Cecilia Aldarondo, the filmmaker behind Memories of a Penitent Heart, will be giving work-in-progress talks about the film at several congregations around New York City. The film tackles themes of family acceptance, HIV/AIDS, Latino family culture, and Roman Catholic teaching on being gay.
In 1987, Miguel Dieppa repented of his homosexuality as he lay dying in a New York City hospital. After making history as the world’s first-ever Puerto Rican heart transplant recipient, Miguel succumbed to AIDS, leaving behind a live-in partner, a devout Catholic mother, and a lot of troubling rumors.
25 years later Cecilia's mother handed her a box of 8mm home movies that she’d found in the family garage. Spurred by this discovery, Cecilia began asking questions about her uncle’s mysterious death. Did Miguel really repent of being gay on his deathbed? Did his devout Catholic mother push him into it? Did he really have AIDS? And what happened to his partner Robert, who’d disappeared after Miguel died?
While recent documentaries have thoughtfully documented the AIDS crisis from within communities of survivors, Memories of a Penitent Heart does something totally new. It is the first feature-length documentary to explore a very common occurrence during the crisis—faith-based discrimination against people with AIDS—from the perspective of a descendant reckoning with her family’s responsibility. This film demonstrates what happens when well-meaning family members shut out their LGBT members, even when they don't know they're doing it. Memories of a Penitent Heart is a cautionary tale about missed opportunities, the intricacies of religious belief, and the most quietly insidious forms of bigotry.
Join Cecilia at one of the following filmmaker discussions:
May 22: Advent Lutheran
June 8: Middle Collegiate
On May 7, Cecilia and the team behind the film launched an Indiegogo campaign in order to complete the film. Watch the trailer below: