Elisa Miller’s Netflix feature, Hurricane Season, is an adaptation of Fernanda Melchor’s novel that goes by the same name. Miller successfully takes the brilliant work of fiction to a broader audience with her visual adaptation, which is quite moving on its own. As someone who is not familiar with the text, the analysis is purely based on the film.
Unfolding in a fictional village named La Matosa, Miller largely explores the despair of the youth in the poverty-stricken village, the inescapable haunting reality of women living there, and the tragic murder of a trans woman labeled the Witch. A decomposing corpse was found in the canal, and rumors started to spread that the village Witch was dead. Most wanted her to die, but no one dared to mess with her, fearing that she would curse them. Was it even possible to murder a witch? The gossipmongers deduced that it must have been the Witch who cursed the village before dying. While the lives of the villagers are explored in the foreground, we have the constant burning of sugarcane, which adds to the visuals. Even though they are unrelated, the fire from the sugarcane seemed to have burned the consciences of the villagers, driving them into a state of raging madness.
Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
There was tons of gossip about the Witch—she was believed to have inherited gold coins and a diamond ring that she kept hidden in her dilapidated house; she was also said to have made deals with the devil and chose young boys to satisfy her sexual urges; and she had hid her mother’s corpse in her cupboard. Some felt sorry for her, while most were glad that the Witch was finally gone, but they were unsure about the finality of her death. A few women from the village staged a protest at the police station, asking for the return of the Witch’s body. They wanted to give her a proper funeral, but because it was a murder case, they were asked to leave. Clearly, some women admired the Witch and cared about her enough to fight for her. Seated in the police station was a girl named Yesenia. She was a partial witness to the Witch’s murder, and she wanted to testify against her cousin, Luismi. Not that she cared about justice, but she did envy her Luismi. Yesenia’s grandmother loved her cousin more than anyone else, even though he was an alcoholic and a drug addict. Her grandmother did not love Luismi because he was perfect, but simply because he was the only grandson she had. While she ill-treated the rest of her granddaughters, Luismi was always greeted with love and admiration. Yesenia could see through Luismi’s lies, and she was frustrated watching her grandmother turn a blind eye. It was obvious that he did not have a job, yet Yesenia struggled to convince her grandmother about it. She noticed that her cousin frequented the Witch’s house and attended her parties.
To put it clearly, the Witch was ostracized because she was a queer woman who opened the gates of her house, “La Aurora” (The Dawn), and created a safe space for the village queers to express themselves. It was because she refused to adhere to norms that she was believed to be a terrible influence on the youth of La Matosa. Yesenia had a slight idea of what usually took place at the Witch’s party, and to confirm that Luismi was having an affair with the Witch, she slyly entered the party at night. Her doubt was true, and she returned home to tell her grandmother all about it. But instead of confronting Luismi, her grandmother cursed her and chopped off her hair. Yesenia’s hatred for Luismi escalated that night, and when she noticed her cousin with Brando and Munra arrive at the Witch’s house one morning, she knew something was wrong. Yesenia watched them unload the Witch’s body into their van, and they drove away. Her testimony ultimately led to the arrest of Brando, Munra, and Luismi. Due to the absence of parental figures in Yesenia’s life, she cherished the approval of her grandmother. Even though the lack of love from her grandmother’s end was a clear case of gender bias, as a young girl, Yesenia was convinced that if she could prove that Luismi was lying and was involved in a crime, she could win the love of her grandmother.
What made Norma run away from home?
Hurricane Season follows the narrative style of the novel, bringing in the perspective of every character directly or indirectly involved in the murder of the Witch. Fourteen-year-old Norma left her house to escape from her rapist stepfather. She did not have any money on her, and she was asked to get off the bus at an unknown location. Immediately, a group of men started eve-teasing Norma. She somehow managed to escape their hunting eyes and settled at a spot with more people around. Norma was carrying the child of her father, and she ran away, thinking she could figure something out on her own. But here she was at a remote location, with men waiting to grab hold of her, and she had no money to escape from her haunting reality. A young guy walked up to her, and he did not seem to mean any harm.
Norma’s stained clothes and her helpless eyes were enough for Luismi to understand that she did not have a place to go. Luismi could somewhat relate to the loneliness Norma experienced. He did not feel close to his mother and his adoptive father, and he preferred living in a separate hut to sharing the same space with them. Without any hesitation, Luismi invited Norma to his home in La Matosa. With food in her belly and a companion promising to keep her safe, Norma saw a sliver of hope in the darkness. Unlike all the lustful men, Luismi did not show any sexual interest in Norma. But she felt the need to return his favor. Luismi did not respond to her touch initially, but maybe a part of him believed he would be less of a man if he did not satisfy her sexually. It had only been a few hours since he met Norma, but he had already started to admire her, and maybe he did not wish to lose his only chance at living a heteronormative life with a wife and a kid. Luismi proceeded to make love to Norma.
What was the reason behind Norma’s sudden sickness?
Norma did not know what she wanted to do with the baby she was carrying, and it was Luismi’s mother, Chabela, who advised her against giving birth. She was a minor and a rape victim, and the baby would only make her life difficult. Chabela believed that the only person who could help Norma was the Witch. This explains why the Witch’s death affected the women in the village. She helped women abort unwanted pregnancies with the help of her concoctions. Since most women were forced into the sex trade business, abortion was a necessary procedure, and the Witch was, therefore, a blessing. The Witch refused to help Norma when she realized that the procedure could be fatal for her. But after Chabela mentioned that it was Luismi who asked for help with the abortion, the Witch readily agreed. She prepared a potion and advised Norma to stay back so that she could monitor her condition, but Chabela did not pay any heed to her concern. Norma suffered from agonizing pain, and she had an abortion in the middle of the field. The bleeding did not stop, and by the time Luismi returned, she was covered in blood. He called his stepfather, Munra, for help, and they admitted her to the hospital. When Norma came to her senses, a social worker repeatedly questioned her about the procedure she underwent because she was a minor. Norma was scared of admitting the truth, and she ended up blaming Luismi for her misfortune.
