Metro Weekly

Amancio: Two Faces on a Tombstone

Reel Affirmations 2009

Review by Doug Rule

Rating: starstarstarstar (4 out of 5) [Critic’s Pick!]
Saturday, 10/17/2009, 5:00 PM
Feature presentation, $10 at

IN AN ECHO of Matthew Shepard’s murder, Amancio Corrales, another cute, charismatic young gay man was brutally murdered out West four years ago. ”Parents and family members who don’t accept [gay] people…have no heart,” Amancio’s mother Maribel says in Tom Murray’s superb but too-short documentary. “They have no feelings. I make a call to all people to love and respect these people like anyone else.” Amancio: Two Faces on a Tombstone focuses on Corrales’ death in May of 2005 in his hometown of Yuma, Ariz., and the long fight in solving the case and bringing his murderer to justice.

Corrales was a rising drag queen outside his hometown, particularly in Phoenix and across the border in Mexico. Amancio’s friends swear Ruben Solorio Valenzuela knew Amancia was really a he when Valenzuela picked him up at a local bar and then viciously killed and dumped the 23-year-old in the Colorado River. But the gender-bending nature of the hate crime only complicated the police’s investigation and then the jury’s verdict in the conservative rural town.

As much as Amancio’s parents are heroes, the real star and focus of Murray’s touching documentary is Michael Baughman, an endearing retired gay man who made it his full-time cause to push local authorities to be more sensitive and vigilant on gay issues. Ultimately, no one was more instrumental in resolving the case than Baughman, who has since become a de-facto member of the Corrales family.

Murray, a Yuma resident, doesn’t talk to national leaders or work to situate this tragedy into a larger context. Instead he interviews officers from the local sheriff’s department, Amancio’s family and friends, and a local gay activist. The filmmaker proves himself a masterful storyteller, with a perfectly paced narrative flow. If nothing else, here’s hoping he picks up the camera again and tells us another tale we need to hear.

The solipsistic short Get Happy (ONE TRIANGLE) screens before Amancio, and it is an exact mirror image: A tale that no one needs to hear, brought to the screen only because filmmaker Mark Payne wanted to relive the attention he got as a teenage drag queen. Back then, Payne gave spot-on impersonations of pop divas for his family and his family’s video camera. Now, he dresses and dolls up pop divas as an Emmy-winning makeup and costume designer. But he still wants to be the star himself. With Get Happy, which he wrote, directed and produced, he is the star for some 26 minutes — or about 23 minutes more than he deserves.

Amancio: Two Faces on a Tombstone
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