1017, a hybrid gay romance and political saga, has one clever hook: All Jojo (Kahlel Urdaneta) wants to do is declare his feelings for his childhood friend Manuel (Kristofer King), as he tags along with him in the mountains. His secret is obvious to everyone they encounter on the trip, perhaps even to Manuel himself, so why is it even necessary to say it aloud? The film tells us, smartly, that with expression comes freedom, and it's really of value to no one more than Jojo himself. It's a refreshing point of view in a swarm of stories of unrequited gay love. Too often, in such movies, gay men ask for too much. In 1017, the request is simple, but it too can be denied.
The low-budget film is set in a socialist community in the mountains -- Manuel is a comrade of the New People's Army -- and also in various protest rallies in the city, shot during real events, where Jojo's friends search for him. Writer-Director Zigcarlo Dulay finds the broader national implications when a person is snuffed of his right to be heard. It would have been mind-blowing if only the political causes didn't remain so vague. The rebels here are portrayed in purple talk about motherland and liberation that's not rooted in anything tangible. It's the kind of image that makes people think they're idealistic freaks. While the personal love story remains intimate, the political backdrop floats in the wind with so many empty words, creating an uneasy imbalance. Even the schizophrenic sound mix and editing seems to agree. A gay civilian (G.A. Villafuerte) who was kidnapped and tortured by the military, and then escaped, has significant presence, although as a character, his emotions and psychology seem confused and arbitrary. But he does have a terrific moment in which he narrates his sufferings in jovial gayspeak.
Still, you've got to admire a movie that takes a stand on not one but two things that are obscene in the eyes of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB): homosexuality and government opposition. (The unappealing title refers to a short-lived proclamation by the Arroyo administration declaring a state of national emergency.) Most memorably, the film is bold enough to point out that gay marriage is accepted among the rebel community, because, unlike the Catholic Church and the government, they recognize that love knows no gender. They even have openly gay leaders. The film wears its agenda on its sleeve alright, but as issues rarely discussed in our cinema, it's most welcome.