Why did Brando and Luismi decide to rob the Witch?
Brando lived with his mother in a tiny apartment. His eyes were on the most fashionable shoes at the store, but his mother made it clear that they could not afford them. As a young adult, Brando felt the desire to move out of his mother’s shadow, and it started with him choosing not to go to church. He also took an interest in pornographic videos and watched them in secret. The constant presence of his mother in the house started to bother him, and he did not shy away from being honest about what he thought about his father. Luismi introduced him to drugs and then to the Witch. The Witch always threw the most happening parties, and Brando was initially excited to be a part of it. But he soon discovered that it was a queer space, and he felt uncomfortable with how openly men expressed their desires. Brando was all the more shocked to see his best friend, Luismi, dressed in a flamboyant top, wearing eye shadow and gloss, and singing confidently in front of an audience. He had never seen this side of Luismi, and he was afraid of the sin he was committing by witnessing such debauchery.
Brando had noticed the Witch offer money to Luismi before they started to make love to one another. A part of Brando was mesmerized when he watched Luismi sing, but his dominant side made him feel ashamed of himself for being there. When Luismi was fast asleep after all the drugs he had consumed, Brando took the money that the Witch had offered him. Apart from the little video shop that he and his friends ran, Luismi did not have any source of income, and it was the Witch who supported him financially. In exchange for the money, Luismi slept with her, and that was their arrangement. When Luismi discovered that the money was gone, he charged at the Witch. The Witch admired Luismi, and the allegation was shocking for her. She believed he was lying to extort more money. Brando did not admit the truth, and instead, he proposed they travel to Cancun together and start their lives afresh.
That night, both Brando and Luismi were drunk, and Brando had no control over his repressed desire. They made love that night, but Brando woke up with regret the next morning. He was afraid of his secret becoming public, and he repeatedly stated that he was a straight man. Brando was struggling with his sexual identity, and everything started to feel all too wrong to him. The need to leave the village and start a new life in Cancun became all the more important, and he started to instigate Luismi to rob the Witch. Running away from his life was no longer easy for Luismi after he took on Norma’s responsibility. Brando envied his friend for having a woman in his life while he was still unsure about his feelings. Unexpectedly, the next morning, Luismi storms into his apartment and asks him to join him to rob the Witch.
Why was the Witch murdered?
During Hurricane Season‘s ending, Luismi learns that the gold coins were indeed a myth. When he tried to force money out of the Witch, she repeatedly said she did not have any and that the stories of her inheriting gold coins were false. She also tried to explain why she helped Norma with the abortion, but Luismi was not paying attention. Brando was driven with rage, and he did not think twice before hitting the Witch with Munra’s crutch. Perhaps Brando firmly believed that the Witch was the reason why men in his village were turning gay. It was not just for the gold coins that he wanted to kill her, but because it would, in a way, restore his masculinity. He was convinced that it was the Witch who stripped off his masculine pride and was indirectly the reason why he had slept with Luismi. The Witch had to pay the price, even though it was Chabela who tricked her into helping Norma abort the baby.
The ending of the film makes one wonder if anything would have been different had Norma and Chabela not visited the Witch, but in all honesty, the death of the Witch seemed inevitable. It was machismo that resulted in the Witch’s murder, and that would have been the same irrespective of the circumstances. With easy access to drugs and a lack of occupation, the future of the youth of La Matosa was doomed. There was a strong desire to get out of the inescapable reality, but no one truly knew the way out of town. The presence of the Witch left the youth all the more unsettled. She did not restrain herself, and for an addict, her parties were divine. She was cornered for her approach to life, but often, young men would end up at her doorstep when they felt lost. For Luismi, it was about the money and also about his sexual expression. In Brando’s case, it was a little more complicated because he grew up as a devoted Christian. The guilt of deviating from the right path and enjoying it at the same time left him confused. At the end of Hurricane Season, Brando, Luismi, and Munra are locked inside the same prison chamber. As Luismi and Brando embraced each other, they experienced a bittersweet feeling. It was not meant to end like this; they were meant to be living their best lives in Cancun, but here they were in prison. The only silver lining was that they were together and could look out for one another.
Multiple perspectives are introduced into the narrative in Hurricane Season, but we do not see the perspective of the Witch. The fact that the Witch did not live to tell her story can be one of the reasons why her perspective was not included. Also, the silence speaks volumes about the lack of rights for trans women globally. The image of the Witch is built from the perspective of other characters; for some, she was just a minor character in their story, while for others, she was the reason why they took a drastic measure, but even then, the character of the Witch is built in its entirety. She remains a nameless entity in the entire film, and there is a distance between the audience and her, making it impossible for us to understand what she went through, but we try to fill in the blanks because of our knowledge of the countless real incidents that we have come across in newspapers. Hurricane Season leaves a lasting impression, especially with the ending in which the people of “La Matosa” continue to believe that it was bad vibrations before the hurricane season that resulted in the tragedies. People will continue to blame external factors because it is always easier than starting a dialogue.