Archive for the indie films Category

MMFF2016: Sunday’s best, all year long

Posted in digital film, documentary film, indie films, MMFF, Philippine Cinema, queer issues in film, women's issues in film on January 21, 2017 by leaflens

That a documentary film, a full-length one at that, was included in the MMFF 2016 line-up signifies that the right people (or at least a handful maybe) are sitting there at the selection committee of this fest the past year. And good to know that they have enough sensibilities to consider all kinds of films as viable entries, even documentaries. Then it won Best Picture pa! Ayuz!

So let’s see what’s up with this beauty.

sunday-beauty-queen-posterSUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN (2016)

d. Baby Ruth Villarama

e. Chuck Gutierrez

Pitch: The film follows the lives of several domestic helpers in Hong Kong who are also beauty pageant contestants during their downtime.

Catch: The catch is that this should be shown more in many cinemas!!! Bakit na-pullout agad.

I think it was 2002 or maybe 2003-4 when I first encountered a queered version of domestic helpers’ lives in Hong Kong. I read an investigative report by IPS, that’s the Inter Press Service or like the Reuters of the NGO world as they say, and that report was in a book they mailed me during the early 2000s (met their head honcho in Bangkok who is Pinay pala, a panelist in Probe Media Foundation’s video docu workshop na napasali ako nung 2002 nga). I was amazed to learn how Filipino domestic helpers engage in same-sex female relationships to curb loneliness, even if some of these women didn’t identify as queer, lesbian or even bisexual, and some are even legally married to a man to boot. But they do it for several reasons: coping, companionship, to fight loneliness and, of course, battle homesickness. But once they come home or visit for a vacation back in the Philippines, it’s like their hetero lives resume without question, and of course without mention of their queer life back in HK. A very interesting and intriguing slice of Pinoy life as an OFW.

Now fast forward to 2016 and I see this reality onscreen, now, in this documentary film that won the MMFF Best Picture award. And the queer conversation is taken to a higher level already, almost a “non-issue” issue as the film portrays it, since one of the prime movers in the documentary is a queer (male-identified/identifying) woman. It’s very interesting to see how the queer character named Leo identifies herself as “lesbian” who is clearly within the more masculine spectrum, yet she is referred to as a “he” by his employers. (Or is it because a gendered pronoun is required to refer to him/her in English by her Chinese employers? I’m wondering if I will problematize this discourse the same way if they were merely referred to using non-gendered Filipino pronouns.) Although she is also referred to as male/masculine by her friends (their term of endearment for her is “Daddy”) and also her female partner, the more feminine or femme character (the one they call “Mommy”) who lives with Leo in her apartment. But regardless; I just find it very enlightening again, and now more so entertaining, since the queer identity is out in the open within this 2010s era of the Pinoy domestic workers’ lives in Hong Kong, and the queer identity of Leo is not an apologetic one (but she drops a disclaimer later, though — more on that below) nor is it a negative one as I’ve previously read in that early research. So yes, happy siya!

15723562_1205333356223683_7889505708413310433_oThat the queer-identified person in the film stages a beauty pageant is also a happy fact. And it’s just so Pinoy queer culture at its finest reinvention, as the film helps in its intelligent yet heartwarming unfolding. Staging beauty pageants (and watching/following national/international ones diligently) has always been there in the culture, and it, of course, traditionally features heterosexual female contestants, with the queer people just fussing about at the background in some supporting role or another. Back home, we know how there’s a subculture that kinda flipped the coin on this one already: showing effeminate gay men naman — who are actually transgender women in nature, but this label still eludes the common mentality about queerness (maybe this also applies to Leo as a “he” or how she identifies as lesbian but her identity is clearly a transman) — actively participating in beauty pageants in smaller areas like in barangays and towns, usually done to liven up a town fiesta or event of sorts.

The barangay beauty pageant is a worthy event to stage lately, be it featuring hetero women or transwomen. And most of the time nga, we always see the person organizing the pageant (or funding it pala or something) as heterosexual. But here in this film, even if a queer person stages the Hong Kong beauty pageant composed of domestic workers, most of the contestants portrayed are heterosexual (save for one quick eavesdropped moment where we hear Leo and the other girls tease another girl as she leaves with her masculine-presenting female partner, or her “Prince Charming” as they joked). Thus, the queer Leo stages “traditional” beauty pageants with “traditional” hetero female contestants. Hmm okay, medyo queer na rin. Ish. Aliw pa rin, though.

SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN shows how this queered pageant offers the domestic helpers (or DH as they are termed) a chance to be beauty queens themselves, at least every Sunday, their designat15385341_1186146441475708_3847054069873803220_oed time off from work. The film follows a handful of women who join these beauty pageants, to the extent of risking their jobs sometimes, as they might miss their strict curfew and get fired (one did). From Monday to Saturday, the film shows us how the life of a Filipina overseas worker in Hong Kong earn their keep. And on Sunday, the film shows us how they spend their time off from work: by hanging out with each other and preparing for their 15 minutes of pageant fame.

Features and stories about domestic helpers in the diaspora tend to highlight only the negative aspect of being abroad. For melodramatic flare, fictional films highlight the ills of having a mother leave abroad to seek greener pastures, leaving behind a family. The OFW DH momma role has already been played by many actresses, from Ate Vi to Pokwang. TV documentaries feature the hardships of their daily lives, sensationalizing their sacrifices. News items broadcast the abuse and the deaths of some of them. That’s why this film initially didn’t really stand a chance against prejudicial publicity due to the body of works that came before it (highlighting the “heaviness” of its supposed premise). One really had to go by word of mouth muna before seeing it. Clinching an award could also help its longevity. But of course, the premise has to deliver talaga. Kaya what one needed to do was just forget the news bit about it, the word of mouth, even the award, and let the film speak for itself by just giving it a chance and watching it. Simple lang.

From the get-go, its premise sounded like a jazzed-up pa-fun-effect version of a sob story waiting to sbq-queenexplode at the background. But one will be astounded to realize that the jazzed-up fun that the beauty pageant journey entails already weaved in the supposedly sob stories of some of the featured women. And no, the “sob stories” weren’t manipulatively shown a la TV Patrol epic style. In fact, they become sob stories because you actually feel the women’s pain with them. And how is that achieved? Just by letting it unfold naturally.

15800544_1205333446223674_2482483383326513596_oThere’s one good example there, of this woman who was being interviewed near a park area by the river or by a body of water, where she later walked the dog of her employer. She was trying to call her children back home and connect via video chat, but the connection was crappy (on the Philippine side, of course). One of the children was graduating, and I think they were trying to show her the graduation ceremonies as it’s happening, and she struggles to be with them “in spirit.” Prior to this, she was talking to them, and trying to explain to the audience as well, that she was apologizing for not being able to come home to attend the ceremony, since she needed to stay for her work, that she needed to work so she could afford to send the kids to school. The way she delivered this fact was just plain and simple, but she was a bit teary-eyed, trying to restrain her sadness. That “quiet” scene was indeed powerful enough to start you bawling; nakakaiyak siya nang hindi ka sadyang pinapaiyak, kasi nakakaiyak lang ‘yung sitwasyon, ‘yung dilemma, ‘yung reaksyon, at ‘yung found moment na ‘yun sa pelikula. You feel her pain, and it’s sadder that way, because she’s not putting an effort to make you sad; sad lang talaga ‘yung sitwasyon, period. Gets?

