Dreaming of a sexual adventure in Mexico City?
In Alberto Fuguet’s film Always Say Yes – Siempre Sí – we follow the sexual adventures of Héctor.
Young, sexy and thirsty for adventure, Héctor travels from his home in rural Hermosillo to Mexico City with the hope of posing naked for an erotic photographer. His boyfriend, Carlos, chooses not to go with him. Héctor – determined to explore his desires without limits – promises himself to always say yes.
We caught up with filmmaker Alberto Fuguet for a behind-the-scenes look at Always Say Yes.
What was your inspiration for this story?
In this case, the inspiration came afterwards. I decided to go to Mexico and make a movie with a group of photographers. I wanted to make a movie that, among other things, was not only full of male bodies – full frontal and perhaps erect – but with some explicit sex. That was the challenge, the idea.
The idea was to “do something” together with Colectivo Feral, which is this great group of guys who do sexy, homoerotic nude still photography. We became friendly when I worked with one on a fanzine used as promotion on a gay novel of mine called Sudor – Sweat. I was very happy with the results, as was Alex of Colectivo Feral – he hadn’t previously worked with characters” or “situations. The guys at Feral had more expertise with solo models – more artistic than erotic.
We began to talk via WhatsApp from Chile and Mexico. They had a lot of experience with nude male photography. GeorgeX was exploring more erotic solo pics and short videos. I had more experience with movies and narrative and characters. It was a creative experience – to push the boundaries, for all of us.
I love stories about guys alone, guys that travel or who are out of their normal habitat. I sort of did this story previously – with a lot more clothes and less sex – in a movie a made in Nashville called Música campesina. The great screenwriter and director Paul Schrader describes these movies as being about “a man and his room”. These movies lets the director “be alone” with his actor. This lets him look at him closely, explore him, take the gaze to an extreme. You can even smell the main character and you can really know about your main man – how he sleeps or jerks off or does nothing.
This is a movie about a flaneur – a kid who wanders and takes advantages of the sexual opportunities that a place like Mexico City can offer him. Most all, Always Say Yes is a movie that goes deep into Héctor – it’s sweet and poetic and even romantic without shying away from sex or portraying it something strange or guilt-ridden.
The sex in the movie is, I believe, quite sexy, natural and real. The movie was made without guilt or shyness, with lots of natural light and a good clean attitude.
Are you drawing on any personal experiences for these characters?
Of course, but I also draw from other movies and books.
To travel alone and experience adventures – including sexual ones – is part of the deal. It’s one of the reasons you travel, especially when you travel alone. The movie talks about the lure that a big city has on young men from smaller cities and towns. Even today, with apps and with – in some places – a more open mindedness, there is a certain shyness about being totally free in an environment when everybody knows you. Héctor feels free and therefore curious and sexy and wild in a new place.
I’ve always lived in a big city, but there’s a certain erotic freedom when you are far away. It’s strange that there are so many travel books without sex in them. One goes to another place to visit the sites – that includes the food, the churches, the bars, the guys. Of course it does. Gerardo Torres, who plays Héctor, is also from a smaller town – he could relate.
Héctor travels inside the country but his move is perhaps a bigger leap than going from Paris to Milan. He is coming from a macho-oriented, provincial, dusty town, to a great big horny metropolis.
The movie is a form of dialogue with other gay texts. The first is the seminal 1979 novel, The Vampire of Colonia Roma, by Luis Zapata. The whole movie comes from the picaresque tradition I learned at school. I once landed in Sonora on my way to Los Cabos and was mesmerised by the Mexican cowboy – hat, boots, belts. Very Mexican and also very western. Not Texan, at all. Not American. I said to myself – let’s make Héctor more a fish out of water, and the hat linked the movie to Midnight Cowboy.
Another movie that this film is indebted to is, of course, Andy Warhol´s Flesh, by Paul Morrisey. The freedom, the way it’s all portrayed naturally, the use of the body, the gaze on Joe Dallesandro as if he were a star was key. We filmed Gerardo as Joe. The same goes with the other actors – each was treated as a god.
In many ways, more than personal experiences, perhaps Always Say Yes draws from erotic gay movies. I just saw No Skin Off My Ass and Hustler White by Bruce LaBruce. I can see this tradition – these movies are gay poems or sweet skin-flicks. They’re somewhat explicit, but what makes you connect is the story and the main character.
What was the casting process?
Open and free and very frank. We used Colectivo Feral´s Instagram and social media network – that meant that our casting call went out to a lot of guys. We got more than a thousand responses.
