'Blood-Red Ox' - superb performances, senseless script

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Tuesday November 15, 2022
Share this Post:
Kaolin Bass and Mazin Akar in 'Blood-Red Ox'
Kaolin Bass and Mazin Akar in 'Blood-Red Ox'

"Blood-Red Ox" is a strange film. It features extraordinary performances from a superb cast, but the script makes little sense. Co-written and directed by Rodrigo Bellott, an acclaimed openly gay filmmaker from the South American country of Bolivia, what he is trying to convey with his latest work will most likely go over most people's heads.

Shot partially in Bolivia and partially in Ithica, New York, the film, distributed by Breaking Glass Pictures, is in both English and Spanish. The scenes spoken in English have Spanish subtitles, while the Spanish scenes have English subtitles.

The film begins simply enough. As the story opens, gay couple Amir and Amat (Mazin Akar, Kaolin Bass) have travelled from their upstate New York home to Bolivia, where they will spend time with Amir's friend Amancaya (Andrea Camponovo), an environmental activist. As they drive from the airport to Amancaya's house, they come across an ox that has been hit by a car. The animal is obviously suffering, and so Amancaya shoots it.

Soon after, Amat begins having strange, blood-drenched dreams. Amat tells Amir that he's had these dreams before and that he doesn't want to lose Amir. The next day they are taken on a tour of the rain forest by Amancaya's brother Amaru (Vitorio Lema). After this, the film goes off the deep end.

For reasons that are unexplained, the film repeats lines of dialogue in different settings. Soon it becomes apparent that Amat isn't the only one who's having visions; Amir is as well. Then it's revealed that Amaru doesn't actually exist; he's a figment of Amancaya's imagination, which raises the question: if he doesn't exist, then how could he have taken Amir and Amat on a tour of the rain forest? Are Amir and Amat imagining him too?

This is but one of the questions in the film that is never explained. Although visually stunning, the film because almost impossible to follow. What's real and what's imagined? Which visions belong to whom? These questions cannot be answered.

Eventually we're told that Amir and Amancaya knew each other when they were in the same mental hospital. At this point I threw my hands in the air and gave up. Maybe I'm missing something, but this film just doesn't make any sense.

Akar and Bass play their descent into madness beautifully. Both offer intense performances. In their scenes together they are desperate and frightened. As Amir and Amat, they make for a lovely couple. Camponovo is equally good as Amancaya, who is also having visions of her own. But good acting cannot save a film that just doesn't make sense.

'Blood-Red Ox' is available on DVD and on various on-demand platforms. www.bgpics.com

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.