15844532_1207209902702695_7880778725808231185_oThere are many other moments like these in the film, scenes that make you sad because the narratives of the women — including their daily struggles and moments of happiness with their chosen lives — touch your heart without that obligatory cinematic manipulation, that sadyang “kurot sa puso” device we “cleverly” write in within the scripts. In here, since it’s a documentary, it’s just…found. Like that scene of the girl who was a caretaker of this former film producer/executive who died while she was under his employ. And the producer’s daughter calling up the Pinay DH to tell her the bad news, and how she reacted and coped after, since she was obviously already endeared to the boss.

Many moments like these are shown that when the beauty pageant preparation scenes come up, it’s like a sigh of relief, an escape from the engulfing pathos of these Monday to Friday lives, a break from reality — their reality. Kung tayo ngang spectators ay naghahanap ng break from the sad reality, what more these women who live within such realities? And perhaps this is why the symbolism and importance — and relevance — of the seemingly “wala lang” event such as a beauty pageant would be deemed as important and regarded highly by these women: it’s a happy one-day-only respite from their  daily grind. No, it’s not 15181703_1171704282919924_3446965180142806906_nescapism; it’s coping. The beauty pageant gives them some distraction, sure, but it’s more than that: it gives them another sense of purpose, one that doesn’t kurot their puso so much to the point of bawling daily, one where they need to come out as happier naman for a change, to pose as confidently beautiful with a smile, to parade as a human being being valued in another way in this foreign land that only sees them in a (sometimes non-humane) myopic devalued viewpoint. In their small corner of the universe, they want to become magnanimous, even for just a few hours, perhaps a weekend or two, dolled up and forever captured in their selfies, the media coverage, and in their minds. No, they don’t do it for vanity’s sake; they need to have an alternative (and better) picture to frame their (often cruel) lives in the diaspora, and that damn picture better look good!

That the pageant organizer and the pageant participants themselves see the pageant staging as a chance of giving themselves a parallel purpose in their current lives is something worthwhile to realize, poignant to hear, and worthy of supporting and applauding. We all do what we could to survive, and we all do what we could to make surviving more bearable. This film shows us another form of resiliency of the Filipino spirit, and it shows us that we can have a damn good time being resilient, plus we could look good doing it to boot!

Walang itatapon sa pelikulang ito. Parang lahat ng included scenes ay poignant, kailangan, hindi sayang, hindi sitners lang ang peg (o ‘yung mga eksenang pang-fillers lang ng video habang naririnig mo ang narration ng audio). Kahit ‘yung eksena sa bahay ni Leo na nagluto sila ng hapunan, big deal ipakitang independent live-out helper siya kasi big deal pala sa HK ‘yun. Plus big deal for me din to have the queer couple portrayed like any other hetero couple out there: domestic, loving, and very real. No role-playing po in our universe; we just exist, and yes, this is how we love. Pero natawa naman ako ng bongz when Leo mentioned that she (sorry I refer to her as a she ha, kasi she said “lesbian” siya) didn’t start staging beauty pageants so that them lezzies could meet eligible women out there hahaha! Kaloka. Although that’s an interesting concern, and also to note, parang hindi organic kay Leo to use the term “lez” or “lesbian” when narrating her story. I feel it’s a suggestion picked up from the interview Q&A with the filmmaker behind the cam. This is my conclusion since she appears to be “old-school” in that manner, na “mars at pars” ang reference sa mga butch-femme, or to a certain extent they use the term “les” pero not the whole term. That was one moment when I felt the filmmaker’s hand on the material, handled rather heavily. But these touches are rare, few and far between, so they’re forgivable overall.

This indeed is the winning shot right there. Backlit pero makulay,parang mga buhay ng kasambahay na nasa anino ng mga amo pero may natatagong ganda din naman sa pagkatao.

This indeed is the winning shot right there. Backlit pero makulay pa rin, parang mga buhay ng kasambahay na nasa anino ng mga amo pero may natatagong ganda din naman sa kanilang pagkatao. Love this shot! And the moment it came out! Panalo! Directing + editing + camerawork + storytelling = Bonggacious!!!

Kudos much to the people who worked on this. Congrats to my former student Chuck who edited it and also part of the producing team, as I read. I loved how they use the quiet visual language of the cinema to let the stories unfold before your eyes and ears, participatory enough so that you also have the time and leeway to let the messages sink in, to actually have time to listen to your own thoughts passing through your mind as you watch their stories unfold scene after scene and formulate opinions about what’s going on. You have this chance of hopping along for the ride, instead of being a mere spectator na sasabit ka lang sa outside rails ng tsubibo habang umaandar ito excitedly. Yes, no voice-over narration and no voice-of-God type of narrations work well for me for a documentary. It’s the cinematic kind, not the TV kind, kasi ang TV takot sa silence as I found out in that video docu workshop nga more than a decade ago. Talagang taong pelikula ako eh, hindi taong TV, kaya I value the pregnant pauses and the occasional silences that emanate from scenes and in between or within scenes. And I so love this film for having this approach, this treatment. Pang-best picture nga siya talaga, in form and content.

K end of review. I… thank yew!

[All photos swiped from the SBQ FB page. Pahiram ha. Salamuch!]


The future is here, but the future is not now

Posted in Cinema One Originals, dramedy film, film students, film teacher mode, indie films, love story, Philippine Cinema, Philippine film industry, romantic comedy films on February 16, 2015 by leaflens

Or in short, a review of that film that made you quote lovelorn quips this love month. Or earlier if you caught this in its festival inception.

312926_10150401822735190_748755189_10316644_525666240_nTHAT THING CALLED TADHANA (2014)

d., s. Tonet Jadaone

dop. Sasha Palomares

sound. Jedd/Bryan Dumaguina

c. Angelica Panganiban, JM De Guzman

Pitch: Great concept. Fresh take on storytelling. More stories like these, please.

Catch: A good story should be realized by good directing. Pulso is the key. Find your original. Leave duplicates at home. Just saying.

That local movie that got people buzzing again is a good one. This is good news for the new darlings of Philippine cinema, and I’m quite glad that I’ve had the privilege of peeking at the early stages of these darlings’ lives back when they were film students and I their film thesis adviser/film teacher. Teaching back then, I’ve always reminded these kids that they are going to be the future of Philippine cinema if they so choose to accept that path. After all, they’re there in our classroom learning about the art and the craft of this form we so love. As a teacher, I’m realistic:  I know that some of them are just there for the 4-year clocktime course while some are there to gain knowledge and move on to other fields, leaving a handful who will actively pursue different aspects of filmmaking in their lives, be it in the mainstream, the alternative, or the indie. And if they so choose to be part of the film future, then they better prepare for it in the present by looking into the past. For we are only doomed to repeat the mistakes of history when we don’t really learn from it. Tama po ba, Sir Teodoro Agoncillo? But I digress.

The year 2014 was a literary one for this film reviewer and I didn’t have the time to peek into what’s happening in cinemas both local and foreign since I chose to focus on the literary world of my huge universe. That at lumablayp muna lola mo hehe, kaya you know. So I kinda missed Direk Tonet’s other efforts, but I’ve been hearing some buzz about a couple of works she’s done in the past. Alas, since indie filmfest skeds conflicted with my work skeds, I missed all screenings of all things. So I was really glad this Cinema One entry had a commercial release, of course picked up by Star Cinema and supported by the same people who were in that ABSCBN-led indie filmfest. Of course, this might also mean that the same “story consultants” that festered sat on panels to revise review scripts/films already shot were also present in this film to give it a few katay directives pointers. Well, you get the drift.

