Music from TV Shows: “Proud” [From Queer As Folk]

29 jul 2016

"So the thumpa-thumpa continues. It always will, no matter what happens, no matter who's president. As our lady of disco, the divine Miss Gloria Gaynor, has always sung to us, 'We will survive.'"  

Heather Small had already proved her talent when recording vocals for some Black Box tracks back in the early 90s and as the lead singer of M People. But  a powerful dance track featured in the groundbreaking show Queer As Folk became her signature song: Proud, written by Petter-Jhon Vetesse and Heather herself. 

The original album version displays the singer’s incredible vocal ability. However, the Peter Presta QAF V Mix took the song to another level. It is a gay anthem by all means, though anyone can relate to those amazing, upbeat lyrics.

Proud is played during the first Queer as Folk episode. It was a subtle invitation to the audience to watch the whole series back in the time when coming out was still a huge deal for every gay or lesbian person in the world. And even today, there’s still a long way to go, but someday equality won’t be a dream anymore. 

If you listen closely to the lyrics, you will forget if you are gay, straight, bi or whatever you might be. The song desperately urges you to break the rules and forget the world around you: “I step out of the ordinary, I feel my soul ascending”. Yet, so many times we tend to procrastinate that magical experience waiting for something else to happen, whether having more money, beauty or health to feel empowered again.

We have not been told that right where we are, we can change our own destinies if we dare to dream just a little bit. We don’t need anything else: just a change of perception can perform miracles, and a song like this can be the perfect soundtrack to those extraordinary moments.

Proud was also the last song played on Queer as Folk.  There could not have been a better closing theme. Michael and Brian get together in an already closed Babylon. Then, they start to dance with no music and voilá!: the magic was done once again. After five years, the unstoppable pair was burning the dance floor one more time and in very good company. The song never sounded so mighty and maybe the new generations watching the show for the first time will realize how important is to fight for their own rights.

Brian and Michael displaying affection as usual.

Robert Gant as 'Ben'.

Peter Paige as 'Emmet'  bringing down the house.
This is not about politics as much as it about human freedom: every human being in this world does deserve to love and marry whatever person they choose as a lifetime partner. That right itself is above any dogma and bigotry. 

On a more personal note, now that after a decade I watched QAF again and I rediscovered this track, it will be forever part of these January-July 2016 memories: hitting the gym for the first time, walking every day ten minutes back and forth and feeding stray dogs on my way home. It was a surreal experience seeing their innocent faces enjoying that food while the song was playing as loud as possible on my headphones.

Once again, it wasn’t about being gay or straight. It was about being human and doing something good for another living being. Even that small, maybe insignificant action made me feel great. Maybe for the rest of the world it means nothing, but for me feeling that kind of unconditional, pure love from those four legged angels is actually worth gold. 


So here’s the ultimate question: what have you done today to make you feel proud? 

July 29, 2016

Writte by Peter-John Vettese and Heather Small
Sung by Heather Small
Produced by Peter-John Vettese, Simon Climie, Steve DuBerry, Ollie Marland
Remixed by Peter Presta
From the album "Proud" released in 2000
Featured in the first (2000) and last episoded (2005) of the TV show "Queer as Folk".

29 jul 2016

Grave of The Fireflies [1988]

24 jul 2016

Isao Takahata’s groundbreaking artistic vision created Grave of the Fireflies (1988), a movie based on the book of the same name written by Akiyuki Nosaka. It tells the story of Seita, a teenage boy going through hell during World War II in Japan along with his little sister, Setsuko

The animated film produced by Ghibli Studios remains as one of the finest masterpieces ever and it has often been included in some “The Best of All Time” lists. Due to its strong message against armed conflicts it has been labeled as an anti-war kind of film. However, it has a deeper meaning and goes beyond military battles and human carnage. 

Seita and Setsuko 

The movie’s opening sequence is as shocking as it can be: a young man (tentatively Seita) is dying from starvation in the middle of some public place. After he passes away, the spirit of Setsuko finally appears to be reunited with his brother’s. 

