Friday, October 9, 2009

Are Philippine Gay Indie Films Really Liberating?

*thought of being academic today. hehehe

Many will agree that homosexuality is as old as human history. Nonetheless, societal acceptance is still yet to be fully achieved. Homosexuals are still considered taboo and social deviants, liable for social discrimination and punishment in many cultures. But through modernity, that made the flow of information seemed borderless and endless, there were various attempts, hundreds or even thousands if I may say, that made the reclaiming of the so-called homosexual space in the society, which is basically, not mere tolerance but more of acceptance, possible. And the power of film has been considered as one of the most effective tools in sending over the message of acceptance in both the homosexual and heterosexual communities.
Gay films or gay cinema are theatrical films that deal with or feature important gay, lesbian or bisexual characters or issues and may have same sex romance or relationships as an important plot device.
Gay films are not something new in Philippine Cinema. In fact, as early as the 1950s, Filipino moviegoers are already familiar and patronizing gay-themed movies. Perhaps, the two most popular Filipino actors under this genre would be Dolphy and Roderick Paulate.
Dolphy, who is considered as one, or if not, the most popular Filipino actor, have successfully portrayed various gay roles in the history of Philippine Cinema, considering the conservatism of his time. He have done a number of gay films which include: Jack en Jill (1954), Susanang Daldal (1962), Pepe en Pilar (1966), Kangkarot (1969), Facifica Falayfay (1969), Karioka Etchos de America (1971), Fefita Fofonggay viuda de Falayfay (1973), Sarhento Fofonggay (1974), Jack ‘n Jill of the Third Kind (1979), Ang Tatay kong Nanay (1978), Darna, Kuno? (1979) and Markova Comfort Gay (2000).
He is later succeeded by Roderick Paulate, who also starred in a surprising number of well-acclaimed gay films such as Charot (1984), Hee Man, Master of None (1984), Inday Bote (1985), Praybet Depektib Akademi (1986), Inday Inday sa Balitaw (1986), Ako si Kiko, Ako si Kikay (1987), Binibining Tsuper-Man (1987), Jack En Poy, Hale-Hale Hoy (1987), Mga Anak ni Facifica Falayfay (1987), Kumander Gringa (1987), Leroy Leroy SInta (1988), Me & Ninja Liit (1988), Petrang Kabayo at ang Pilyang Kuting (1988), Penoy… Balut (1988), Gorio en Tekla (1989), and Bala at Lipstick (1994).
Although the introduction of the gay man’s roles in Philippine cinema, among those of Dolphy’s and Roderick Paulate’s movies could be considered as important and pivotal points in introducing homosexuality in the traditional and conservative Philippines, it could not be denied that their movies were more of a tragedy despite its comic entry. Because of such movies, Filipino gay men were not well presented. It is prevalent during those times, that gay men were stereotyped as loud screamers, ridiculously effeminate, absurd speaking and colorful cross dressers (transvestism). Incidentally, the gay movie characters were stagnated in comedy films and never developed. Thus, it was inevitable for Filipinos, specifically movie goers, to imprison and stereotype gay men as subject of laughing stocks and targets of ridicule, just some of the reasons why gay men then hid their true identities inside the closets for fear of discrimination.