Like what I mentioned in my pitch, the one thing that this film has is a really great concept. And I bet the concept also had a good script that went with it. The thing with Tonet is that she was able to capture the essence of today’s Pinay who undergoes real shitty hindi-ito-pang-romcom-nampotah type of love stories, and heartbreaks. Like I’ve never been so pleased to see a pretty heartbroken girl say Putangina! or Tangina naman! na pagkalutong-lutong mas malutong pa siya sa Lapid’s Chicharon pare, all because her heart is hurting. Totoong ganito ang tao kapag heartbroken at totoong masakit kaya totoong napapamura ka at totoong wala kang class, finesse o anumang kagalang-galang sa hitsura o pagkatao mo minsan kapag brokenhearted ka tangina tulo-uhog habang hagulgol and all. Angelica’s performance of the brokenhearted Pinay was well-captured here, great performance talaga si ati. Ever since I saw a different side of her naman as a non-sitcom type of comedian in HERE COMES THE BRIDE, pak na pak talaga ang acting ni ati.  That’s why I got doubly curious to see this film when I saw her topbill it.

But then here comes JM, once the darling of our business unit sa dos when I was there in my recent past as part of a team conceptualizing teleseryes and helping out in reality shows. I don’t know if it was the way he interpreted the character or if he still had some remnants of his personal troubles that crept into his professional performance, but his acting really appeared so uninspired. As in hindi siya mukhang inspired to shoot, much less to work. But I think this meh mode niya worked to build the character of the meek dude that will contrast with the loud gal character of the film. Kaya lang sana minsan naman, sana in-injection-an nila siya ng caffeine sa katawan man lang, know what I’m saying. Or maybe I’m just nitpicking. Kape pa more!


I felt like some scenes showing the boylet’s characters were axed, therefore reducing his performance into a dedma type of guy that ended up not being realistic. Like towards the end, when he mentioned that he mentioned about a person taking care of him with Biogesic or something, I was like “Nasaan ‘yung eksenang ‘yun?” ganun. Weird limbo scenes pare.

The concept of the film is not entirely new. It’s the usual tossed salad of a formula wherein you throw in elements already familiar to viewers and cook them up to serve something hopefully familiar but also new. As I’ve always said in my scriptwriting classes, you can’t reinvent the wheel but by golly push that wheel into a different direction so we could see new scenery and take us to places only you could see from your unique perspective. And literally, this film took us there: to places where we experience heartache so devastating that we tend to forget who we are or where we come from or, more importantly, where we’re going now, now that the love is gone, ‘ika nga ng kanta diyan somewhere. Not new because we’ve already seen films na strangers on a train/bus/plane/what have you ang peg, and of course my generation — and theirs — had Richard Linklater’s Before series as a default peg. But what’s great about BEFORE SUNRISE is that the long train ride produced a chance encounter of a boy and a girl who had a hell of a time killing time by talking to each other about mundane things and profound things. Here in TADHANA, all we see is a girl bawling her eyes out in a Rome to Manila flight, and their only chance encounter, aside from having met at the airport so boylet can help girlet with her overweight luggage, is seatmates sila and boylet couldn’t care less when girlet was watching the quintessential love-lost-and-love-found-but-sana-ako-na-lang-love-mo-ulit-kasi-tanga-ako-nung-pinakawalan-kita local romantic drama film ONE MORE CHANCE in her laptop. That’s about it. I mean dude, I’ve had more conversations with strangers in a 2-hour trip from Manila to Davao/Dumaguete/wherever Philippines, and this is a Rome to Manila flight ha. Ang dami na dapat nilang napag-usapan, lalo na ang unang crucial thing: na sana nagpakilala muna sila sa isa’t isa, karugtong ng pagpapakilala ni boylet sa sarili kay girlet sa airport. I mean, more convos siguro, since tinulungan siya ng boylet, regardless of her sabaw mode from her mega cryola mode k. Yes, we want to be cinematic but being cinematic works when we try to be more realistic at first.

And speaking of being realistic, it really fell flat on its face when meh boylet just went with the flow and accompanied girlet to wherever the hell she felt like going. I mean, sure, realistic pa rin if you ask a “stranger” to eat in a restaurant with you or go to a videoke so you could sing your broken heart out. But to actually have another life form engage you into going on a 500 pesos+ fare ride (one way) going somewhere (so mga lampas 1k yan if roundtrip) out of Manila is a stretch, especially if there was not enough getting-to-know-you-muna moments between the two of them. What TADHANA lacks is what BEFORE SUNRISE has developed well: exposition. As in, we get to be exposed to the who/why/what/where/how come stuff of the characters, before they decide to jump to a higher plot point to take the exposition to its more interesting rising action, hopefully to take us to the wonders of the plot’s climax and wonder where in the world this climax will take place/happen, and how. Alas, this is where I sort of disengaged with the good concept turned unrealized script, as the directing didn’t lead us to these seemingly simple but really truly important “smaller” scenes. Are they not as cinematic for one’s taste? It should be, since it is in the smaller and simpler scenes that you get the most profound insights, or elicit the most intimate of moments, between characters. Yes, this is realistic, but it could also be cinematic. Think about it. How many films have banked on the simplicity of shots, of a moment, a scene captured not because it has a gazillion things happening at the same time, but only one thing happening at that moment, captured quietly on film, a moment for us to ponder on. Pulso. Pinupulsuhan dapat natin ang panahon, ang eksena, ang detalye ng kuwento. Sadly, the film wanted to hurry up to the climax of things that it forgot to set up these important pulses that could make the film beat more towards its apex. Sayang.

Sa henerasyong ito ng budget travelers, may pera at panahon ka bang mag-up and go nang basta-basta without thinking of your job (na sa later scenes lang nabanggit), your money (yaman nila to be buying bus tickets just like that ha) or your time? Iangkla ang cinematic sa realistic para mas lumipad siya nang husto. #justsaying

Sa henerasyong ito ng budget travelers, may pera at panahon ka bang mag-up and go nang basta-basta without thinking of your job (na sa later scenes lang nabanggit), your money (yaman nila to be buying bus tickets just like that ha) or your time? Iangkla ang cinematic sa realistic para mas lumipad siya nang husto. #justsaying

And speaking of not quiet, cinema has its way of speaking to you without letting you hear anything. A good, quietly captured moment could actually speak for itself, and there’s no need to drown it with melodramatic musical score. The film also suffers from this drowning from time to time that I wonder if the filmmakers or the producers are scared of “not hearing” a scene. If so, then it becomes television fare, where the execs seem to be scared of that thing called dead air. In cinema, there is that thing called pregnant silence. Ang daming laman kahit wala kang naririnig, dahil sa ang nakikita mo ay marami nang sinasabi agad. At ang dami niyang feels! You got a great actor na and a great story to boot, so let them speak for themselves sometimes. Sayang these moments, especially when the girlet was just feeling the moment, kunwari ‘yung nasa Sagada siya and shouted her frustrations amidst the clouds atop Mt. Kiltepan. Her shouting on that quiet scenery could have made a great poignant scene. But again, it was drowned by musical score. Heartache needs to be felt lang sometimes, not heard. Let the scene breathe on its own. I hope they keep this in mind next time.

