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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

entry arrow2:48 PM | Little Boy Big Boy

Digital Viva's Little Boy, Big Boy is the new film by director Joselito Altarejos, from a script by Lex Bonife -- the creative team that brought us what could easily be described as seminal films in Philippine queer cinema, a roster that includes Ang Lalaki sa Parola, Ang Lihim ni Antonio, and Kambyo.

The new film is a departure from those three films: after the heavy drama of Parola and Antonio and the road trip of Kambyo, what we get in Boy a light drama, with touches of comedy, that tells the story of a young, commitment-phobic gay yuppie (played by Paolo Rivero) suddenly saddled by taking care of a young nephew (played by Renz Valerio) while juggling a new relationship with a younger man (played by Douglas Robinson) whom he meets in an orgy. (That should whet the appetite of many...) But given its sexual situations (requisite, perhaps, for the Digital Viva label) the film is actually sweet and endearing, and features most prominently the strange but amiable dynamics of the relationship between uncle and nephew who -- together with the uncle's new boyfriend -- essentially presents us an idealized and very romantic idea of the possibilities of a new kind of family. This is essentially My Two Dads, Pinoy-style. And in many ways, I am glad for this film, if only because it breaks ground from the cliches of local gay cinema always involving macho dancers, prostitutes, and the like. Rivero's Raymond Fabillar is a non-swishy, unconflicted, self-possessing gay yuppie looking just like the rest of us -- and that's a refreshing face indeed for the queer character in local cinema.

While most have flocked to Altarejos' films for their sheer and brazen depictions of sexuality, I have always admired each of these films for bringing us unflinching but certain examinations of certain aspects of local gay life -- queer camaraderie and friendship, coming out, coming to terms with one's sexual identity, incest, the divide or specificity of gay lives between the metro and the countryside, AIDS, the lure of big city living, and so on and so forth -- and in such varied styles, too.

In many ways, although not unflawed (I still find the histrionic and bloody ending of the otherwise beautiful Antonio as jarring and unnecessary), they are a significant step-up in the level of maturation of local queer cinema, following the haphazard lead of Danny Zialcita (T-Bird at Ako and the cringe-inducing Si Malakas, Si Maganda, at si Mahinhin), Ishmael Bernal (parts of Manila By Night), Lino Brocka (Ang Tatay Kong Nanay and Macho Dancer), Carlitos Siguion-Reyna (Ang Lalaki sa Buhay ni Selya and Tatlo Magkasalo), Mel Chionglo (Sibak and Twilight Dancers), Maryo J. de los Reyes (Sa Paraiso ni Efren), Joel Lamangan (Pusong Mamon), and Gil Portes (Miguel/Michelle).

Now, of course, now we have a deluge of gay films. Some are very good (such as Senedy Que's Dose, Aureaus Solito's Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros and Boy, Adolfo Alix Jr.'s Daybreak and parts of Imoral, Francis X. Pasion's Jay, Brillante Mendoza's Masahista and parts of that strange erotic anthology Pantasya, and Charliebebs Gohetia's The Thank You Girls -- and can we include Olaf de Fleur Johannesson's The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela in this list?)...

Some are middling but noteworthy (the whole Pablo Crisanto ouevre)...

And some are really, really, really bad they are not worth mentioning at all (did I say Lamangan's Walang Kawala? No comment). And sometimes, because of this deluge, one needs to separate the wheat from the chaff.

I could actually write more about this in a future post (has anyone ever done a history and evaluation of Philippine gay cinema a la Vito Russo's The Celluloid Closet?) -- but in the meantime, read magnificent reviews of local gay films over at The Bakla Review blog.

Watch Little Boy Big Boy. It opens in theaters soon, but the premiere night is in the last week of July at the UP Film Institute. [Check Mark's blog for details...]

[photo from beyondthebox]

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