Then in an almost never-ending flashback, they are shown living happy with her mother in Kobe. Later, their entire world as they knew (neighborhood, schools, workplaces) it is reduced to ashes after being bombed and destroyed by the American Forces. 

The distant relative

The two siblings move to their aunt’s place where they are mostly treated with great indifference and a latent lack of compassion. That woman represents the part of society that has taken away any kind of opportunities from the youngest generation, making them feel as if they were hard to love in some way. 

The storytelling showcases everything that’s wrong with the system: just before any made-up war, the great elites will never ask any children or any other regular human being if they agree with it or not. When the beast is hungry for blood (or oil, you know), it will destroy everything that crosses its path. And it doesn’t matter how many innocent ones will die because of it, as it’s all about overrated patriotism and nonsense pride. 

Grave of The Fireflies is named after one magical scene: after taking a bath, Seita and Setsuko are playing in the cornfields and suddenly they see hundreds of those beautiful insects flying around like stars in the sky. Seita urges Setsuko to catch one of them with her hands. It seems to be those fireflies are the living representation of their dreams and hopes. At that present moment there is no past and there is no future: only one instant of pure joy that only a child can experience. 
There are lots of flashbacks during the movie and in this way the two kids go from heaven to hell within seconds. Politics and greed are the worst enemies of millions of kids in this world, whether they’re from Palestine, Syria, Japan, Mexico, or any other country around the world. 

In some moments Seita’s mind is playing games with him, or maybe it is just the way he tries to escape from reality. So that, he remembers the happy times they spent with their mom while Setsuko is always complaining about the food or the weather. After all, what does a five-year old girl understand about losing everything because of some stupid war?

Grave of The Fireflies [1988] remains as one of the best movies ever made.

Eventually they leave their aunt’s home and move to an abandoned bomb shelter. The fireflies show up again and they provide them with light every night.

The unforgettable little girl

Setsuko is one of the most endearing characters ever created in the history of animated films. She’s the embodiment of the innocence destroyed by a world led by evil adults. She’s the one refusing to eat rice soup three times a day and missing her mom’s desserts every other second. Setsuko carries her little doll everywhere as if she's holding tight to her past so desperately, even when she’s too young to understand everything that’s going on.

Setsuko gets sick later and finally dies. Seitsa himself incinerates her body even when he does not understand what just has happened. Her little sister is now another casualty of war. And in so many ways his own world is now pretty much over.

Grave of The Fireflies’ legacy almost three decades later

It would be almost redundant to talk again about the movie’s impact and influence. It is widely known that it is considered one of the best films ever made and since its release has gotten rave reviews worldwide. The director, studio and producers created a masterpiece that will continue touching people’s hearts for years to come. 

Grave of The Fireflies is not just another anti-war movie. It is a powerful tribute to every kid who has been systematically raped, humiliated and destroyed by those who were supposed to protect human life. The lives of all children in this world are above politics and beliefs. Until we don’t understand that, we won’t deserve to be called a “civilization”.

But great for us, that message feels like an open hand trying to reach us more than a raised fist asking for revenge.

Setsuko’s crying hears louder than ever. And it is the same lament of those children killed in Palestine, Syria, Latin America or any other country. They are the ultimate unnamed victims of bombings and air attacks by those who fabricated those conflicts in the first place.

The movie’s last sequence offers a glimpse of Seita’s concept of paradise, as he still hears his sister’s laughter on his mind while seeing her playing and running from one place to another. And that is itself the very same thing we all do when a loved one leaves this world… Maybe it is the way our souls prevent us from feeling that much pain. 

Every one of our hopes is like a firefly lighting the world. So now it is time to give life to every dream that hasn’t been born yet.