And this is why I titled this review the way I did. Because no matter how we tout that the future of Philippine cinema is already here, the future that we hopefully want to happen is not quite happening now, at least not yet. Not when the mainstream’s heavy hand is so obvious in shaping the form of these future-leading folks, not when these young ones feel like they have to be or mimic their mainstream mentors in order to be taken to the fold. In a way, if this is the objective — to become one with the fold — then this film has already succeeded. But seeing that the future may also want to have a different take on things, then maybe we still have to see what they will come up with next, in order for us to get excited more about how they could revive the future of this art we so love. But yes, this is indeed a great start.

I could see why so many people like this film, the same reason why I like it: its believability. I mean, sino ba naman kasi ang hindi na-heartbroken sa Pilipinas, at may populasyon nga dito na nagtatangkang maglakbay kapag ganito ang moda. And yes, laging ang default ay bundok: Baguio, Sagada ganyan. Natawa nga ako sa concept na ito, at salamat at may nagtanong nito finally. Puwede rin namang beach ang puntahan, di ba? Bilang archipelago tayo, mas madali ‘yun. Pero siguro dahil love could move mountains dapat ang peg, bundok ng tralala ang inaakyat ng Pinoy para doon hanapin ang sagot sa tanong ng lahat ng heartbroken: huwayyyyy or huwaaaay meeeee. And of course, andiyan ang unending love quotes and love songs to make you cry. Pero sana din naman, nailatag ang characterization ni girlet bilang love-quoting girl, kasi iisang quote lang lagi ang kinu-quote niya, and it kinda gets tiring teh. Quote pa more, girl. Dami pa riyan. Buklat ka ng Eat Pray Love baka makatulong hane? Or Shakespeare. Yes, these are the new things that we want to see in our local films. This believability works. It’s just the delivery that lacks a bit and I find wanting. In Tagalog, tinimbang nguni’t overweight sa ilang bagay at underweight sa iba. Yes, we want a new cinematic recipe indeed, and thanks for this really nice bite. But I hope the cinematic commercial cookie cutter gets challenged more next time. Hashtag just saying.

Again, great story. Loved this film because of the good concept. Witty will truly save the world, to quote Tonet’s other business, but I also hope someday, witty will be brave enough to break out of the mold, to discover her own. Andiyan na naman, eh. And the audiences are ready for it; long overdue, actually. I guess all I’m saying is: talon pa more! 🙂

Good luck with the next one. Looking forward to it.


[All images swiped from the internet. Salamat sa mga nag-upload.]

Pahabol to the year-end roast

Posted in Cine Filipino, comedy film, indie films, intercultural issues, Philippine Cinema, Philippine film industry on December 24, 2013 by leaflens

Glad I was able to catch the Ayala Mall theatrical run of a Cine Filipino entry before the country transforms into its MMFF mode. And I was just going to watch it purely for entertainment’s sake but I can’t let it pass without a proper review because I think the film — and what it tried to do — has to be commended for its merit.

So this is it, pancit. Gora.


d. Randolf Longjas

s. Allan Habon

sc. Teresa Barrozo

c. Tuesday Vargas, Travis Kraft, Julia Clarete, Cai Cortez 

Pitch: A Pinay with a white American boyfriend happily struggle to find the middle ground of their cultures in the hopes of improving their relationship to attain their goal of going to the U.S.

Catch: Most jokes were concentrated on the first half of the film, leaving the second half a bit wanting, but still satisfying ’til the end anyway. So kebs.

And this is why I can’t just let this film pass without saying anything about it: MAGANDA KASI SIYA. It works very well for me because this is a comedy that’s not caricature, and that’s sooooooooo effin’ rare lately in Philippine cinema. I’m talking about the likes of this film and HERE COMES THE BRIDE, for instance, where the film presents a far-out storyline yet it’s believable enough pa rin to make you sincerely laugh. And you sincerely laugh because the comedy is not just shallow or slapstick but it’s quite a mix of both, but differentiated because it tries to have depth in delivery and content. Depth, as in lalim, or at least pinag-isipan ang pagpapatawa at hindi mababaw ang punchlines. You know what I’m saying?

Hindi ito katulad lang ng mga Vice Ganda comedies na siya lang ang nagdadala dahil sa stand-up comic timing/delivery niya ng lines (although those work in certain contexts din naman, like in PETRANG KABAYO). At lalong hindi ito tulad ng mga comedy ng Star Cinema or ng mga dinidirek ni Direk Wenn na parang wishy-washy material lang na mukhang sinulat lang in three days (if may script at all, na para kasing tumakbo lang with a sequence outline lang at shoot na agad!). ‘Yung ganitong mga pelikula, nakakatawa talaga dahil maganda ang materyal, magaling ang delivery ng actors, at maganda ang pagkakahabi ng mga eksena at shot. Yes, it really worked for me.

Of course there’s nothing new in the story, you might say. What’s another film about a white man coupling with a brown girl in our islands? Oo, talamak na nga ang ganitong pairing but even so, each generation has something new to contribute to this intercultural discourse. For as long as we can’t shake off our memory of our colonial history, we will certainly continue to talk about the byproducts of such history in our present. Part and parcel of being Filipino, I think, is to have this discourse out in the open, whether people see it negatively or positively. But I hope we could talk about it in a more enlightened way.

And in a way, this film did. Of course the obvious objective was to show naysayers that the brown girl was not only after the money from the white guy. That’s really the default thinking here, and decades of cultural opinion and practice will not shake off that initial impression. Really. Even if we try really hard. But the film is charming because it succeeds in talking about that impression, and even overcoming it, presenting new ways and perspectives of looking at it.

Ako man baffled sa "cultural" eklavu of eating carbs on carbs, namely pancit canton with rice! Hindi ka nag-iisa, dude! LOLZ.

Ako man baffled sa “cultural” eklavu of eating carbs on carbs, namely pancit canton with rice! Hindi ka nag-iisa, dude! LOLZ.

And the first perspective is this: have the white man speak good Tagalog. That’s really cute, even way cuter than half-Filipinos/half-some-other-country people who come here and speak baluktot Tagalog like they’re the cutest thing after newborn puppies. No, chaka ‘yun dude, speak it. And then of course another cute thing here is have the brown girl learn how to speak proper English without even referring to that dreaded term “nosebleed” because in this film, she doesn’t see her baluktot English as a sign of being dumb (which is what, to me, the concept of “nosebleed” suggests/dictates). And what’s even cuter is she’s open to improving her English diction, without even feeling sorry for herself or without feeling insecure. That scene in the bathroom where they do this as they brush their teeth, plus the one where he drills her with meta cards, man that’s just hilarious! (e.g. Where was I born? / Penis…penisvanya? Pencil…Pencilvania!) And it pays off because Tuesday and Travis have great onscreen comedic chemistry. It works.

Another “new” yet tricky contribution of the film to this discourse is where they meet. The film is basically about these two people who met online, in a website obviously designed for meet-ups like theirs, as they both sign up in a dating website called “” or something like that. Of course these kinds of websites exist in real life. And yes, there have been couples who have successfully formed relationships using such sites. But to the judgmental offline world, this kind of pairing is still suspect just because they met in “non-traditional” means. It’s the whole intercultural judgment, but transferred online.

