Archive for the queer issues in film 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!]

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Queering the #Oscars2015 show

Posted in Oscars, POC Pinoy LGBT channel, queer cinema, queer issues in film on March 16, 2015 by leaflens

I don’t know about you but I wasn’t so happy with the Academy Awards this year. Aside from Neil Patrick Harris having some lame-o jokes na kailangan pang i-explain, the whole show did away with some of the add-ons that make the Oscars the Oscars in previous years. Like for instance, each award should have some good introductory number kyeme aside from the humorless humor intro spiels of presentors. Previous years had special numbers or features inserted in the categories to explain their nature. But yeah, alas, alam ko kokonti lang kaming mga adik sa Academy Awards ang makaka-getlak nitey.

Heniweys hemingway, that’s not the reason for this post. This is: my article post-Oscars on why we queers should kinda care about these things.

Here’s an excerpt:

Queering the Oscars: Why we should kinda care

And this is why we look at seemingly “shallow” avenues like cinema or the Oscars: because when these Hollywood dream factory-makers make films about LGBTs, we have to know how they craft such stories. Because those of us who will be consuming such products will digest these stories about us, infusing our own dreams with images that might scare us or strengthen us. Do we want to be frightened or do we want to be enlightened? What is the price of entertainment? The yearly Oscars race might be but one of the many races we could see the likes of us represented or neglected. But film’s popularity as a mass medium is very potent for spreading truths and lies about us, and cementing those truths or lies with awards will always be our concern – in any given field.”

To read the whole article, click here. I wrote the article as part of my monthly contributions for the Philippine Online Chronicles’ Pinoy LGBT section.

Needless to say, I was also underwhelmed by the wins and the nominated films. Wanted to do a lot of reviews but I didn’t feel like it na after watching the show. Oh well papel, maybe someday let’s see…

In the meantime, just relax and watch a movie na lang ulit tayo k. K.

Queering the historic universe

Posted in bioflick, book to film, drama film, Oscars, queer cinema, queer issues in film, women's issues in film on February 23, 2015 by leaflens

Oscars 2015 rush started with this film for me. So here are a few thoughts. Queers, listen up!

imitation gameTHE IMITATION GAME

d. Morten Tyldum

s. Graham Moore from the book by Andrew Hodges

c. Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley

Pitch: A glimpse into the life of Alan Turing whom we might be neglecting as the dude who is credited for the creation of the basis of our modern-day computers. And yes, he is gay. 

Catch: You see the strengths and the weaknesses as you watch the film unfold. But you tend to overlook this unevenness because it has an engaging story.

As I wait for the actual Oscars 2015 live telecast as I write this, thought I’d jot down a few notes here about the films that I was actually catch and somehow moved me, in a way. This is one of them.

I know of Alan Turing from a few years back when I was searching for queer-identified people in history. Glad to learn that the modern day computer is somehow directly due to his work. But he is more known for being the genius code-breaker during the war against the Nazis, and he was a great asset of the UK during that time because of decoding how the Nazi communication machine worked. Until, of course, they slapped him with an indecency case, all because he was gay.

Yes, folks, in a first-world country such as the UK, abominations such as this happened. Gays were persecuted, and in Alan’s case, he was made to choose between serving time in prison, and taking hormonal therapy drugs to “alleviate his homosexual disease.” This was, of course, the 1950s, and no civil rights movements connected to sexuality was happening yet. Too bad Alan didn’t live to see this happen during the next decade, as he took his own life before the 1960s happened.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, sorry.  On to the film muna. Yes, this was indeed a moving film, queerness aside. The film chronicles Alan’s life during the time his neighbor reported a robbery in his home. Turns out to be a “booking gone wrong pala.” Yes, my dears, dahil kloseta nga ang lola mo, may-I-booking siya ng boys sa balur niya, or else tegi nga siya. But this one booking stole from his house kaya doon nagsimula ang gulo for him. When he didn’t want to press charges, a police dude got suspicious and decided to dig deeper, even searching for Alan’s wartime records na classified or absent for public consumption. So of course they picked him up and it was during the interrogation scene where the police learned of Alan’s great contribution to humanity. So the film used this sandwich-type of narrative wherein you split the present and they flashback to the past to tell the meaty palaman of the film, and then go back to the present to wrap up the sandwich.

