Depending on who you are asking, silence is seen as a controversial thing – especially for those who strongly advocate that one can only be heard if you speak. Agustina Comedi didn’t keep silent – she beautifully created a moving portrait of her late father Jaime who had been an amateur film maker, collecting over 100 hours of raw footage. His untimely passing was in 1999, aged in his early 50s.
Set in a deeply catholic Argentina of the 80s, SILENCE IS A FALLING BODY is a 75-minute-long homage to Jaime Comedi – a man who had a great impact on many in his life and lived a lie in a time where homosexuality wasn’t exactly socially acceptable, amidst the awakening gay emancipation and the arrival of AIDS.
The documentary delves into his past and draws a picture of a married father whose pre-married life had been significantly different – it was filled with political activism, joy and same-sex relationships. After marrying at 40, Jaime’s sexuality was a guarded family secret even though he was openly loving men from a young age.
For Comedi, SILENCE IS A FALLING BODY is a journey through her own life, too. Reliving her upbringing through the lens of her father’s camera capturing his life before and after Agustina was born. Interviews with family members and her dad’s companions leave her reassessing parts of her childhood and seeing her father’s life from a different angle – all in poetic, vintage-y looking home videos.
From a ‘gay lad trip’ to Miami and Europe experiencing homosexuality being accepted in other countries, to many shots of happy times during vacations and birthday parties it seems like Jaime Comedi lived two lives – one after the other.
Fellow activists who knew Comedi’s dad open up about their own experiences with their homosexuality or talk about how Jaime always dreamt of having a family and children. Some experienced a shock whereas it was clear to others that he was bisexual and bought children’s clothes and female jewellery ‘just in case’. In this powerful film capturing a turbulent life full of love and joy, friendship and sacrifice one scene sticks in mind for a long time: the fact that his best friend and best man has been his partner for the past eleven years.
Telling Agustina’s story, Jaime’s story, and getting many people involved – to whom a ‘blast from the past’ might be uncomfortable – is impressive. It seems like everybody involved in the film was at peace now – but one can only imagine how sensitive the filmmaking process must have been. Keeping in mind that Argentina legalised same-sex marriage in 2010 as the tenth country in the world and is seen as one of the most progressive countries in terms of transgender rights globally – one realises that those companions of Jaime have been trailblazers for the LGBTQ+ community.
As the circle of life goes, Comedi has a young son of her own: Luca, whom she films drawing while discussing his picture and what the term ‘marvellous’ means to him. His answer is plain simple: seeing something for the first time is marvellous. Nature is marvellous because you see something in its natural habitat – freedom, without a cage.