And in this day and age of world wide web connectivity, many people seek out relations of all sorts online, and that should already be a given, a thing not to be subjected to morality judgments. Sige nga, ano ang pinagkaiba nito sa nireto mo ang friend of a friend of a friend of a friend mo sa friend mo for a blind date? In this case, may kalayaang mamili ang mga magde-date ng kanilang type. And yes, I’ve actually met some women who have met white men in such spaces, boyfriends nila currently or they even married pa nga and have a family na, ganun. Yes, take a look around, take a closer look, and you’ll see that these kinds of pairings — borne out of real love connections — do exist.  And even if it’s viewed judgmentally pa rin, the film was able to laugh at the face of this kind of judgment. At first, the film was laughing along with the prejudice and the bigotry. Later, nakikitawa na tayo sa prublema nila. Later, kasama na natin silang tumatawa sa success na na-overcome nila sa kanilang struggles. And as the film wraps up, napapaisip tayo na oo nga naman, may mga ganitong totoo. At okay naman pala. And then we cheer them on in the end, because what they are are just like who we all are: humans who just want to be in a loving relationship, regardless of race, culture or language divides.

White Kano with brown Pinay who usually has a child or two borne out of wedlock or from a previous failed Pinoy relationship, as depicted here. A common image in our country but still bears new discourse.

White Kano with brown Pinay who usually has a child or two borne out of wedlock or from a previous failed Pinoy relationship, as depicted here. A common image in our country but still bears new discourse.

At bakit nga pala turkey-pabo ang peg? The storyline’s plot centered on the nearing of Thanksgiving Day and the Pinay’s struggles to find an elusive turkey in Manila for the celebration, to make her boyfriend happy. Tuesday Vargas is a gem here, kenkoy na kikay na may puso at nasasaktan din naman. In short, totoong tao, someone na posibleng mars mo sa opis o sa kapitbahay ganun, mga taong totoong puwedeng mag-exist in real life, nagawa nilang ipakita dito in a non-caricature/two-dimensional way. Patok pa lalo sa two best friends niyang kikay na kalog din, sina Cai Cortez at Julia Clarete, lalo na sa mga hirit nila na para lang naririnig ko sa tabi-tabi kapag nagsasama-sama kami ng friends ko o napapadaan ako at napapa-eavesdrop sa mga kenkoy na samahang barkada around town. Mga totoong tao, nakikita sa pelikula, malaki ang identification factor nito sa audience, kaya mas effective na nakakatawa sila, dahil nga hindi sila caricature. Take note of this, please, Star Cinema, Viva Films, Regal Films and other outfits that continue to dumb down Filipino audiences by showing us crass comedy year in and year out. Matalino ang audience oy, kaya taas-taasan niyo rin ang level ninyo please lang, k. K.

Having said that, we now end up giving this film our two thumbs up. I hope the filmmakers continue writing material and I hope they’re given more chances to show their craft to the audiences. The future of Philippine cinema is slowly being secured, thanks to such talents. Sana lang ‘wag lumobo ang mga ulo, hane?

K? K.

Have a gay day the “indie film” way yey!

Posted in children-young adult content, Cine Filipino, digital film, indie films, Philippine Cinema, queer cinema, queer issues in film, women's issues in film on September 26, 2013 by leaflens

September was a happy time for new film releases that are not made under the auspices of film production companies that either mangle brilliant scripts by letting them “be critiqued” by their lupon of creative consultants or don’t touch inanely written “template films” (read: nagawa mo na ‘yan last year direk and the year before and the year before…) by writer-directors who think they’re god’s gift to Philippine Cinema (I don’t know which god, though. Lucifer? God ba siya? Bad angel pala. Basta, kung sinuman boss niya, ‘yun.).

The first thing I’m talking about is this:


The Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) had a fest called Sineng Pambansa National Film Festival All Masters Edition where our living legends were given the greenlight to make films they wanted with concepts they believed in. I just wish these films could have ran longer since people had to catch different screening times and it’s difficult to sync that with one’s life. So I’m reviewing one film from that batch muna for now.

The second thing I’m talking about is this:

cine filipino

Yet another digital film festival grant-giving venture, this time from PLDT Smart Foundation and Unitel, a.k.a. Mr. Manny Pangilinan dude. Again, I wish they didn’t just screen for a week in select theaters where you will make habol the screening times again which, again, is hard to sync with one’s life. Just saying, hey. And I’m reviewing one film from that batch here din.

Queer focus for now.

lihisposterLIHIS (2013)

d. Joel Lamangan

s. Ricky Lee

dop. Mo Zee

c. Jake Cuenca, Joem Bascon, Lovi Poe, Isabelle Daza, Gloria Diaz

Pitch: Two male members of the New People’s Army (NPA) reinterpret norms and ideals by fighting for the country’s democracy while maintaining a sexual-romantic relationship. Gives new color to the chant “Maki-beki! ‘Wag ma-shokot!” we sometimes shout during pride marches hmm.

Catch: Not enough alindog shots of Lovi Poe my lust. I’m a lesbian eh — wrong market Jake and Joem! Just saying lol.

What I like about this film is the pumping scene. Scenes pala, plural. Malilibog ang mga neps na ‘to, pare. As in teh, wala pang 5 minutes into the film/exposition/Act I, may mega-pumping nang nagaganap sa dalawang boylet na matapang! You never know what happens in them boondocks, now, do you? Now we kinda do. Kidding.

What I really like about this film is that there’s some kind of tightness in the way the material was handled — well, overall, maybe, but there are a few kinks here and there, of course. The story is tight enough to stand, tight enough for the premise to be believable — that there could indeed be two “ordinary-looking” men with communist ideals and guns to have strong desires for each other. It was also presented in a matter-of-fact way, like the way other storylines could be presented — that hey, there’s this rebel dude and there’s this rebel guy and they want to fight for the country side by side while loving each other. Indeed, the treatment of the relationship was tender and loving, and none of that “I’m not gay” disclaimer shiz that was present in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN before. In here, the gayness need not be spelled out by the people who have homosexual desires  because they were obviously comfortable in their skins about their sexualities. In short, hindi issue sa kanila ang pagiging beki, teh. Mas isyu pa ‘yung baka matagpuan ng kalaban at mabaril sa engkuwentro.

Pagtapos ng barilan, espadahan naman! Yehessss LOL. Salamat sa mabait na nilalang na gumawa ng montage na ito. Pahiram ha.

Pagtapos ng barilan, espadahan naman! Yehessss LOL. Salamat sa mabait na nilalang na gumawa ng montage na ito. Pahiram ha.

But the heterosexual girl had an issue about the homosexuality, and this is where the first story kink comes in. Lovi Poe as that strong female NPA character had quite a few undeveloped angst storylines that got carried over in the adult version of her (read: When Lovi Poe grows up, she becomes Gloria Diaz pala. Puwede na rin; same kalidad ng alindog, once upon a time.) particularly her angst about “finding out” if her NPA crushie-turned-hubby (Joem’s NPA writer-intellectual character) is indeed gay or at least bi, and then having a fuss about it later in life. There were times when it seemed that her character was clueless about the relationship but then later on, it was also revealed that she knew about it in the first place. So why harbor the gay hate attitude later on, girl? That was kinda confusing for me, man. In the end, i just chalked it up to the character being proud, as in “nakukuha ko ang lahat ng gusto ko” kind of proud — including getting the man she desires, the gay man she desires pala. Ewan, labo ni ateh.

