrested Development.” She now lives in Los Angeles with her 8-year-old daughter, and recently wrote a book, “Straight Walk,” after hiding her sexuality for much of her acting and modeling career.

“The whole point is to show the world that we are successful, that we’re talented, we are good humans, that we are just normal,” she says.

“Living in Los Angeles and New York, there are so many kinds of diverse families that it’s really not a big deal. Of course there is still much to do in terms of legislation and things like that, but we really are ahead of like, Venezuela, for example, where there’s so much work to be done.”

Torres, who left Venezuela 40 years ago to study filmmaking in France and now plans to return since filming there, has earned acclaim for her work, including “Oriana,” “Celestial Clockwork,” and “Woman on Top.”

One of the main challenges she faced in adapting Jane Chambers’ play was making her Spanish-language version more contemporary.

“It was so hard in the beginning of the ‘80s to come out of the closet, but today, I thought it was not that big, so I had to change some things,” says Torres. She is happy with the result.

“So many issues people are very reactive to, the homosexuality, euthanasia, a gay couple with children. Some people loved the movie and some people were very reactive.”

Torres says some Venezuelans, “males mostly,” weren’t happy that “the sex scene between Liz and Eva was not sexual. They were expecting something it was not because, as I explain, it’s really not a sex scene, it’s love, love, love.”

Liz is a beautiful, stubborn, free spirit who embraces a fast life and does things her own way. Confronted with an illness that she can’t control, she and a group of her closest friends gather at the beach, where Liz meets a woman who just lost her young son to cancer.

“You want to die with dignity,” says Torres. “I thought it was something unique for me to explore. I think the biggest gift to Liz is I gave her someone to accompany her on her way out. I think that’s really deep, really profound to help somebody to liberate of all the suffering.”

Asked if she identified with “Liz,” Velasquez gives credit to her director for melding her life with that of her character.

“Fina took elements from my own life [and] incorporated them in the film; the dog for instance,” Velasquez says. “She would see me running every morning with my dog at the beach.”

After a pause, she adds: “I think when I used to model, that might be one time in my life I used to play around a lot with women, and just, yeah, trouble. She took moments from that part of my life. But I think in the characters we play, whatever it is they’re going through, we try to find within ourselves.

“At the end of the day, this script is about a woman who is afraid of loving, when really what she wants most in life is to be loved. I think we can all relate to that.”

Watch “Liz in September” from Wolfe On Demand and Vimeo On Demand. The release expands on Dec. 1 across additional digital and VOD platforms, including iTunes, Amazon and others.

For more see: https://www.wolfevideo.com/products/liz-in-september/ 

Journalist Laurie Schenden covers the entertainment industry, with many of her notable celebrity interviews appearing in the Los Angeles Times and other national and international publications. As a longtime columnist and feature writer for the LA Times, she also covered events and California destinations for the lifestyle, Outdoors and Travel sections. Laurie Schenden's international pieces include the long-running Where Are They Now celebrity feature for Spotlight Magazine, published in five languages. Laurie has also contributed to numerous documentary films, and produces content via Saving Grace Films.

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