I was recently asked by the Copenhagen based documentary film festival CPH DOX, to take part in a public event related to one of the highlighted films of the festival. A documentary by the young Colombian film director Theo Montoya. I agreed to take part in this panel discussion and was sent the link and password for Theo Montoya’s debut film ‘Anhell69’.


‘Anhell69’ narrates a haunting ghost story from the hard core of the queer community of Medellín, Colombia. It bleakly portrays a generation, for whom the future has been written off and everyday life is lived in close companionship with the certainty of imminent death. In the documentary Montoya brings together a group of his friends, from a very self-destructive and hardened queer milieu in Medellín, to attend a casting session for a proposed horror film; a vampire/ghost movie unfolding in a country running out of vacant cemeteries. The dead spill from the graves, that can no longer hold the amount of newcomers, and roam the streets. Sexual relations gradually develop between the living and the undead as a consequence of this. Revolving around the trans milieu, and the political reality of being trans in an extremely reactionary and violent society, the film is in itself trans. Again and again it ventures across and beyond. Throughout the film Montoya himself is transported through the city in a hearse, lying motionless in a coffin in the back. The hearse is driven by his idol Colombian filmmaker Víctor Gaviria. From the coffin Montoya narrates how the development of a ghost b-movie became not only a document of the violent reality of being young and queer in Medellín, but also a last testament to several actors/friends whom tragically perishes in the course of pre-production for the film. ‘Anhell69’ is indeed also the Instagram name of one of Montoya’s murdered friends. Montoya transforms the premise of this pre-production to become the very production, transforming the fictional narrative into certain reality. The young actors/friends are now very much making love to the ghosts of their young friends, and they do roam the city at night like vampires sucking the last drops out of life, before it dissolves between their fingers.


Montoya’s work is a dark and beautifully caring piece of film and I was quite taken aback by how much it resonates with some of the notions that I am exploring in Oceanic Horror. One of the ways that this documentary is trans, is in its transrealist approach to storytelling. It exactly sets off in the known world of Montoya, hardened and hopeless as it may be, and moves into a spun narrative that effortlessly moves beyond real. And strangely back, into the very real. Such that, as a member of the cast in actuality passes, the unforeseeable narrative of this passing is looped back into the main premise of the film; into the ghost story. Transrealism here forms a oscillating relationship between reality parting with the real and the real injecting itself, hard as hell, into the constructed fiction.

Only Now

Montoya also seem to share my interest in the relationship between horror fiction and the now. The individuals portrayed in ‘Anhell69’ all express a very clear devotion to the now, since all other time perspectives proves fatal. The past teems with loss, betrayal and disillusion - when one realises, in adolescence, that one never had a future, the years before knowing this, seem not only utterly naive, but really delusional, a mere dream. The future on the other hand rejects all imagination, save for one of impending death. There is really only the now. A quasi-evental existence unfolds, where the now is held sacrosanct, while at the same time treated as something to escape from. Not escape to somewhere specific. Rather, escape to somewhere else. The very premise of the film production of ‘Anhell69’ seems to be detained in a certain prolonged now. A now that stretches, yet stays in its self-contained tempor(e)ality. As the preparations, the intentions, of making a film, becomes the very film, the forward movement of vision or production loops back into itself, sustaining the now, prolonging it. In a similar way, the testament of Montoya, to the deaths of his friends, circles back as the ghosts of the fictional narrative prolongs their presence, making the eventality of their death so much more fluid. There is especially one sublime gothic moment in ‘Anhell69’; sublime as in lifting the viewer into a new bodily experience of self in relation to screen. It stays with me. It rips me apart. Half of me seated in despair, the other half drawn into the moment, enticed, invited, surrendering to the action on screen: As the group of friends caress and make out in the cemetery, where their friends are put to rest, the atmosphere teems with partaking ghosts, the now of desire and love shared by all, living or dead.

Horror is used by Montoya to enable this form of liminal space, wherein the now holds new potential. No longer being just one successive moment eventually leading to annihilation, but really a now to inhabit. In the slippage between fiction and reality, life and spectral being, a time space opens up, in which neither the past nor the future is set in stone. Death abounds, and the cemeteries are filled to the brim, but the possibility to stay with the now - horrible as it may be - keeps the future at bay. The eventality - inescapable for all - of death happens behind our backs in a very Deleuzian way. There has already been events, politically, socially, sexually, that has led to the formation of the occurrence of one death signalling the past happening of something evental, or, the event of the death has not yet happened even as it unfolds, since it is really existing as one of many hidden, non-registered events that may lead up to the reveal of a change in the reality of the thing.

No Future

Franco "Bifo" Berardi’s notion of a society after the future, wherein the hopes and dreams of a progressing future has been replaced by the punk tag line ‘No Future’, seems to form an under-towing score to ‘Anhell69’. Instead of offering a promise of (political and social) possibilities ahead, 'the future becomes a threat when the collective imagination becomes incapable of seeing alternatives to trends leading to devastation, increased poverty, and violence', (2011) "Bifo" writes. He notes that his term After the Future, is not meant as the future ceasing to exist, but rather that the idea of the future as something thought to bring with it development, forward movement, and improved living standards, has passed. Time goes on, so does the world, but the future as a concept to believe in, has perished. 'This is precisely our current situation', he says, 'because capitalism has become a system of techno-economic automatisms that politics cannot evade. The paralysis of the will (the impossibility of politics) is the historical context of today’s depression epidemic.' (2011) But there is something to the way that Montoya deals with this notion that seem to piercingly debate it. In Montoya’s reality the future does end. People are shot dead, stopped in their tracks. Every end of a life, an end of a world. In Montoya’s work it seems that the future is literally not coming and it is this bleak reality that opens up to a new something, beyond the future - or really before the future. A prolonged now, in which the intimate relationship to ghosts, is in no way nostalgic, but rather lived out, embraced, caressed and desired.

Dragging Form of Horror

In Oceanic Horror, I have been thinking about ways in which to stay in the prolonged now. And to find ways to treat this as the training grounds for dealing with the reality of absolute capitalism. Montoya shares the idea of using fiction, and especially the genre of horror, to enable a way to transform the fleeting quality of the now into a more substantial tempor(e)ality. One in which time to transform and transcend is offered - where the weight of the past and the urgency of the future is held off. The trick really is, that it is happening in the now. So not as an exodus away from the reality of things, or a stalling, waiting for something to pass, no, an active presence concentrated in the now; one that resist getting caught up in the torrential pursuit for a future that only leads to more harvesting and exploitation; one that resists the sinking into the past as a nostalgia for what once was. A true countering of the submerging stronghold of absolute capitalism is proposed in this prolonged now, in the inhabitation of the oceanic horror. Montoya’s project still differs from Oceanic Horror in the way that ‘Anhell69’ revolves around a document from a very specific violent political context, wherein the characters whom enter the horror fiction narrative, in reality does endure daily horror - quite directly on their very bodies. The film becomes a way for the involved to fend for themselves, to act against an oppressing reality. And as distributed documentary, hopefully convey this ongoing oppression to a surrounding world and through this move for change. Oceanic Horror has been developed under a very different premise. One differently urgent; the political premise not directly threatening the very lives of those involved. In a sense Oceanic Horror, in comparison with ‘Anhell69’, is once removed from the actual fatality of the horror. It does speak to a certain life-threatening horror, but one that never directly (or at least graphical visibly) sinks its teeth into the protagonists. It is a dragging form of horror. The hurt eventually coming, but strangely disguised in its imminence. The purely transrealist fictional space that Oceanic Horror plays out in - the blood algorithmically patterned or composed by sirup and food colouring - is of another world than the direct violence of ‘Anhell69’, yet I believe the two works still share a resistance to the nihilist or defeatist relationship to the future; an emphasis on the now; an acceptance of horror as destructive and generative in one and the same motion; and an insistence on the emotional, the atmospheric and the social to allow for new liminal spaces of transformation and common countering. As "Bifo" also somewhat reassuringly reminds us: 'Sense isn’t found in the world, but in what we are able to create. What circulates in the sphere of friendship, of love, of solidarity’s what allows us to find sense.' (2011) I am back at that cemetery now, making out with my friends, remembering, and hoping, and most importantly, prolonging the now.