And then there’s another issue of having a kind of “cover-up” in the death of the two gay rebels. Her older version seemed to have some angst about people not knowing the real score about how the two died, or her doing a cover-up of the real story and shiz. This was tied up to her older version’s grown-up daughter’s (Isabelle Daza) quest of finding the real facts about what happened to that seemingly buried history of a massacre in a small town — the town where the two gay rebels supposedly died, and no one supposedly survived save for this kid who grew up and got stuck in a mental institution. Uh, yeah, if I lost you, sorry I got lost, too. These are the other kinks that needed to be ironed out in the film because I think it’s predominantly the gay storyline that got brainstormed better than the rest.

And yes, why wouldn’t it? It’s a quaint and novel premise that’s not seen in many popular culture forms. Gay NPAs, sankapa teh! That in itself sells the story without effort. Then pepper it with bits and pieces of historical situations then (Marcos era) and now (Noynoy era), and you got a political film, easy. And then show many pumping scenes and kilitian moments between the two handsome gay dues and weh, umupo ka na lang and let the film sell like beefcakes er hotcakes pala. Appeal to prurient interests? Check! Appeal to lovey-dovey marriage equality romantics? Check! Ma-appeal na leading men kissing each other? Check! Pasok sa banga na lahat. And never mind na lang if the pretty Miss Universe-looking (or former Miss Universe title holder) women are also in this film. I guess they’re the eye candy naman for the straights and the lezzies. And I admire them three women because they also gave good acting performances here, sans being framed in a maalindog way (which I still protest BTW but hey…).

Kinilig naman ako sa eksenang ito ng lambutchingan mode. Pero kelangan talagang naka-topless si Jake? Sige na nga...

Kinilig naman ako sa eksenang ito ng lambutchingan mode. Pero kelangan talagang naka-topless si Jake? Sige na nga…

Overall, it’s still a good quality queer film. The lighting was okay naman (except for my eternal angst about blue/uber-liwanag lighting in night scenes in Philippine cinema, but that’s another discourse) and the editing was also good. The directing is surprisingly good as well. Direk Joel is kind of a hit-and-miss director for me, depending on the material he’s handling. But this was surprisingly okay. Ricky’s script was also okay in his ang-bawa’t-karakter-ay-may-bubog kind of way (yet another discourse, saka na lang) which works well here, save for the kinks I mentioned na nga.

If this gets shown somewhere else, it’s still worth catching. So go catch.



d., s. Sigrid Bernardo

dop. Alma Dela Pena

c. Angel Aquino, Teri Malvar and a bunch of talented actors of all ages

Pitch: Tween girl from the province falls in crush with a returning pretty kababayan who has her own secrets to unravel.

Catch: A few kinks in the way some subplots introduced are ended or woven in the main narrative but we overlook it because Angel Aquino is so pretty to look at. Yes we’re biased that way, hey.

What I like about this film is that Angel Aquino is very pretty to look at. In a non-male gaze kind of way. Meaning I am a lesbian and I could look at the film and the shot makes me desire her. If you’re a man and you’re straight then you will also obviously lust after her because that is the default mode of the male gaze. If you’re gay and you like pretty things then you will like the way she was shot because she looked pretty. And if you’re a straight woman then you’ll probably look at her and wonder how she does her hair because it’s so pretty and you want yours to be that pretty, too. All angles — or gazes — covered pare, sankapa hihi. But of course there’s a good motivation behind the perspective, and it’s largely hinged at the main story it’s telling: the teen girl Anita’s developing crush on the prettiest girl in their town. So yes, the way she was shot, it works! Kudos to Alma for this. Plus the overall cinematography na rin, while we’re at it.

Alindog, thy name is Angel. Mas sexy if may itak, bow. LOL

Alindog, thy name is Angel. Mas sexy if may itak, bow. LOL

And I’m glad to see that their tandem is still alive, Alma and Sigrid. Together, they work well cinematically and it shows.  Sigrid’s handling of her own material is also good because it shows that she cares as a director how the scenes should come alive. This is evident in the way the children’s scenes were shot. Anita has two best friends and their barkada trio is a hoot to watch. Although sometimes, having written children’s narratives and directed children’s TV shows, I somehow lose my grip on my disbelief that these kids are real kids. I mean sure, we have bibo kids and we have bibo wunderkinds (like TV’s Ryzza Mae), but some of the dialogues of the kids are too bibo to be true for me. It’s one thing to keep it real in a bibo way, but it’s another to overdo it na kasi. Some are overdone in my opinion, but it’s still a small kink that could get shrugged off anyway.

The main narrative is okay naman. The main story is framed by the present time where we see Anita as a drill sergeant ba or something, basta someone who commands a platoon inside a military base or camp. A package of her mother’s main source of business, the tahong chips (Aha! Tahong talaga ha! I see what ya did there, ya dykes lol!) catapults the whole film into flashback mode to introduce us to Anita during her childhood, back when she was merely a typical teen rebel who misses her dead soldier father so much until she smartened up to win the attention of the love of her little life, Pilar. The whole film’s journey is hinged at the unraveling of why Pilar came back (supposedly to start over a life with an ex-bf who turns out to be Anita’s uncle) and what she does in the meantime (a former OFW physical therapist turned local hilot/massage person) and what she does towards the end of her own narrative (revealing plot dump after plot dump regarding her supposed pregnancy-cum-abortion or her supposed “skills” to “abort” and her main reason for leaving — which was being pregnant and surprise surprise kung sino pala ang nakajontis kay ati and such). Her narrative becomes a bit convoluted and confusing towards the end, which wasn’t helped very much by the dream-like interpretation of the ending sequence with the grown-up Anita coming back and passing by Pilar’s now-abandoned house (of course the cinematic clues lead us to conclude our own conclusions, mainly choosing whether Pilar left or died or whatnot, meaning kayo na bahala kung ano ang nais niyong kinahinatnan ng byuti ni Angel ditey).

So Pilar’s journey is being unraveled together with Anita’s own narrative about having a crush on her and making things work in order to get her little objectives met (mainly to earn enough money to afford a full body massage from Pilar and changing the way she looks to be more impressive). So in this part, we see this Ang Pagbibinata Ni Anita mode which was a happy development in the beginning since the discussion of sexuality was, once again, presented in a matter-of-fact way, meaning it’s okay to Anita and her friends and family that she is developing a crush on another woman. In short, hindi na naman isyu ang pagiging biyaning ni ati. Mas isyu pa ‘yung dapat makasali siya sa sagala at makasama sa pamilya niya sa kanilang yearly visit sa sayaw sa Obando thingie sa Bulacan, their province.

Ang Pagbibinata Ni Anita-batumbakal na taga-frisco. Charut! Kung may kapitbahay din ba akong ganyang kaganda eh di sana mas maaga tayong namulat sa katotohanan ng life, aney? LOL.

Ang Pagbibinata Ni Anita-batumbakal na taga-frisco. Charut! Kung may kapitbahay din ba akong ganyang kaganda eh di sana mas maaga tayong namulat sa katotohanan ng life, aney? But no. LOL.