But during the 1990s, there were several attempts in changing the single image of the Filipino gay man, being the screaming, effeminate and cross dressers, which are typically associated with the so-called parlorista gays to various images. But this shift did happen gradually. A number of efforts in searching and establishing the multiplicity of gay men’s images in the Philippines was made and the films Sibak: Midnight Dancers (1994) and Miguel/Michelle (1994) were among those that introduced some terms such as transexuality and transgender. Subsequently, another image of the Filipino gay man was formed, one which was almost similar to heterosexual men. In the films like Ang Lalaki sa Buhay ni Selya (1997), Pusong Mamon (1998) and Paraiso ni Efren (1999), gay characters or roles were no longer generally depicted under the stereotyped image of parlorista, rather their looks, behaviors and actions shown were almost synonymous to a typical heterosexual man. From these, a larger amount of male homosexuals was able to relate and associate themselves toward these characters, especially among urban areas in the country, making it easier to come out.
On the other hand, during this period as well, most gay-themed films were chained within the boundaries of commercial sex. In other words, gays were then associated and stereotyped again differently with buying love and/or sex from heterosexual men among gay bars and other establishments. Such issues were prevalent in the movies Sibak: Midnight Dancer (1994) and Burlesk King (1999), which basically followed the tradition of Lino Brocka’s Macho Dancer (1998).
New millennium came and another genre created a trend in the course of Philippine Cinema, Independent or popularly known as Indie Films. Indie films started surprising and reopening Filipino moviegoers with more daring and challenging issues such as poverty and social deviances. Issues that the popular or mainstream cinema often or would hesitant to tackle, one of which is gay issues.
Perhaps, some of the first and most successful gay indie films were Cris Pablo’s popular works, which would include Duda/Doubt (2003), Bilog (2005), Bathhouse (2005) and Moreno (2007). Here, Pablo had successfully changed the image of gay men away from the stereotyped parlorista as depicted by Dolphy and Roderick Paulate in their movies and the commercial gay roles of the 90s. He introduced a diverse and deeper sense of relationships among gay men and also started revealing the various establishments most homosexuals engage into, in order to realize their individualities and needs. He highlighted the presence of gay cinema houses, bath houses/spas, bars and the use of various modern devices such as the Internet, where gay men could actually meet and actualize their sexualities, without monetary reciprocation.
Eventually, this triggered a surprising wave of indie films makers to follow. Brillante Mendoza (Masahista, 2005), Adolfo Alix Jr. (Day Break, 2008), Paolo Villanueva (Selda, 2007), Joselito Altajeros and Lex Bonifed (Lalaki sa Parola, 2007; Kambyo, 2008; Lihim ni Antonio, 2008; and Little Boy, Big Boy, 2009), to name a few. Aside from various international film festival recognitions and awards, gay indie films also gained a wide audience from both heterosexual and homosexual viewers. These made mainstream film makers and producers to see a viable market among gay themed films. Thus, commercial film invasion and the redefinition of gay indie film were expected to follow.
Commercialization brought and highlighted several issues among gay indie films. First, the bastardization of the male body as the primary vehicle in selling the movie, instead of the body as a crucial subject in exploring one’s sexuality and identity. Second, reducing the image of gay men to mere sexual subjects and its effect in attaining societal or national acceptance. And lastly, its effects to gay indie film in terms of its aesthetical production.
Although sexual images or scenes were also present among earlier gay indie films, it could not be denied that due to the uncertainty of possible viewership during that time, gaining profit was still not the main purpose of producing these films. Rather, it could be viewed that such images and scenes were important elements in the movie to highlight how repression pushes individuals to look for other means and devices to satisfy their needs and identities in an environment where their sexuality are considered as taboo and immoral. In other words, a homosexual is believed to be alienated with his/her body because of various external or social repressions.
Nonetheless, due to emergence of an alarming number of gay indie films that rampantly focuses on scenes of men having sex with each other, the story and the intentions of it become suspicious. Most gay indiefilms could already be considered as mere pornography, hiding underneath the cloak of an art or an indie film just to sell. In effect, it is possible that a society will view gay men, basing from how films depict gay realities, as mere sexual objects, slaves to their own desires and not entitled with acceptances.
Many believe that the main reason of homophobia is anchored upon the irrational fear of heterosexuals that homosexuals will sexually attack them. Thus, if gay indie films will keep on producing sexually themed rather than gay themed films, acceptance and the elimination of homophobia will never be actualized.
But not all gay indie films suffered from these loopholes. In 2005, Auraeus Solito released Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, that gave moviegoers a breath of fresh air against the rampant and tiring sex and flesh ordeal present in most gay indie films. He depicted the naiveness and ignorance of a young gay boy in understanding and accepting his sexuality, despite the corrupting poverty surrounding him. The movie also transgressed over the homosexual picture by immersing in the lives of the heterosexual characters in the movie. It redefined the concept of machismo by putting three very manly
characters, Maximo’s father and brothers, in the plot to be accepting and protective over Maxi, a rare picture in a patriarchal family. Nonetheless, the film didn’t make Maxi as weak and ever dependent to other people. In fact, as the film rolled, one will realize that the supporting actors were actually the ones who were dependent on him and not the other way around, an interesting twist every gay indie film should atleast have and/or should be.
As one of my professors used to say, “Set the stakes higher.” If Filipino gay indie filmmakers want to make and keep the genre rolling, one should not stagnate himself from the superficial call of his/her market and to the fed up “titillating” sex scenes. S/he has to continue enriching the genre by devising and thinking “fresher” means, strategies and stories that would keep its flame burning, that would offer various tastes to the unending crave of moviegoers. And above all, a gay indie film maker should always consider bringing it back to his characters, the gay men, by creating films that would make people understand and accept; and not just to satisfy their petty sexual pleasures.
*special thanks to coach. hahaha!


the geek said...

title pa lang, nosebleed na ako. hehehe

(binasa ko lang yung ending. ang haba eh. tamad ako ngayon.hahaha)

engel said...

i don't watch indie movies. only saw one, while it was good, i thought it kind of was soft porn-like.

and some just look badly made.

Bulaang Katotohanan said...

you are so right!

i was also thinking about writing a snippet about this sex trend among gay films (and them being plain/boring, 2-dimensional).

i just did not have the complete workings of the gay culture to blog about it!

parang pag tungkol sa homosexuality, lagi na lang ganun: sex sex sex!
ang pangit tuloy ng imahe ng sektor na ito dahil hindi maexplore ang ibang facet ng personalidad at ang mismong communal culture nila.

ang paglipana ng mga gay movies sa indie films e naluma natuloy kasi laging old formula, ginagawang tanga ang manonood.hindi na nachachallenge ang pag-iisip nila at hindi napoprovoke ang paghahari ng closed-minded societal norms.


sa boses mo at naipahiwatig mo ito.

Yj said...

dapat kasi buhay ko ang isapelikula eh.... hahahahaha

line of flight said...

stagnation is a problem for every creative person who does not use each creative act as a confrontation between the opposing forces within.

that being said, the stagnation you feel comes from the same place that homophobic violence originates: an overidentification with one part of psyche to the detriment of another.


Some are really good. Mostly, really really bad. Nawawala minsan ang sense ng indie films.

dabo said...

bukod kay nena gripen, ikaw ang pinaka the best intellectual powerhouse dito sa blog world.

Knox Galen said...

What can I say, we're evolving. Pansinin mo, gay people nowadays try their best to act straight. Some years back, they tried to follow the lives of QAF characters, a few years back again, non-straights were non existent, only the Roderick Paulates exist.

What's sad about indie films is that apart from sex, they mostly portray gay life as tragic. Bear in mind that I could not defend my observations, for I have seen only one indie film and heard a couple from others.

Either way, I think we have exhausted different story lines and different perspectives of being gay. In fact, it doesn't matter anymore if I claim myself homosexual, when in fact, I exhibit hetero-sexual behavior towards the one asking my preference.

It's time to set the bar higher, you're right. I think its time we stop making a fuss about the essence and components of being gay.

line of flight said...

knox: have we really exhausted all the story lines?

rudeboy said...

Thanks for this post.

I can't give a learned opinion on Pinoy gay indie films because I haven't watched them (I only saw one, and it was execrable.)

However, I tend to agree with those posters who feel that the local gay indie films do have a tendency to paint the homosexual existence as a tragic one, or worse, one marked by the relentless pursuit of sex, sex, sex.

While there may be some truth in both of these aspects, as a filmgoer, I fear that the booming Pink Film industry may be due for a bust - simply because they tread the same tired old storylines over and over.

I understand that a little titillation is necessary to draw in an audience, but it leaves me with the impression that these films become exploitative - both of the actors who star in them and the audience that laps them up.

