MSU Cinema International Explores Gender, Family, and Class Identity with "Don't Call Me Son"

Sep 28, 2020

This weekend, Murray State's Cinema International presents Mãe Só Há Uma, translated to Don't Call Me Son. Program director, Dr. Thérèse St. Paul, speaks with Tracy Ross about the upcoming film that explores gender representation, aspects of masculinity, and biological versus adopted parents.

From Murray State's Cinema International website:

"Recipient of several awards, Don't Call Me Son (Mãe Só Há Uma) is a fascinating, empathetic portrait of a 17-year-old whose life is abruptly disrupted but who stands up to reassert it. A scathing critique of upper-middle-class complacency and materialism by Brazilian filmmaker Anna Muylarts. A look at identity on several levels: biological, sexual/LGBTQ+, social, and class-related. "Don't Call Me Son is subversive," says Stephen Holden of The New York Times."

"[Don't Call Me Son has its ups and downs...it has a lot of twists in the story," St. Paul begins. "The switch from the so-called adoptive mother to the real parents is not a happy one. The boy is toying with his identity. He's going to parties and living in Sao Paolo. He goes to school, he's a little bit idiosyncratic. He plays in a  band. He's very sociable. He seems to live a happy life with his mom and sister in what seems to be a modest home. Then we find that he is toying with his gender."

"He likes to play both aspects," St. Paul continues. "So we're introduced to this character who is searching for aspects of himself. Suddenly, he finds himself being followed by weird people who happen to be detectives. They're actually on the lookout for him because it seems like his mother is not his true mother. She stole him as a baby. The real parents have been looking for him for 17 years. The detectives locate him, and he is introduced to his real family and basically loses his life. His life is turned upside down."

"This is where issues start. Is that a good thing? Is it a bad thing? What about him? Nobody asked his point of view. His foster mother, whatever you want to call it, is seen as a demon and taken to prison. It really calls for questions about tolerance, education, motherly love, what it means to be a parent. The question of foster parents versus biological parents -- are the biological parents necessarily the better parents?"

The 2016 film is "very intimate," St. Paul says, "in the sense that it happens inside. There are scenes in the open air, of course, when he walks to school and goes to play with his band. But it's very much [about] people. Relations between people. We get to see aspects of Sao Paolo, the life of young people, which happens to be the same as the lives of young people all over the world. We get to feel the relations between bonds that are created. There's a lot of intimate conversation, interactions, [and] actions that make us think and move the action along."

Mãe Só Há Uma will be presented on Thursday, October 1st, and Saturday, October 3rd, at 7:30 p.m. The screenings will take place in the Barkley Room on the third floor of the Curris Center due to the Curris Center Theatre being closed for renovations. Both limited capacity screenings are free and open to the public. For more information, visit the Murray State website