And that treatment of queerness is what’s formidable in this material. I like the way that the film treats being a lesbian here, that’s it’s a non-issue — which is how it should be treated in real life anyway, hey. And this is what gives the film heart: to see Anita struggling with her crush, trying to court Anita in her own innocent adolescent way (culminating to a funny scene where she tries to pedal the bike where Pilar was riding in its sidecar — hilarous!) and trying to balance her crush and her family/friend “duties” and such. I could see why this kid won the best actress award for this festival since her portrayal is so real and honest, probably a refreshing thing on the big screen lately, huh. So never mind if she knocked out the Superstar in this category. Give chance to others, as we usually say when we played during our youth. Devah?

I just wish that the film was tightened more in terms of its other elements. Like the element of the dance and the cha-cha. While they were running motifs in the film, sometimes they pop out from out of nowhere just to be in that sequence, you know what I’m saying? Like that cha-cha scene in the market as Anita passes by to collect money for her mom’s business, and then she imagines Pilar appearing there and dancing with her. The other dance scenes were okay, like the one in the beginning where two secret lovers were canoodling with each other or even the way Anita’s mother was trying to exercise via dancing. But I’m still trying to figure out the main symbolism of the Obando dance since, in our culture, this is where you go to dance so that the heavens will grant you a child. I’m not sure why Pilar was spotted there towards the end or what’s the meaning of little Anita’s participation in this fertility dance fiesta. But if it’s in the general category of “dance-ask and you shall receive” then okay, I buy that, but what exactly did Anita want to achieve or ask for? As an adult, we see her commanding an army platoon in the beginning and in the end we see her reminiscing about Pilar which culminates into a dream-like sequence nga of adult Anita kissing Pilar (or at least a whiff of her image, an imagined image perhaps).  Is that what’s being asked — an imagined kiss, an imagined closure with a past crush-love? Not very clear, this. And it’s left at that.

The ending left me hanging, even if I loved 80 percent of the film. I wish it could have had more oomph since it gave the feeling of having loose ends towards the end. Perhaps give the adult Anita a lover, a happy support for her life, to maybe conclude and tie it up with the lessons she learned — if any — in the whole teenage flashback regarding her crush with Pilar.

Still, it’s a good film to watch overall. The acting, cinematography and directing will carry you well into the end. It’s also easier to forgive those few narrative lapses in such queer-positive films, actually. So I’m cool with that.

Congrats to the team for pulling this through, though. I wish there were more materials like this one. I’m glad this festival was supportive of queer-positive love-crush things, unlike other festivals we know. But that’s another plot altogether hihi.

Hashtag alam na!



Awaaard si vakler dahil tegi sa logic

Posted in comedy film, digital film, indie films, Philippine Cinema, queer cinema on September 16, 2011 by leaflens

Or in short, here’s my review of the “independently-produced” movie still showing in commercial cinemas right now. Wagi in fairness sa longevity ha. Ikaw na, Remington! Chos.


d. Jade Castro

p. Origin8

s. Raymond Lee, Michiko Yamamoto, Jade Castro

c. ayan read the poster obvious naman haller imbey ka

Pitch: A homophobic boy in Quezon province gets cursed to become gay when he grows up in a town where gays are being murdered and later turned into zombies until the boy-turned-teen’s curse gets lifted. Trust me, it’s really that convoluted.

Catch: It’s that convoluted. Did I already say that? It’s convoluted.

Yesterday, I accompanied one of my superfriends to watch a movie that has been running in cinemas since the end of last month even if I’ve already seen te film during the Cinemalaya closing last July. Not bad for a supposed independently-produced film, no? When I say “supposed,” it means the producers made this film outside the commercial mainstream studio systems that most — if not all — of them served at one point in their careers (or still currently serving it, actually, for some of them at least). I guess their sensibilities trickle down to the product they create, because it still reeks of commercial mainstream-ish fare. Let me elucidate.

The film is lost in its identity since it doesn’t know if it’s going to be campy or just a plain comedy. From what I discovered, the filmmaker said in a forum that they didn’t intend to make it camp. And this is where we hyperventilate. Kalurkey itey!

I don’t know if you trust the Wikipedia entry on it, but the first definition of camp there is “an aesthetic sensibility that regards something as appealing because of its bad taste and ironic value.”

Hmm may ganung factor? Maybe Susan Sontag’s “Notes on Camp” would help, as she wrote:

…the Camp sensibility is one that is alive in a double sense in which some things can be taken. But this is not the familiar split-level construction of a literal meaning, on the one hand, and a symbolic meaning, on the other. It is the difference, rather, between the thing as meaning something, anything, and the thing as pure artifice.”

Well, let’s just put it this way: Zombadings didn’t have that kind of camp sensibility to me because it felt more like it had a Star Cinema sensibility to it — a bad case of Star Cinema cookie-cutter formula pander-to-the-lowest-denominator type of comedy film which most of the time makes you want to slash your wrists because, even if it’s a comedy, IT AIN’T FUNNY. And since the director said nga in that forum that they just set out to do a comedy film, it gave me more shivers. As in. Chaka Khan ever.

Now why is a comedy film about gays being killed in a small town because they’re gay not funny? BECAUSE KILLING GAYS AREN’T FUNNY, PERIOD. (Or please educate yourself and read this article.) Regardless whether they get zapped by an out-of-this-world kinda-sci-fi-ish subplot of a thingamajig called the gaydar controlled by a macho man that would be later on revealed as a super-huge closeted homo, hmmm… perpetuating self-hatred, anyone? That’s project number one. Luz Valdez!

Project number two would be this: why is a comedy film about a straight guy cursed to be gay not funny? BECAUSE BEING GAY IS NOT A CURSE TO BE CURED FROM BY SHAMANS, DIVINITY EXPERTS, OR WHATNOT. We are gay because we are gay, people. And news flash, we love being gay, we’re proud to be gay, and we’re happy we’re gay — even if the rest of homophobic society isn’t happy for us. KEBS! We don’t mess with your life so don’t certainly mess with ours. Kajirita Jackson ha.

And why is a comedy film about a straight man turning effeminate gay not funny? BECAUSE NOT ALL GAYS ARE EFFEMINATE. There’s nothing wrong with the section of our populace who are effeminate, but the key word there is “section” meaning “not everyone” and hence do not generalize about us and most especially do not stereotype us as being just of one kind, as mainstream media has been doing for decades now. Like the rainbow flag we out and proudly wave during LGBTQ pride marches, we are a community of diverse people who come in all shapes and sizes, forms and content, so please, do not peg us to just merely one type and one type alone. Keribels?

Now the major major problem with this film is that we from the LGBTQ circles, those who know camp and could define it, who follow pop culture to a fault, who are academic/knowledgeable etc. etc. chenelyn boomboom (to quote my lesbian beki friend) about such issues regarding sexual orientation and gender identity or SOGI, we could very well distinguish if something is being literal or being symbolic, like what Sontag said. But if the film is not being camp, it surely will be taken on a mere literal level in the sense that the message people (who are not attuned to the issues and concerns surrounding the LGBTQ community) will get  is this: “See? [Parlor swishy] gays are doomed to die and become zombies because they’re a menace to society, so it’s good that this cursed-to-be-gay straight boy is being rescued by the girl of his dreams and his friends and family so he won’t be gay.” Of course I’m kidding about the being zombies part but what the hey, let’s just thrown it in na rin! For more!

