University of Leicester
2024WebsterIMphil.pdf (991.95 kB)

Representations Of Queer Puerto Rican Identity in Documentary Film

Download (991.95 kB)
posted on 2024-06-06, 15:07 authored by Isobel T. Webster

This thesis examines a corpus of largely underexplored queer Puerto Rican documentary films, seeking to understand why this medium is a common tool for telling the stories of queer puertorriqueños, and examining how their identities are represented through such films. The analyses presented are underpinned by an interdisciplinary analytical approach, heavily rooted in Queer Studies, Gender Studies and Puerto Rican Studies, and also informed by an intersectional approach to understanding identity, how it is represented in this film genre, and why certain cinematographic approaches are used in the conveying of these identities and their stories. I develop my discussion through four thematically-organised chapters: the first looks at the theme of "Time" via Elizabeth Freeman's theory of chrononormativity, and with a focus on principal subjects from three diverse films: Venus Xtravaganza in Jenni Livingstone’s Paris is Burning; Desmond Napoles in Breno Moreira’s Desmond is Amazing; and Walter Mercado in Kareem Tabsch and Cristina Costantini’s Mucho Mucho Amor. Chapter 2 confronts the theme of “Death”, looking specifically at the impact of the AIDS epidemic on queer Puerto Rican communities, and how that is represented in two key films: AIDS in the barrio (Francis Negrón and Peter Biella, 1989) and Memories of a Penitent Heart (Cecilia Aldarondo, 2016). I first explore how religion is presented in these works, before discussing representations of non-normative forms of grief, and documentary as act of mourning and legacy-making. Chapter 3 focuses on "Family" in Brincando el charco (Frances Negrón-Muntaner, 1994) and I Am the Queen (Josue Pellot and Henrique Cirne-Lima, 2011) to explore representations of culturally-grounded concepts/versions of the concepts of familismo, compulsory kinship, and "Chosen Family". My final chapter seeks to understand why many of these documentaries represent “Performance” as being such a pertinent element of the queer Puerto Rican experience. I achieve this through a discussion of what purposes we can see performance to have in these documentaries, and how performance can help to build and nurture community, remedy trauma, reclaim power and explore gender identity.



Emma Staniland; Clara Garavelli

Date of award


Author affiliation

Modern Languages Department

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Masters

Qualification name

  • Mphil



Usage metrics

    University of Leicester Theses


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager