Film poster
Directed byJavier Fuentes-León
Written byJavier Fuentes-León
Produced byJavier Fuentes-León
StarringCristian Mercado
Manolo Cardona
Tatiana Astengo
CinematographyMauricio Vidal
Edited byRoberto Benavides
Music bySelma Mutal
Release date
  • 23 September 2009 (2009-09-23)
Running time
100 minutes
Box office$501,256[1]

Undertow (Spanish: Contracorriente) is a 2009 romantic drama film directed, written and produced by Javier Fuentes-León in his directorial debut. Initial financing came from Germany and France with additional financing from Peru.[2] The film shot in Cabo Blanco, Peru, won the World Cinema Audience Award in the Dramatic category at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S.A.[3] Other Audience Awards included Cartagena, Montreal, Miami, Chicago, Utrecht, Lima, and Galway, as well as Jury Awards in Madrid, San Francisco, Seattle, Toulouse, and Philadelphia. It received a nomination as Best Latin American Film at the 2011 Goya Awards in Spain.

The film was also selected as the Peruvian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 83rd Academy Awards[4] but it did not make the final shortlist.[5]


Miguel (Cristian Mercado) is a young fisherman of Cabo Blanco, a small village in northern Peru with specific traditions regarding death. He is married to Mariela (Tatiana Astengo), who is pregnant with their first son, but he also has a secret affair with a male painter called Santiago (Manolo Cardona) who he meets for trysts at a deserted cave on the coast.

Santiago accidentally drowns at sea, and his ghost returns to ask Miguel to find his body, in order to bury it with their village's rituals. Miguel eventually finds Santiago's body in the water, but does not tell his ghost of the discovery. Meanwhile, the villagers discover nude paintings of Miguel at Santiago's house, fueling a rumour that they were having an affair. Mariela hears the rumours, confronts Miguel about them, and upon hearing him confess, she goes to her mother's house with their newborn child.

Miguel returns to look for Santiago's body, but he finds that the current has taken it away. Mariela eventually returns home, but then Santiago's body appears in the nets of a fishing boat. Miguel claims Santiago's body for a burial at sea as his lover wanted. He takes the shrouded body of Santiago to sea, but a second after the body is committed to the waves, the ghost of Santiago reappears for a last time, caressing Miguel, who returns home alone in the sundown.



Undertow had been gestating since 1996, when the director Javier Fuentes-León wrote the very first scene. Originally conceived as a supernatural revenge thriller about a fisherman having an affair with a prostitute, Javier decided to change it after coming out of the closet himself, in an attempt to explore more interesting themes and material.[6]

Critical reception

The film received positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 88% out of 32 critics gave the film a positive review, with a rating average of 7.3/10.[7] Manohla Dargis from The New York Times praised the director's ability to show powerful relationships between the characters, particularly focusing on the complexity of Miguel's feelings for Mariela, which she called "gratifying".[8] David Wiegang from the San Francisco Chronicle also gave the film a positive review, saying that the "film's accomplishments are many, but not the least is its ability to take a human story and frame it as a parable, without losing a bit of credibility or irresistible heart."[9]

Pam Grady from Boxoffice Magazine wrote “Sensual and romantic with a heavy dose of the supernatural and populated by indelible characters.”[10] Bob Mondello from NPR wrote “Undertow, for all its narrative tricks, has been given the rhythm and texture of real life, as well as emotional undercurrents that are haunting.” [10]

Awards and nominations

For Undertow[11]

See also


  1. ^ "Undertow (2010) (2010) - Box Office Mojo". www.boxofficemojo.com. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  2. ^ Latin American News Dispatch: Interview with Javier Fuentes-León, Director of Contracorriente
  3. ^ "Sundance 2010: Winners Announced!". rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  4. ^ "Contracorriente (Undertow), writer, director Javier Fuentes-León". filmmakermagazine. 26 January 2010. Retrieved 6 October 2010.
  5. ^ "9 Foreign Language Films Continue to Oscar Race". oscars.org. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  6. ^ Alexander Ryll. "Essential Gay Themed Films To Watch, Undertow". Gay Essential. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  7. ^ Undertow. Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
  8. ^ Undertow (2009) - Review. The New York Times. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
  9. ^ "Review: 'Undertow' frames human story as parable". 17 September 2010. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  10. ^ a b Alexander Ryll. "Essential Gay Themed Films To Watch, Undertow". Gay Essential. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  11. ^ "Undertow (aka Contracorriente)". filmindependent.org. Retrieved 13 July 2012.