‘Hombres de piel dura’
With ‘Men of Hard Skin’ Argentinean director Jose Celestino Campusano brings us a coming of age tale. Wrapped in the dark and foreboding themes of abuse, church and community acceptance. The films drama based in rural Argentina while its themes encompass a full world of church orchestrated abuse.
Ariel (Wall Javier) lives and works on his father’s farm. His life held in limbo between the toxic masculinity of two opposing older men. In the first place his father who believes he can mould Ariel into the ‘ideal’ man. And secondly Omar (Germán Tarantino) the local priest who has abused Ariel throughout his childhood, and continues to emotionally control him. Ariels own sexuality and desire caught between the control of the priest and the demands of a heterosexual life in his rural village. His only escape is the use of his body as a tool for the desires of the other local men.
However as Ariel’s self-worth grows, so does his realisation the community is toxic and damaged. His personal ‘coming out’ journey leading to the end of his abuse at the hands of others. As he takes his own destiny in hand
Men of Hard Skin treats its subject matter in a detached and normalised manner. Creating an aesthetic that may throw some viewers off-balance; sex, abuse and control played in a matter of fact manner. However, this style of delivery shines a light on the community legitimation of abuse. While equally demonstrating how the exploitation of both men and women can thrive when given religious legitimation. At times this creates a profoundly uncomfortable viewing experience. One that sees local people accepting, rather than challenging the power and control of those in authority. While also using this cloak of competence in conducting their acts of abuse and control. Correspondingly men like Omar are held aloft by the community they represent. Their mistreatment of children hidden in plain sight under a cloak of community agreements and financial gain.
Men of Hard Skin challenges its audience from the outset. In addition, daring to us to uncover the truth of abuse and exploitation. A truth that uncomfortably asks us all to explore the role of communities in legitimising the abuse of those in power.
Director:José Celestino Campusano