We said in the post that we were looking for actors and models for an experimental narrative movie that featured total nudity and explicit sex scenes. I didn’t think anyone would respond to the post, but we were flooded. Lots of guys sent pics and videos.
I found Gerardo through that first process. He was an actor, had experience, and sent only a picture that seemed set in the country – he was wearing denim overalls without a shirt. He seemed sweet, handsome, innocent and yet also willing. We talked a lot on WhatsApp. He understood the role and went for it.
I tried to mix models, real theatre actors, and guys who had posed before for some of the photographers but were from different backgrounds. The main goal for me as a foreigner was to use and capture the Mexican beauty. You see a lot of Mexican TV, and all the leads are blonde. There is an Aztec/Mayan beauty that is part of the Mexican essence which I felt we had to honour and celebrate. Also, I didn’t want gym rats. The idea was to have regular young bodies. Some had hair, some a little belly, some scars.
I’m very proud of the cast. They all act great and can act naked, which is not a easy feat. The great thing is that everybody had a ball. No one said – “only film my back” or “I need a double” or “This I can´t do”. On the contrary, the set was loose and creative and respectful and everybody had ideas – everybody on the set felt that they had lived the story.
What does the film tell us about male sexuality and male-on-male cruising in Mexico City?
That it´s a place to go. Gay magazines fetishise beaches or short speedos. A big city is a big city. Mexico City has a lot o in common with the great big capitals in Latin America – such as Buenos Aires, Lima, Santiago, Bogotá, and Sao Paulo. It´s a melting pot, it has big gay scene that isn’t just a small ghetto or gayborhood and – since it’s the capital – it has men from all over. It’s a college town but also an artistic zenith, and it has all types of classes and social types – it’s very diverse and intense.
The myth is that Mexico is macho and anti-gay. I’m not so sure that it’s anti-LGBT – same-sex marriage is legal in the city – but the macho thing exists. Since it’s a construction, you have the straight machos and the gay machos, and the idea that you can fuck a guy and still be a macho.
The city is full of places of release that are part of the urban myth and the urban power. There are still dozen of old-school bath houses and hotels for men-only, and thousands of hotels to spend a few hours. The Zona Rosa is pink indeed. The mariachis use these very tight pants. The mix of all this culture plus Catholic guilt plus tequila – it’s not a beach but it has millions and millions of guys and food and bars and amazing neighbourhoods and these sexy parks and a great pop culture.
Both Mayan and Aztec cultures understood the concept of trans and cross-dressing and of male-to-male worship. It was a place that is full of stories. To cruise in Mexico City is in way a part of the lifestyle. A lot of it is done on the open. Eye contact. I´m not going to even explain what goes on the last car of the subway. We tried to film it, but couldn’t – however Héctor does appear from a subway exit.
The film uses the language of Instagram and social media – why was that a direction that you wanted to explore?
Because it takes place now, among young guys – it’s a 21st-century movie. Some people think of Latin America as if it’s 30-years behind, but Latin America is very young and tech savvy. They say that there are more Instagram accounts than phones. Young gay guys use social media to date, much more than dating apps. They use social media to pose, to show off, to flirt.
On one hand, the movie takes place in an old part of town – the bathhouse, the hotel – places that seem timeless and retro and vintage. So, I decided to add the new with social media icons and language. It seemed very logical that the music he hears comes from Spotify. In some cases directly or perhaps in his memory. Since all our cast had Instagram handles, we decided to go that way and also use them in their credits.
One thing that I didn’t want to do was any sex interactions via dating or hook-up apps. All the guys he meets he does in an old-school way. I find that more sexy, more visually cinematic, and also quite plausible. In big cities you can still cruise or flirt or hook-up one-on-one – at least in Latin America. Eye contact is still the biggest turn-on.
What do you hope that people feel when watching Siempre Sí?
To remember when they were more innocent and young. To have some crushes. To feel close to Héctor. To appreciate that sex is natural. That one can keep seeing a movie – and caring for a character – even though we see him full frontal or ejaculating or having sex. We also see him walk, eat, sleep, be bored, dance, try to masturbate and not get it up, cry. We see a real guy.
Sex can be sweet. I believe you need to sleep with different guys to know about life. Also, sex tells you a lot about a person. I love the scenes between Héctor and Natalino – played by Anty de la Vega – where they wake up naked and just talk. It’s sexy and intimate.
I want people to see Always Say Yes and be able to say yes more and think before saying no.