Grave of The Fireflies
Japan, 1988 
Directed by: Isao Takahata 
Distributed by: Toho 
Produced by: Ghibli Studios and Sinchosa 
Based on the book of the same name by Akiyuki Nosaka  Starring: Tsutomo Tatsumi, Ayano Shiraishi, Yoshiko Shinohara y Akemi Yamaguchi 
Cinematography: Nobuo Koyama 
Music: Michio Mamiya 
Edited by Takeshi Seyama

24 jul 2016

La Tumba de Las Luciérnagas [1988]

15 jul 2016

Esta reseña está dedicada a cada niño fallecido, despojado de su vida en las recientes guerras y conflictos armados en Irak, Siria y Palestina.
La visión única y vanguardista de Isao Takahata dio lugar a La Tumba de Las Luciérnagas [1988] una película bélica animada basada en el libro del mismo nombre, de la autoría de Akiyuki Nosaka.

La historia de Seita, un adolescente japonés viviendo el drama de la Segunda Guerra Mundial al lado de su pequeña hermana Setsuko, ocupa un lugar preponderante en la cinematografía mundial como uno de los mejores filmes en contra de los conflictos armados que se hayan realizado. Pero definitivamente estos adjetivos no rinden honor al mensaje más potente que le entrega al público. 

Más allá de ser “anti – bélica” tiene una intención urgente de captar la atención de quien la ve para hacerle reflexionar sobre la brevedad de la existencia en esta tierra y lo importante de atesorar lo que realmente importa.

 ¿Cuál es el argumento? 

Algunos encontrarán más que chocante el hecho que la primera escena mostrada sea la muerte de Seita. Todo comienza por el trágico desenlace, y de esta forma aparece el espíritu de Setsuko acompañado de luciérnagas para reunirse de nuevo con su hermano.

Seita y Setsuko, los dos personajes centrales de "La Tumba de Las Luciérnagas" 
Este es el punto de partida para relatar el drama salpicado con breves instantes de dicha que ambos hermanos viven, luego que los bombardeos de las fuerzas enemigas en su natal Kobe destrozan su hogar (marzo 1945) y le arrebatan la vida de su madre. Ambos emigran a la casa de su tía y la vida de ambos se reduce básicamente a perder su lugar en la sociedad como seres merecedores de cariño, oportunidades y protección.

Decir esto es redundante en sí, ya que las guerras creadas e inventadas por el propio ser humano y su sed de conquistar territorios y destruir culturas ajenas nunca preguntan a los más vulnerables si están o no de acuerdo. 

Imagen del sitio ""
Posteriormente, la frialdad de su tía y su trato poco amable para con ellos (personaje que permanece sin nombre) es el elemento que representa la falta de humanidad que siempre ha caracterizado a parte de la sociedad. En este contexto, poco importa si la ayuda o el maltrato vienen de parte de un familiar o un completo desconocido. 

Las mágicas luciérnagas y el regalo de la naturaleza viva

La Tumba de Las Luciérnagas toma su nombre de una escena feliz entre los dos hermanos jugando en el campo de noche. De repente, miles de estos bellos insectos pululan en el aire y Seita insta a su hermana a atrapar una. Pareciera que cada una de esas luces fluorescentes representara las fugaces esperanzas y sueños de dos jovencitos atrapados en medio de una guerra sin sentido. En esos instantes no existe ni pasado ni futuro: sólo la más pura alegría de ambos al maravillarse ante semejante espectáculo de la naturaleza. 

El contraste entre esos instantes de perfecto amor entre el joven y su hermana y las brutales secuencias de combate y bombardeos ejemplifican el antes y después de todo país ultimado por los intereses políticos, no importa del que se trate: Japón, Siria, Palestina. Ir del cielo al infierno en segundos es consecuencia natural de pertenecer a cualquier pueblo señalado por el hambre y la derrota.

La película utiliza muchos flashbacks y escenas sobrepuestas para que el espectador entienda mejor el concepto. De repente Seita (Tsutomo Tatsumi) recuerda los mejores momentos vividos al lado de su madre, y son esos recuerdos los que lo libran momentáneamente del dolor y privación que vive en el momento presente. Eventualmente al mudarse de la casa de su tía a un refugio abandonado, son las luciérnagas quienes los proveen de luz en la noche.