Oh man. I don’t even know why this film was made the way it was made, given that I know the history of the producers and such, their backgrounds but most of all their own SOGI. Well yeah, I know, not all women are feminists and not all LGBTQs fight for equal rights but what they hey, they should have known better than to produce a film that not only reinforces general stereotypes about Filipino gays but also propagate such negative images of gays and gay behavior. And I haven’t even forgiven them for writing in the term “third sex” in the script, as uttered by one character. Yes, read about that specific rant here in my other article.

So is the film totally hopeless? I’d like to say so, but it really has its moments and it’s ironic that its moments are highlighted by non-gay scenes. It’s just purely hilarious whevener Eugene Domingo appears in the film as the grieving mother in rollerblades of the girl of Remington’s dreams. And I also like the way the latest gay lingo is incorporated there and propagated. Hey, I lurv the lingo! Read my articles about it here and here.

Hay naku. Anyway, there are still a gazillion things to say about this film but perhaps I will reserve my other thoughts for another time. For now, just relax and enjoy a movie — another movie, not this one.  And if ever they do take the title seriously, perhaps Zombadings 2 could be a better fare.

Taray lang ng lola mo.

Queering Cinemalaya 2011

Posted in Cinemalaya, indie films, POC Pinoy LGBT channel, queer cinema on September 1, 2011 by leaflens

In the interim, here’s a recap of queer representations at the Cinemalaya 2011, an  article I wrote for POC Pinoy LGBT channel.

Independently-produced digital full-length films were showcased last July 2011 at the seventh Cinemalaya Film Festival at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) which were also shown at the University of the Philippines’ Cine Adarna theater inside the Diliman campus during the early part of August. Aside from the Cinemalaya film grantees, there were also different categories showcasing locally produced independent digital films, such as the 10 films featured under the NETPAC series, or the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema. There were also a few films outside of such categories which premiered during the said festival.

I was able to catch a few of these films and I was intrigued by the queer representations I saw in most of the films I saw. There were a few hits and misses but there were also quiet gems, while a few begged to be read as queer, in a manner of speaking.

Read the rest here.


Later na ang ibang film reviews. Yes, we will review again. Soon. Pahupain lang ang docu shoot ko, hane? Pagoda coldwave lotion pa lola niyo.

Cinemalaya 2011: Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank

Posted in Cinemalaya, comedy film, digital film, films about filmmaking, indie films, Philippine film industry on August 9, 2011 by leaflens

Since I’m currently in the state of straddling the line between the poverty of creativity (poverty of creativity talaga!) of other people, I should add, and walking out of their spheres of influence (don’t wanna be affected/infected/deflected on) wala lang, let’s review this film. And maybe later, I’ll decode for you that cryptic opening haha.

But first, we go septic.



d. Marlon Rivera

s. Chris Martinez

c. Eugene Domingo, Cai Cortez, JM de Guzman, Kean Cipriano

Pitch: Upper class Manila-based independent filmmakers plot out a film featuring poverty and urban squalor with the aim of joining prestigious film festivals abroad.

Catch: Inside jokes have limited humor for all.

I understand the hesitation of mainstream producers to create films and TV shows with the story and characters circling in the milieu of the media. They say that people who don’t work inside such industries, be it in the traditional or alternative media, won’t be able to relate to the problems, heartaches, headaches and victories that media-oriented people experience on a daily basis.

I disagree. Unless you make their story closer to “outsiders” in a way that they will be able to relate as an audience, then you’re fine. Take that Robert Redford-Michelle Pfeiffer 1996 starrer UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL where Pfeiffer started as a weather girl turned credible TV journalist and Redford was a veteran TV journalist helping her out. That one worked simply because their work was interwoven seamlessly with their personal lives. And we feel for them as they get promoted or if they get heartbroken. Add to that Celine Dion’s undying love song as theme “Because you loved me” (aminin, you like singing this sa videoke!) and voila! recipe for box-office ka-ching.

Now with SEPTIC TANK, I really, really, really love the concept of the film, simply because I myself share the same sentiment about filmmakers making films about poverty, urban squalor, dirty dingy crappy Manila, and all that garbage-in-yo’-face crap. In an earlier blog post/rant I posted about, oh, tagal na, maybe two-three years ago, I ranted about how such films have been cropping up like regularly since independent digitally shot full-length films revived the Filipino film industry last decade. Not that I’m not grateful, being from this industry, and being a cineaste. But sometimes, I want diversity. Yes, DIVERSITY.

And I guess that’s what the makers of SEPTIC TANK were also thinking. It’s basically a big critique of upper class independent filmmakers who use poverty as themes in their films simply because that image sells abroad, not because they want to make a statement about poverty in the Philippines, or not because they want to open up the people’s eyes to such issues in order for them to do something, to take action, to contribute to society, and all that advocacy pumping (in short, all the social realism stabs that our late greats were doing before, specifically our National Artists for Film Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal; and oh, how I miss them). But now, nada. Some films, sadly, are like that. And horror of all horrors, some filmmakers tend to think like that. And this is why the term “poverty porn films” cropped up in our existence within the last few years. And this is why I was also asked to speak about it as a guest in Jessica Soho’s GMA News TV channel 11 show Brigada last Monday, to discuss poverty porn. Sadly, since I was straddling nga that line with people suffering from the poverty of creativity hehe, I missed watching that segment. Oh well, somebody upload it online and tell me ha.

So anyway, in this film, we see an indie producer and filmmaker and a production assistant as they try to brainstorm a good poverty film concept and they poke fun at this poverty porn filmmaking “phenomenon” in all aspects — from the filmmakers having such shallow intentions (“Forget Cannes! Forget Venice! Pang-Oscars ito!”) to brainstorming the concept in coffee shops where they can go online with free wifi (“Gawin na lang kaya nating musical, set sa squatters area? Bago ‘yun!”) to casting indie-identified great thespians (“Gusto mo lang i-cast si Mercedes Cabral kasi crush mo ‘yun, e!” – Haha relate ako dito! Chos!) and of course poking fun at fellow indie filmmakers who have egos as big as the Payatas dumpsite because of their success in being poverty porn filmmakers (even poking fun at the entourage of such filmmakers, something that is so true talaga it really makes me roll my eyes).  So with all these, kudos to the filmmakers for showing us such things. Yes, in a way, it’s also being mean to such poverty porn films and filmmakers, but seriously, sometimes it’s *nice* to be mean ahehehe.

But after that, after the laughs, after the critique, what do you take home? Sadly, with SEPTIC TANK, nothing much, as well. And this is where it gets alienating for most, if not all, who have seen this and who do not inhabit this crazy yet wonderful world of media and filmmaking. It’s funny for me because I know the context, but if you don’t, then you’ll just get an unevenly paced comedy film where you will get hooked because Eugene Domingo is such a hoot here. If only for that, it’s a success but then again, the inside joke is not for everybody. And the film should have delivered a huge punchline after, the type that packs a wallop in terms of punctuating their statement about what it’s critiquing. Sadly, it didn’t.

But still, I recommend that you watch this. If you’re curious about how such indie filmmakers work — at least the pretentious upper class ones heheh — then watch this. And if only for Domingo, who won best actress for this role at the Cinemalaya awards night, just watch. I really like the way they reduced acting to three major categories, and the “TV Patrol category” is a hoot! Eugene, ikaw na! Basta, inside joke! Just watch this to see what I mean.

Then let’s discuss.

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