In celebration of LGBT Pride month, rediscover these 5 queer local films that have broken the mold when it comes to queer-led storytelling and the general portrayal of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender characters in the Philippines. Whether you’re part of the community or not, these are definitely movies worth your time.
2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten (2016)
2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten is the coming-of-age story of intelligent yet lonely Felix (Khalil Ramos) whose life takes a turn for the dark and exciting when he meets the Snyder twins, Magnus and Maxim (Ethan Salvador and Jameson Blake). The blossoming friendship unfetters and unravels the once timid probinsyano as he allows himself to partake in the escapades of the enigmatic brothers. The relationship, in particular, between Felix and Magnus forces the former to confront a part of himself that he never knew existed.
Ang Huling Cha-Cha ni Anita (2013)
Sigrid Andrea Bernardo’s film is another coming-of-age film set in the province with one of its themes rooted in sexual awakening, this time, of a naïve 13-year old girl in the cusps of maturity. Anita (Teri Malvar) finds herself falling for the much older Pilar, (Angel Aquino) a new-comer in their quaint, traditional, and religious town. The heavy themes of the film is contrasted by the innocence of a child in love for the first time. To Anita, there is no malice to her feelings, no sin waiting to be condemned by the nearest church, only the blind optimism of young love.
Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa (2011)
Paulo Avelino and Rocco Nacino star opposite each other, along with Jean Garcia, in Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa, a captivating film that thrives on poetry, dance, and the lengths one will willingly and foolishly go to in the name of infatuation. The film by Alvin Yapan makes use of subtlety, silences that weigh heavy on the viewer as they are translated into poignant dance sequences and gripping poetry that will take you through the pains of unrequited love. Sexuality is never directly dealt with in the movie, treated by the film as something that simply is.
Baka Bukas (2016)
Sam Lee’s Baka Bukas tells the story of best friends Alex (Jasmine Curtis-Smith) and Jess (Louise delos Reyes) as they have to confront their feelings for one another after Alex finally comes out to the latter, Jess, who has always identified as straight before Alex’s confession. The subsequent romantic relationship between the two that follows forces them to deal with the difficult reality of being a gay couple in the Philippines. The film breaks out of the lesbian “tomboy” stereotype which has unfortunately been practically embedded into Filipino culture, however it fails to do much of anything else, teasing but barely scratching the surface of a queer Filipino’s struggle. Despite the gaps in storytelling and the overall lackluster of its main lesbian relationship, there’s no denying that Baka Bukas has opened many doors for future queer-centric films after it successfully broke into mainstream cinemas, a feat almost unheard of in the conservative and unfailingly religious Philippines.
Die Beautiful (2016)
Paolo Ballesteros makes for an outstanding lead in Die Beautiful, as Trisha, a transgender beauty queen whose wake acts as the backdrop of the movie where her friends transform her corpse to look like different celebrities for each of the seven days, granting her final request. Rarely do we have films that actually center on the plight of the transgender community which is why Die Beautiful is a breath of fresh air in a sea of mediocre, heterosexual rom-coms in today’s local film industry. Die Beautiful takes the gay stereotypes etched by the Filipino society onto the LGBT community, and molds them into the real life struggles of the community, humanizing their queer characters, as opposed to your usual comic-relief “bakla” thrown into the story for a few minutes of screen time to gain condescending laughs. This drama, balanced with the right amounts of comedy and tragedy, shame and triumph, is definitely a movie you can’t miss.–PB&JAM