Part of me disdainfully thinks that the reason a lot of PLUs line up for these films is not so much to gain enlightening perspectives on our gay existence, as much as to see local boys engaging in hot, simulated sex.

If I wanted that, there's always YM cam.

wanderingcommuter said...

the geek: wushu, ikaw pa?! thanks, c! hahaha!

wanderingcommuter said...

engel: hit it in the bulls eye. pero madami din naman jan, kailangan mo lang hanapin, either hindi lang mabigyan ng chance o hindi lang din makapag infiltrate sa "maintream" ng indie genre. yes, may mainstream din ang indie. hehehe.

wanderingcommuter said...

bk: tam, kaya sobrang nakakasuya na. and infairness, damang dama ko ang iyong sentimiento sa comment na ito. kakaaliw. maraming salamat! sana makainuman na kita one of this days! hehehe.

wanderingcommuter said...

yj: pupusta ako super controvesial yan... bigla kong natandaan ang reyna ng keso story mo! hahahaha!

wanderingcommuter said...

lof: "stagnation is a problem for every creative person who does not use each creative act as a confrontation between the opposing forces within."

- this is where alienation comes in. on both etic and emic views, i believe that stagnation arises because of a homosexual's inability to truly explore his sexuality and identity because of external pressures and restrictions. and this is not solely about sex.

"that being said, the stagnation you feel comes from the same place that homophobic violence originates: an overidentification with one part of psyche to the detriment of another."

love this part. i think there is something intersting in it. can you elaborate more, please.

wanderingcommuter said...

acry: sinabi mo pa... hmmm, bigla tuloy akong nagcontemplate, ano nga ba ang sense ng indie films? hmm, nice topic dont you think? hahaha!

wanderingcommuter said...

dabo: che! siempre bago ako ikaw muna! hahahaha! magkaibigan kaya tayong tatlo? hahahaha!

wanderingcommuter said...

knox: actually, naisip ko na din yan. if we keep on sensationalizing the issue, the more it becomes marginalize. kundi mo siya papansin, baka andun ang sagot for acceptance especially in the psyche of our society... baka nga.... hmm... siguro nga...

tim said...

i guess it is.. but let us just be proud we have them!!!

Anonymous said...

Indies are made outside the "big studio system" of movie making. Indie film makers should be funded with grant money or "patrons of the art" money in order for them to make the movie that they want. an indie movie that is produced solely for the purpose of making a little bit more money for its investors, are constrained to be more commercial than thoughtfull. a film maker not constrained by money will have a full control of his vision to make an artfull and thought provoking movies that is trully indie.
just my opinion.
btw, i watched "maximo" in the gay film festival in south beach, it got a standing ovation. i have an interesting question though, is the it written by a japanese woman, hence the different point of view of sexual/sexuality awakening? i am not sure.
you have a great blog btw. congratulations. i will visit all the time.

line of flight said...

i don't know if alienation is something solely the problem of the homosexual. there is an impulse to remain unconscious, I have observed, generally. the external pressures cause many to over identify with their persona and/or idealized image of the self. an equally problematic reaction is the youthful rebellion to that and coalescing into an "alternate" crystallization which many homosexuals do. a world seen as "conform" or "rebel by conforming to something else." yet, it is a compensation for something unconscious, like a secret doubt. homophobic violence is absolutely a compensation for secret doubt.

the fundamental question is: how do we make a conscious relationship to our own unique singularity of our existence?

i disagree with knox b/c i believe that the story lines have not been exhausted and with or without softcore porn scenes, gay indie films are slowly mapping out the possibilities.

Eternal Wanderer... said...

First, the bastardization of the male body as the primary vehicle in selling the movie, instead of the body as a crucial subject in exploring one’s sexuality and identity.

Most then would be no different from the bomba genre of the 70's, the pene of the early 80's, the ST of late 80'-early 90's and the sex-themed pito-pito in the late 90's-early 2000's

Anonymous said...

i agree, most of those indie movies with gay themes nowadays markets the sex scenes first and the visually stimulating movie posters before the story of the movie itself.

