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Very Few Know the Reality in El Salvador

Giovanni, protagonist of the documentary short film Unforgivable, directed by Marlén Viñayo, affirms in a scene that it is easier to murder than to love a man.

The Woman Post | Catalina Mejía

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The documentary illustrates the history of gang members inside the San Francisco Gotera prison in El Salvador. They also have in common that they are homosexual. The short film has been awarded at various festivals and even qualified for an Oscar nomination.

Viñayo mentioned that the filming of the film took 12 days, and one of the characteristics that make the story unique is that the gangs in El Salvador are extremely chauvinistic and homophobic, and can even kill their members if there is suspicion that they are homosexual. Therefore, it is quite unpredictable that the audience hears the story of gay gang members.

Marlén Viñayo also affirmed that the story of Giovanni, who was a gang member and is now in prison and even converted to evangelism, is a faithful reflection of Salvadoran society. The documentary is 35 minutes long and premiered in May 2020 at Hot Docs, an international film festival based in Canada. When asked about his motivation for producing this documentary, Viñayo, who is from Spain but has lived in El Salvador for 8 years, stated that he had never thought of producing a film based on gang members because he believed that the topic had been widely studied around the world and therefore he could not contribute much to the discussion.

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However, when he spoke with Oscar Martínez, a journalist from El Faro, he told him that he had met some gang members who decided to publicly declare that they were homosexuals. When Oscar told him this, he was astonished. He realized that he had a unique story to tell, one that would offer a new angle of perspective on everything that had already been told about gangs. After hearing the full story of the gang members, the prison gave them 12 days to complete the recording and this was a challenge for the production team.

According to Marlén Viñayo, the documentary is a reflection of Salvadoran society, in which committing murder is equally punishable as loving a man. Marlén also mentioned that the theme of the film is not about gangs, although its characters used to be gang members, but about a complex and harsh reality that we live in.

The film qualified to compete for an Oscar in the category of Best Documentary short film, but in the shortlist published on February 28, 2021, it did not make it. However, it was still the first Salvadoran film qualified to compete for an Oscar and was selected by the International Documentary Association as one of the 10 best short films of 2020. This January, it was also mentioned as Best Documentary Short Film at POY Latam. Awards, which pay tribute to the best visual journalism in the Ibero-American context. Finally, it is also worth mentioning that it was named Best Documentary Short Film in three renowned film festivals in Canada, Mexico, and the Netherlands.