The palaman is, of course, the meatier side of the story. This is where we learn of Alan’s journey from being a Cambridge professor up until his wartime recruitment nga. He belonged to an elite handful of cryptologists with just one job: to decode the Nazi Enigma machine so the allied forces could read the encrypted messages/communication of the Nazis. What a job eh?

As is the case with uber-brilliant people, they are, of course, anti-social. This didn’t bode well for our no-nonsense hero, who had to be tutored to have social graces by another genius woman — Joan Clarke, played brilliantly by Keira Knightley. It was surprisingly refreshing, finally, to have a woman acknowledged for her brains and not merely her beauty or her reproductive system. I like the character of this Ms. Clarke girl who became an unofficial but crucial part of Alan’s team later on. Of course we see the gender bias at the beginning, when Alan wanted to recruit more people and tested them via a timed crossword puzzle. That was really intellectually cute. And the men in charge couldn’t believe that a woman could have done such a feat. Kainis lang of course. Pero mas kainis yung muntik na niyang talikuran ang job just because as a woman, she is expected to stay home with her parents, find a husband, and have a baby. Hay, reproductive system function, oo. But it’s also so cute how Alan was able to “persuade” her to join the team. Ewan ko ba, basta ang daming intellectually cute moments ng film na ito hehe watch it to understand what I mean.

imitation keira

I am woman, hear me code! Sabi ni lola Keira hehe. Talagang behind a great queer man is a het girl. Historical fag hag lang ang peg lolz. I kid, I kid! Love you Keira!

 

The strength of the film is its pulse: the way it ticked and took us rhythmically from scene to scene, which is the good work of an alert director and a good editor making a tight script come to life. I just wished the cinematography was at par with these other aspects, but you can’t win ’em all, I guess. But this is a good enough combo for me: script-directing-editing. This film pulsed these so well, kaya feel mo yung edge-of-the-seat excitement as to how they’re scrambling for time and going against odds to have Alan’s decoding machine — nicknamed Christopher — work in time before snooty authorities pulled the plug. Of course the excellent acting of the cast worked well with these aspects of filmmaking kaya more edge sa seat ang peg teh! Lalo na when Christopher finally worked. And then another dilemma begins. Kaya tiri-tirintas na ang development ng drama na talagang hihilahin ang interes mo until it ended.

And then, within the flashback, we have another set of flashbacks concerning Alan’s childhood, especially his boarding school days where he was bullied in an all-boys school. And we see his only friend there named Christopher, who introduced him to a book of cryptology of sorts. Siyempre doon na-formulate ang queerness ni koya and we see that, but we also see his heart being broken there, because of what happened to Christopher. Kaya ang love of his life ay ginawa na lang niyang prototype ng modern-day computer natin. Kalerks, this.

This film will really break your heart several times, especially if you’re queer and you see all this happening just because he’s queer. But I didn’t like the way his queerness was inserted here in the beginning. Like we didn’t really see any hint of it except when he confessed later on that he is homosexual — first to his co-worker who turned out to be a double-agent/spy (so of course his homosexuality was used against him by this dude as blackmail material) and second to Ms. Clarke whom he was trying to “save” (i.e. pinapauwi ng parentals dahil single pa siya at malayo ang work daw) by offering her marriage. Nagtapatan naman sila na bekiloublanco si koya at tanggap ni ati yun, at hanggang fiance mode lang naman sila para lang manatili sa work si ati. Kaya lang, yun nga, this was all in talk. Walang masyadong scenes to show this, na sana they humanized Alan more in a way. But I guess they didn’t want to show that, or they didn’t find enough historical evidence to portray him as such. But this is also where you’ll see why Keira was nominated for a best supporting actress award: that turning point of confrontation nila ni Alan, when he was saying na he didn’t care for her at all, basta kasama lang siya sa work and all. That sampal and that pagpipigil ng another sampal and that look and that body language ni Keira at that moment, galing! It reminded me actually of another turning point scene ng isang Academy Award winner: si lola Kate Winslet during her courtroom scene sa THE READER when she was being questioned for her role during the Nazi occupation. Yung moment na hinampas niya yung mesa sa frustration in defending herself, galing!!! parang similar in effect sa aking yung two scenes na ito ng mga aleng ito na kras ko hehe. Winner kayo mga darling, ever.