Den Relojo said...

Most gay indie films are done in good taste. But there are one which are just scum. Although by and large they have been slowly modifying the streotypes of (male) homosexuality.

dabo said...

halata naman na perversions at mga unfed fantasy ng karamihan sa mga indie director at writer ang kanilang ginagawang pelikula. okay lang sana na ikwento ang kanilang mga fantasy, pero sana they are also capable of admitting it.

tulad din sila ng mga naglipanang amateur photographer sa, kung saan iisa lang ang alam nila na theme: sex

kaya ang pelikula or photos, will really tell more about the director/photographer, better than his subject(s).

sayang ang creativity.. tsk tsk

citybuoy said...

a good friend once said that gay indie films are just an excuse to see two men kissing on screen. i dunno. i saw bathhouse once. i kinda agree.

the geek said...

pinaprint ko na yung buong post, binaliktad at binasa ng paulit ulit, nosebleed pa din.hahaha adik lang.

wanderingcommuter said...

tim: yeah perhaps... but the question is, for how long?

wanderingcommuter said...

cookie: hey thanks for the comment. no, i think michiko is a filipina.
sad to say but it seemed like it is really the trend or atleast necessity considered for most film makers regardless if your indie or not.

wanderingcommuter said...

lof: but isn't over identification and unconsiousness two bipolaric ideas. how can one possibly over identify him/herself if s/he is unconscious of his/her id?

i guess, the struggle of making a conscious relationship to make our existence unique. people have different ways of dealing things and basically this makes it unique from other individuals with the same conflict.

wanderingcommuter said...

eternal wanderer: you know your film history ha?! huwaw... are you teaching film ba?

wanderingcommuter said...

maxwell: sad reality. madalas mas nahihikayat talaga ang tao kung gaano katitilating ang movie posters kesa sa synopsis nito.

wanderingcommuter said...

den: but the question is, in the expense of what? bastardization of the gender. i think such modification is indeed eliminating traditional ideas but creating another connotation.

wanderingcommuter said...

dabo: huwaw. ano multiply mo? hahaha1

wanderingcommuter said...

citybouy: buti nga lang sana kung kissing lang, di ba?

wanderingcommuter said...

the geek: hahaha adik nga!

Victor Gregor said...

the thing with gay indie movies today is that they almost always talk about just the sex. but while sexuality is an important aspect in gay culture, it's not all there is to it. there is a lot of untapped possibilities for a gay-themed movie. we need to see more than the regular guy-to-guy action.

line of flight said...

contrary to current beliefs, you are more than your persona (Jung) and/or idealized self (Horney). Modern man totally overidentifies with his persona and comes to believe that the role that he plays in society is his entire substance -- which leads to very neurotic and painful bouts of narcissism in many.

What makes the unconscious unconscious is precisely that it is unconscious. It doesn't mean however, that it doesn't exist or have an affect on us -- especially when we attempt to repress the active forces in our own psyche struggling to be conscious.

it is true that people have different ways of dealing with things, but its not the behavior that makes them unique. Every person is a priori. I can't speak to the same conflict. I've never met two people who have ever struggled with an identical problem.

alkapon said...

ang haba nga.. nakakapagod magbasa, sumakit tuloy ang mata ko..

pero nagustuhan ko.

Dave said...

"Commercialization brought and highlighted several issues among gay indie films. First, the bastardization of the male body as the primary vehicle in selling the movie, instead of the body as a crucial subject in exploring one’s sexuality and identity. Second, reducing the image of gay men to mere sexual subjects and its effect in attaining societal or national acceptance."

I agree. Also, it's important to consider the films' impact in changing how gay men actually see themselves.

ley said...

hi! accidentally came across your blog, I'll be making a paper about the representation of homosexuals both in mainstream and indie films :)

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Den Relojo said...

I just love watching it!

Guyrony said...

The one and only gay indie film that I saw scarred me for life.

And this is an understatement.