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Reel Pride: 4 Essential Philippine LGBTQ+ films

By Arry Asiddao
June 10, 2022

Around the world, film has proven to be instrumental in capturing the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community in society. Our very own filmmakers in particular have always known and utilized this power of film to portray the many nuances and facets of the Filipino LGBTQ+ experience. These 4 queer Filipino film classics are proof.

1. Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (2005)

Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros is regarded as one of the best Filipino films of the 2000s.

Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros) is a coming of age film directed by respected independent filmmaker Aureaus Solito, also known as Kanakan-Balintagos. The movie tells the story of Maxi, an effeminate gay teen, who develops a crush on a rookie cop amid the backdrop of poverty and crime in the slums of Manila.

The film explores themes of unconventional first love and teenage homosexuality, while also depicting social issues that are inevitably entangled with Maxi’s life as a young queer. It also tackles family, economic injustice, and police corruption and brutality.

Considered one of the greatest Filipino films of the 2000s, Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros won three awards at the Berlinale and was the official entry of the Philippines to the 79th Academy Awards. It also won Best Film (Special Jury Prize) at the 1st Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival. You can rent or buy the movie on Amazon or watch the trailer here.

2. Oliver (1983)

Oliver uncovers multiple layers of queerness, as it tells the story of a gay performer who’s also a father and breadwinner supporting his urban poor family during particularly tumultuous times.

Oliver follows the story of Reynaldo “Oliver” Villarama, a performer working in gay nightclubs to provide for his impoverished family, including his wife and child. While his neighbors make a living by scavenging at a nearby dumpsite, Oliver impersonates musical legends Liza Minnelli and Grace Jones in Manila’s red light district. In an audacious act, he pulls yards of thread from his behind, creating a web around him which he breaks away from in the end.

A landmark documentary film by filmmaker and film historian Nick Deocampo, Oliver reveals multiple layers of queerness and shatters the idealized image of the city peddled during the 70s up to the early 80s. In 2018, Oliver received the Pink Film Award at the Quezon City International Pink Film Festival for putting a human face to the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community.

You can watch Oliver for free online or at the Film Development Council of the Philippines’ (FDCP) PeliKULAYa Film Festival where it will be screened at FDCP Cinematheque Centres from June 10-26, 2022.

3. Ang Tatay Kong Nanay (1978)

A known tearjerker, Ang Tatay Kong Nanay stars comedy king Dolphy.

Starring comedy king Dolphy and child wonder Niño Muhlach, Ang Tatay Kong Nanay (My Father, My Mother) is a splendid example of how National Artist Lino Brocka utilized mainstream cinema to tackle socially relevant issues. The film challenges notions of identity, homosexuality, and parenthood through the character of Coring (Dolphy), a cross-dressing gay beautician who becomes an adoptive father to Nonoy (Muhlach), the son of his former lover. When Nonoy’s now rich biological mother enters the picture, Coring faces the dilemma of choosing a comfortable life for Nonoy or fighting for the child he has grown to love like his own.

Brocka, who’s also openly gay, was known for his commercial and experimental films that provided a sharp critique of Philippine society during his time. Ang Tatay Kong Nanay will be available at FDCP Channel and FDCP Cinematheque Centres from June 10-26, 2022 as part of PeliKULAYa Film Festival.

4. Manila by Night (1980)

Manila by Night features an entanglement of characters asserting their place in the city by creating their own routes.

Manila by Night is a queer and Third Cinema classic by celebrated filmmaker Ishmael Bernal. The film presents a gritty depiction of Manila, revealing its underbelly of homelessness, prostitution, and drug addiction amid the rapid urbanization of that time. Multi-narrative, plotless, and even disorienting at times, Manila by Night reflects the fears and anxieties of ordinary people, as well as their forms of resistance.

Bernal was a leading figure in the second golden age of Philippine cinema, along with Brocka. Manila by Night will also be available online at FDCP Channel and FDCP Cinematheque Centres from June 10-26, 2022.

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