Tapos nung bumalik na nga ang film sa present ulit, to wrap it up, we see Alan being slapped nga with the indecency case, turning into a recluse while on therapy drugs, and being visited  by Ms. Clarke. Good to see they remained friends naman pala, and that’s where they concluded the film, with notes saying na Alan took his own life chenes nga, but never forget that your computers today are the result of Turing Machines before. So there.

Yes, homophobes, a gay man's invention led to your modern day computer. Kung wala siya, wala 'yan.

Yes, homophobes, a gay man’s invention led to your modern day computer. Kung wala siya, wala ‘yan.

Hay, lungkot.  Nakakatuwa na finally, lumabas din ang buhay niya sa film nang ganito. Maganda naman ang portrayal and all. It’s another good notch to add to queer history, cinematic or not, basta history natin. We need to see more of our lives out there, see how we were treated, and see what we contributed to the world anyway even if we were being (mis)judged. Maybe this is indeed a reminder nga for us to not take our “queer freedoms” for granted today, but it’s also a reminder to celebrate them because somehow, we have (some of) them freedoms nga, in a way, which Alan never did.

Anyway watch watch watch. Happy siya, in a sad sorta way. Basta! Sana manalo ito ng award later. Fingers crossed.

 

[All photos swiped from the internet. Thanks to those who uploaded them.]

MMFF 2013: MY LITTLE BOSSINGS

Posted in dramedy film, film festival, MMFF, Philippine Cinema, Philippine film industry, POC Pinoy LGBT channel, queer issues in film on December 31, 2013 by leaflens

Again, I was thinking of making a thorough cinematic review of this film but I deemed it fit to be part of my bunch of MMFF December articles for the Phil. Online Chronicles’ Pinoy LGBT channel instead. That’s because the film serves a double plus plus for the queer community via the character played by Aiza Seguerra and the citation that she received because of it.

Yes, that is a big deal. Because this film has, in my opinion, the best characterization of a lesbian in Philippine cinema in recent history. And we all know that that’s so rare, right? As rare as a butch to butch relationship here. That rare. Basta.

An excerpt:

mylittlebossing lezfamPero kahit ganito pa man kaintriga at kapalasak ang mga napapag-usapan minsan sa taunang MMFF, di natin maikakaila na bahagi na rin siya ng buhay Pinoy ilang dekada na rin. At dahil bahagi siya ng buhay Pinoy, ikinatuwa kong naisama rin ang LGBTQ kahit papaano sa buhay Pinoy na ito. At mas ikinatuwa ko pa lalo nang nakita nating lahat ang suporta sa isang kauri ngayong taon – ang pagpapahalaga sa katauhan at karakter ng isang lesbiyana sa pinilakang tabing at sa labas nito. Ito ang pagbibigay nila ng award bilang Best Supporting Actress kay openly out queer singer-actress Aiza Seguerra para sa ginampanan niyang role sa isa sa mga festival films.

Read the rest of my review here – “Our Little Bossing that could: Isang pahabol na pagpapahalaga sa lesbiyana.”

