In Moreno, Cris Pablo, that trailblazing godfather of gay digital movies, finds the connection between the real-life plight of T'boli women in South Cotabato and the fictional story of one man who suffers from a boyfriend with an itch for multiple sex partners. What's the connection? Polygamy. On a socio-anthropological level, Moreno is an inquiry into the nature and effects of man's mysterious need for more and merrier.
The strange mix of documentary-style ethnographic study and gay domestic melodrama makes for an uneasy viewing. The parallelism remains cerebral and remote. We never do get to see how polygamy in tribal tradition informs modern gay mash-ups or vice versa. The lead character Cris, a scorned lover played warts-and-all courageously by the director himself, journeys through all that trouble only to prove himself righteous in matters of fidelity. The tone is middle-ground too: cold and a little too academic. I do wish it were a sexier film, considering the ready-to-bare actors already on board. Who knew a movie about multiple gay boinking could be so sterile? I guess that's brave, but also a let-down. Maybe the X-rated original version, disapproved by the MTRCB, is a livelier film?
Even with a boom in small, gay-themed films, from Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros to Ang Lalake Sa Parola, and the studio-financed same-same in between such as Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah, Cris Pablo seems to be the only filmmaker today who tackles the "alternative" in alternative lifestyles. As in his first feature Duda, the dillemas in Moreno are the difficult round of gay conflicts. It's not a romantic fantasy in which boy-girl has simply been substituted with boy-boy. The questions -- about open relationships or "May bakla bang monogamous?" -- are mined deep from a very specific gay experience. So far, Cris Pablo is the lone voice of gay dysfunction in urban Philippines. Moreno may lack appeal or entertainment rewards, but in the future, when aliens seek to learn about what plagues homosexual relationships in Metro Manila in the 2000's, we'll point to Duda, Bath House, and this.