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Star of queer Guatemalan drama ‘Jose’ denied US entry for film’s premiere

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Enrique Salenic stars in “José” (Image courtesy YQ Studio LLC/Outsider Pictures)

An award-winning Guatemalan film is about to make its US theatrical premiere – but thanks to aggressive US travel restrictions, its leading actor won’t be allowed to come.

“José,” directed by Chinese-born American filmmaker Li Cheng, won multiple awards internationally during 2018-2019 international festival circuit, including the prestigious Queer Lion award at the 75th Venice Film Festival. Made in a neorealist cinematic tradition, the film is described in press material as “a nuanced and vivid look at being gay in Central America.” It follows the title character, a closeted 19-year-old who lives an impoverished life with his street vendor mother in Guatemala City – a place dominated by conservative Catholic and Evangelical Christian religious values. When he meets an attractive migrant from the Caribbean coast, he finds himself falling in love for the first time; the blossoming relationship pushes him to rethink his closeted life, and before long he is contemplating a drastic change that will require a leap of faith he is still reluctant to take. The movie is set to open in New York City on January 31, with a rollout to theaters across the rest of the US starting in February.

The premiere should be a joyous occasion for the film’s star, a young newcomer named Enrique Salanic, but instead it has become a senseless bureaucratic nightmare, the latest demonstration on the world stage of the current US administration’s draconian stance on immigration and travel – particularly when it comes to people from Latin American countries.

According to a report in Screen Daily, Salanic – who was educated in the US and has travelled extensively with the film to many of its international screenings – has twice been denied a non-immigrant travel visa by the US embassy in Guatemala.

The first application was made in November by Paul Hudson, head of the film’s US distributor, Los Angeles-based Outsider Pictures; the embassy rejected it, arguing that Salanic could be a flight risk if he were to enter the US. Hudson then sought the aid of Congressman Ted Lieu, who wrote a personal letter on behalf of the young actor which was submitted with a second application. That request was also denied, with no apparent consideration of the congressman’s letter. According to the publication, a copy of the embassy’s original rejection letter states that a requirement of a successful visa application is a residence in a foreign country which the applicant “has no intention of abandoning,” before going on to pronounce, “You have not demonstrated that you have the ties that will compel you to return to your home country after your travel to the United States.”

Salanic was educated in the US; he won a scholarship to study at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, which he did from August 2011-May 2015. He now lives with his parents in Guatemala, but does not have a residence of his own – meaning he does not meet the necessary criteria according to the letter of US policy.

Salanic has garnered much praise from critics for his performance in “José” – but with less than a week before the New York opening, and no indication from the US government that it is likely to make an exception to its hardline stance, it looks like he’ll be denied the opportunity to take a richly-deserved American victory lap with the movie that may well make him a star.

With or without Salanic, “José” will open at New York’s Quad Cinema on January 31, with a Los Angeles run to begin one week later, on February 7.

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Television

AIDS @40- “It’s a Sin”: Drama at the beginning of the AIDS crisis

The show, which features a largely LGBTQ cast, shines a light on a dark chapter that’s been fading from memory.

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Graphic via CBS News Sunday Morning

LONDON – CBS Sunday Morning reports on the acclaimed HBO Max series, “It’s a Sin.” Produced by the originator of the hit British series ‘Queer As Folks,’ “It’s a Sin” tells the story of a group of gay men and their friends who live and love in London in the early 1980s, at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis.

The show, which features a largely LGBTQ cast, shines a light on a dark chapter that’s been fading from memory. CBS Correspondent Imtiaz Tyab talks with the show’s producer-writer, Russell T. Davies, and with two of its stars: Neil Patrick Harris and Lydia West.

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Online Culture

Digital platform joins with It Gets Better for Pride-themed content

The online world can be a scary place, and it can still be difficult to “find your people” there without a little help

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Graphic provided by StreamElements

LOS ANGELES – The age of online communication has made it easier for LGBTQ+ people to connect with their community than ever before. This is especially valuable for young people, who don’t feel safe being out in their real-life environment, or who are isolated, whether by geography or prevailing social attitudes, from larger LGBTQ+ populations. Yet the online world, just like the real one, can be a scary place, and it can still be difficult to “find your people” there without a little help.

That’s why StreamElements, a platform which powers over 1.1 million digital content creators across Twitch, YouTube Live, and Facebook Gaming, is stepping up to provide assistance. The company is partnering with the It Gets Better Project for a new campaign that aims to help create safer and more inclusive LGBTQ spaces online, providing support for the community during Pride Month and beyond. 

As part of the campaign, StreamElements is:

  • Donating $25,000 to the It Gets Better Project and 100% of the proceeds from Prime-themed merchandise. It Gets Better, of course, is a nonprofit organization that leverages the power of media to reach and provide critical support and hope to LGBTQ+ young people around the world.
  • Collaborating with and commissioning graphics from LGBTQ+ artists Jaime Hayde and Andrea Marroquín, which will be used on special merchandise items for charity and shared with the broader streaming community for use in their individual merch stores.
  • Creating special overlays and alerts that feature the Pride-themed art for livestreamers to use on their channels. This “SuperTheme” can be used at various stages of a livestreamed broadcast and incorporates art from Hayde.
  • Spotlighting LGBTQ+ creators throughout the month via its social media channels, highlighting their work and including videos where they will share their journey and comment on what Pride means to them.

The initiative was spearheaded Sean Horvath, CRO of StreamElements and a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, who says, “Pride has always been an important part of my life. Seeing StreamElements partner with LGBTQ+ content creators and the highly impactful Its Gets Better Project to drive social change is a significant milestone, especially for myself and many other members of our staff who are part of the community we’re celebrating. Our goal with this campaign is to not only shine a light on all the amazing things Pride represents, but to continue our previous commitment to supporting diversity by ensuring the efforts we put forward are prominent year-round.”

You can find out more at the StreamElements website.

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Sports

Out track star heads to Tokyo as video of her hugging her Gran goes viral

Her moment of victory and celebration with her Gran was caught on video and later shared thousands of times on Twitter

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Sha'Carri Richardson (Screenshot via NBC Sports on YouTube)

EUGENE, Or. – A 21-year-old out female sprinter is headed to the summer Olympic games in Tokyo after winning the 100-meter heat and securing a coveted spot as part of the U.S. women’s team in the Olympic trials that were held at the newly renovated Hayward Field at the University of Oregon in Eugene this past weekend.

Sha’Carri Richardson, a former Louisiana State University (LSU) sprinter put on an amazing run, afterwards telling NBC News Sports that her biological mother died just a week before the qualifying Olympic trials. Richardson, who celebrated her win by running up the Hayward Field stairs to hug her grandmother, says that family means everything.

“My family has kept me grounded,” Richardson said. “This year has been crazy for me. Going from just last week losing my biological mother passed away and still choosing to pursue my dream, still coming out here and still trying to make the family that I still have on this earth proud.”

Her moment of victory and celebration with her Gran was caught on video and later shared thousands of times on Twitter including by Deputy White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

The sprinter also took time to thank her girlfriend who she had said inspires her, and also picked out her hair color. “My girlfriend actually picked my [hair] color,” Richardson said. “She said it like spoke to her, the fact that it was just so loud and vibrant, and that’s who I am.”

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