La pequeña Setsuko

Setsuko (voz de Ayano Shiraishi) es la viva representación de la inocencia pisoteada por el mundo adulto. Es la pequeña que se niega a comer sopa de arroz tres veces al día, porque como todo niño desea también disfrutar de un postre cocinado por su madre. La ausencia de esos pequeños pero importantes detalles puede encender más de una conciencia al darse cuenta de todo aquello que damos por sentado día a día. 

La inolvidable Setsuko
Setsuko es quien sufre pesadillas y llora constantemente. Asimismo, es la fuerza que mantiene vivo a Seita y lo inspira a seguir adelante a pesar de las circunstancias. No existe un solo segundo sin que ella extrañe a su madre, y como si quisiera aferrarse a ese recuerdo por siempre, carga y abraza su muñeca a donde quiera que va.

Eventualmente Setsuko construye una tumba para las luciérnagas que han fallecido sin imaginar que su fin está próximo también: la niña enferma y fallece víctima de la desnutrición. Es su propio hermano quien incinera su cadáver sin poder comprender bien todo lo que estaba ocurriendo.

Setsuko, quien se preguntaba porqué las luciérnagas morían tan pronto, se convierte en otra estadística más de guerra. Para el espectador sin embargo, es uno de los más entrañables personajes que el mundo de la animación haya creado en las últimas décadas.

Grave of The Fireflies, 28 años después

Las críticas arrasadoramente buenas que este filme recibió son respaldadas por su legado a casi tres décadas de distancia. Los estudios Ghibli crearon una obra de arte que seguirá conmoviendo a las nuevas generaciones por mucho tiempo. Los rostros de los personajes se perciben tan reales, como real es la crueldad de las guerras que en pleno siglo XXI continúan cobrando víctimas inocentes.

Isao Takahata ha sido el primero en negar que su obra sea una simple película anti-guerra. Efectivamente, la intención es mucho más profunda: La Tumba De Las Luciérnagas es un homenaje a los todos los niños maltratados, violados, ultrajados por la sociedad y el sistema enviciado que ha tomado control de gran parte del planeta. 

Aun así, es imposible no notar el fuerte mensaje de protesta contra aquellos que se niegan a preservar a las nuevas generaciones,  aquellas que deberían ser protegidas por encima de toda política y creencia.

Sin embargo dicha protesta no se siente precisamente como un puño cerrado, sino como una mano que intenta estrechar el alma del espectador y lo invita a grabar todas y cada una de las imágenes en su mente para no repetir la historia. Tristemente, esto es algo que jamás entenderán las élites malditas que controlan el destino de este planeta. 

El llanto de Setsuko sigue escuchándose fuerte. Y es el mismo llanto de los niños masacrados en Palestina, víctimas de los conflictos guerrilleros en América Latina, o aquellos que hemos visto en incontables videos estallando en pedazos luego de un violento bombardeo en Siria, realizado por  aquellos que fabricaron con toda la intención esos conflictos en primer lugar. 

No existe infierno sin paraíso. Y las últimas escenas lo reflejan perfectamente. La risa de la niña que Seita cree escuchar es la misma que escuchamos de parte de nuestros seres queridos, sin importar qué tan larga ha sido su ausencia. 

Este el perfecto instante para ver esta impresionante obra cinematográfica de nuevo. En cualquier momento y en cualquier rincón, las esperanzas que hacen brillar los sueños en plena oscuridad son capaces de surgir una por una.

Julio 16, 2016

La Tumba de Las Luciérnagas (Grave of The Fireflies)
Japón, 1988
Dirigida por: Isao Takahata
Distribuida por: Toho
Producida por: Estudios Ghibli y Sinchosa
Basada en el libro del mismo nombre de Akiyuki Nosaka
Voces de: Tsutomo Tatsumi, Ayano Shiraishi, Yoshiko Shinohara y Akemi Yamaguchi
Fotografía: Nobuo Koyama
Música: Michio Mamiya
Edición: Takeshi Seyama

15 jul 2016