Belfast Film Festival

12th – 21st April 2018

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Memories of a Penitent Heart

Directed by Cecilia Aldarondo

Presented by Belfast Trust as part of World Aids day. Twenty-five years after Miguel died of AIDS, his niece tracks down his estranged lover and cracks open a Pandora's box of unresolved family drama in this documentary.

Filmmaker Cecilia Aldarondo suspected that there was something ugly in her family’s past. Memories of a Penitent Heart excavates a buried conflict around her uncle Miguel, who died at a time when AIDS was synonymous with sin. As she searches for Miguel’s partner decades later, the film — both a love story and a tribute — offers a cautionary tale of how faith can be used and abused in times of crisis.
Like many gay men in the 1980s, Miguel moved to New York City in search of a life out of the closet; he found a career in theater and a rewarding relationship. Yet in the midst of the AIDS crisis, his devout Catholic mother pressured him to repent for his homosexuality on his deathbed. Twenty-five years later, his niece Cecilia Aldarondo breaks the silence surrounding her uncle’s death, sifting through conflicting memories of a man she never really knew. She locates Miguel’s estranged partner and begins to unlock long-dormant family secrets.
Through home movies, audio recordings, family photos, letters and interviews, Cecilia Aldarondo’s Memories of a Penitent Heart reconstructs her uncle Miguel’s New York life, one he lived far from his family, especially his religious mother. Along the way, her investigation untangles a knot of family secrets, denials and repressed conflicts.

All proceeds from the film will go to the HIV Charity RVH 2Kare Trust.