Directed by Joanna Reposi • Documentary • 2020 • 96 minutes
Chilean performance artist, writer, anti-fascist, cross-dresser, and queer activist Pedro Lemebel (1952-2015) was a larger-than-life icon of his country’s gay liberation movement. In both his work and his life, he blended humor with spectacle, working for a new and expansive view of sexuality rooted in solidarity with all marginalized groups.
In his youth, Lemebel was part of a performance art duo called Mares of the Apocalypse. In one particularly provocative piece, he marches in the New York Pride parade wearing a halo of syringes filled with red liquid, evoking blood. Lemebel also has an affinity for fire—covering himself in accelerant and setting it alight, and, in one of his last performances, wrapping himself in a duffel bag and rolling down blazing steps shortly after a chemotherapy session.
Director Joanna Reposi Garibaldi, a friend of Lemebel’s, gathers archival footage, images, and slides from Lemebel’s personal collection. We see some of these dramatically projected onto monumental buildings as well as more modest settings, like the balcony of Lemebel’s childhood apartment. At his own urging, she continues to film him during his last weeks, before his death from throat cancer.
LEMEBEL is an artistic biography of a brilliant and provocative man, and an intimate portrait of an artist at the end of his days, making sense of it all.