 

MMFF 2013: The queer overview

Posted in film festival, MMFF, Philippine Cinema, POC Pinoy LGBT channel, queer cinema, queer issues in film on December 31, 2013 by leaflens

Each year, I try to do a summary of the MMFF films and see how the LGBTQ community was mentioned, referred, treated or depicted in these films. It’s part of my duty as a contributing writer for the Pinoy LGBT channel of Phil. Online Chronicles.

This year, it’s quite amusing to note that there is one film with a very vocal queer component and of course there are openly out queer actors who are playing roles in some of these films. I’ve already said my piece about GIRL BOY BAKLA TOMBOY but I still mention it a bit in this summary. So I looked closely at the other films that mattered in this context, namely BOY GOLDEN, KIMMY DORA and PAGPAG.

I also included a bit of MY LITTLE BOSSINGS but I found that I should do a whole article about that, especially since Aiza Seguerra won an award for her role there. As to why it merits its own article, just read it here.

An excerpt of the queer overview:

mmff2013B_entriesSa taunang ritwal na nakasanayan na ng karamihan sa mga Pilipino tuwing panahon ng Pasko, muli na naman tayong makikisilip sa Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) para tingnan kung paano isinabuhay ang mga buhay-buhay ng ilang miyembro ng LGBTQ community sa pinilakang tabing. Dito din natin nasisilip kung paano tayo tinatrato o isinasaalang-alang ng mga manggagawa ng pelikulang Pilipino, kung ang trato ba ay makatao, katatawanan lamang o may konting progresibong pagbabagong nasisilip.

Read the rest of the article here.

Let this be your guide. Happy viewing!

MMFF 2013: GIRL BOY BAKLA TOMBOY

Posted in comedy film, film festival, MMFF, Philippine Cinema, POC Pinoy LGBT channel, queer cinema, queer issues in film on December 27, 2013 by leaflens

Well, I’m not really sure if I will do a very thorough analysis of GIRL BOY BAKLA TOMBOY for this space like what I did with 10000 HOURS in my previous post — unless you want me to heheh. Hm esep-esep pa ko k.

But anyway, I already wrote something from a queer advocate’s point of view that was posted in the Pinoy LGBT channel of Philippine Online Chronicles so check it out there na lang muna, for starters.

An excerpt:

GBBT posterAng simple lang ng kuwento, kung tutuusin. Wala namang bago rito. Pero nakakabahala para sa mga tulad naming patuloy na itinataas ang LGBTQ pride dito sa Pilipinas kung hihimaying mabuti ang pelikulang ito at ang mga sinasabi niyang mensahe sa mga manonood.

Una, nabahala ako nang sinabi ni Girl ‘yung linyang “that fag twin brother” nung galit na siya sa pagtataray at pagpapahirap sa kanya ni Bakla. (Fag talaga? Ikaw na laking Amerika, di mo natutunang kapag sinabi mo ang fag ay mapapaaway ka?) At para gantihan ito, ang naisip ni Girl na gawin ay agawan ng love life si Bakla dahil sa analysis niya, sa totoong babae pa rin naman papanig ang isang straight na lalaki, kahit na parang nagkakaigihan sila ng Bakla niyang kakambal. Sa lahat naman ng paraan ng pagtira, talagang kailangang bumaba sa level ng straight girl vs. effeminate gay ang peg? Parang hindi ito nakakatuwa. Eto, dito tayo talo sa laro.

Read the whole article here. Basically, the article enumerates majority of  the reasons why I didn’t vote for this film to be on my shortlist sa aking jury duty sa MMFF Most Gender Sensitive Film Award last week.

I repeat: I didn’t vote for this film, k? As for my top 1 vote (or tie for top 2 rin pala), I’ll write the reviews of that in the coming days na lang, k? Suspense na lang kung ano sila at the moment hehe. K?

K.

P.S. So pinanood niyo na ‘yung 10000 HOURS? Anubeh! Gora watch!

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:

allmasters

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.

*

chacha2ANG HULING CHA-CHA NI ANITA (2013)

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!

 

 

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