The open secret of gay trade among boatmen of Pagsanjan is the backdrop of the movie Sagwan. Oddly, an opening disclaimer tells us that this is pure fiction, implying gay sex tourism doesn’t actually happen in the beautiful innocent provinces of the Philippines – perhaps another concession to the moral guardians of cinema such as the MTRCB. The irony is that the milieu is the only aspect of the movie that feels true. The story and characters fashioned around it have a corny synthetic flavor.
We should be used to it by now. From miners in Baguio to snatchers in Quiapo to caretakers of lighthouses, many of our filmmakers are not very concerned about realistic depictions of people’s lives as they merely use the surface to project the usual gay fantasies. In Sagwan, when boatmen begin the day by gathering their boats in one place, we barely get the details of their routine, but we do get ample shots of their shirtless torsos. Am I complaining? Not really. It’s a genre of acquired taste: the unrealistic sexy movie. Just because there’s no substance doesn’t mean there’s no fun. Other genres are guilty of the same sin. Romantic comedies, for example, can have a completely deluded view of the corporate world, the advertising industry, rich and poor people, but get away with it. The gay erotic genre gets little justice from the mainstream public. Maybe there’s genre discrimination.
Ryan Dungo plays exactly the same role as that other Dungo in Binyag (Ran Domingo, formerly known as Randolph Dungo): a virgin hunk with an affinity for water whose relationship with a woman is hampered by his possible attraction for other men, in this case for his best friend, the most sought after hustler in the pond (Dennis Torres). As in Binyag, we hear his thoughts in voice-overs, and it’s predictably existential bullshit. The tag line – “How it feels matters more than who you’re with” – sounds like a nihilist credo, something a pervert might say to justify his seductions. It's an icky message, even for a liberal like me. But with awesomely composed sexual scenes, I almost believe it.
Director Monti Puno Parungao, who’s also the cinematographer, proves to be a wizard at conjuring heightened sexual tension. Even drunken banter where practically nothing happens between a bunch of hot guys and two trannies is gripping. The men here have similar-looking features, suggesting mixed races, from years of foreign tourists breeding with the locals. One of the highlights is a scene in which a customer asks the young boatman in his room (Erie Obsena) to show his armpits, while two other hunks peep from a window, pressed against each other. The scene is shot and edited with great precision that we’re sucked into its dizzying erotic charge. I haven’t recovered from it, to be honest. It makes me wonder what the filmmakers can do if they devoted the same attention to finding substance.
QIFF Short Films Category (The Longest One Night Stands) Ang Pinakamahabang One Night Stand (Eduardo Roy Jr) Wait Waiter Wait (Cris Pablo) Tutok (Cris Pablo) Balot (Harvey Estradough)
QIFF Full Length Films Category Selda (Paolo Villaluna ) Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros: The blossoming of Maximo Oliveros (Aureus Solito) Masahista: The Masseur (Brillante Mendoza) Kurap (Ronnie Bertubin) Love Birds (Ronnie Bertubin) Jay (Francis Pasion) Dose (Senedy Que)
QIFF International Film Category Feeding Boys, Ayaya (China) A Very Natural Thing (USA)
Premieres: Feb 11 7pm ‘Sagwan' (opening film) Feb 12 7pm 'Into It' Feb 13 7pm Hikbi Feb 14 7pm ‘Mga Pinakamahabang One Night Stand’ Feb 15 7pm A Natural Thing Feb 16 7pm Night Scene Feb 17 9pm 'Showboyz' (World Premiere and closing film)
From the Press release:
Queeriosity International Film Festival 2009 celebrates the rise of the Philippine gay niche market
The love month of February this year is pink with queer love as Filipino gay directors come together to launch the first Queeriosity International Film Festival (QIFF) in Robinson Galeria Movieworld and the University of the Philippines Film Institute.
On February 4, two screenings will soft launch the festival at the UP Film Institute. Newcomer enfant terrible Monti Puno Parungao, director of the local TV adaptation of Survivor, showcases his first full length feature Sagwan (The Paddle). The indie potboiler peeks at the lives of canoe pilots in an idyllic Philippine tourist town, where behind the breathtaking beauty flows painful memories of complicated sexualities suppressed and violated.
Also on the same date, the four short films are sewn together under the omnibus title "The Longest One Night Stands." The anthology presents the vignettes with titles: "Wait Waiter Wait" and "Tutok" by Cris Pablo; "Balot" by Harvey Estradough; and "Ang Pinakamahabang One Night Stand" by Eduardo Roy Jr.
The QIFF proceeds to Robinson Galeria on Feb. 11-17 and features Hikbi (Cry of Redemption) by Felbert Go. The gritty indie production is directorial debut of Go who was encouraged by director Lav Diaz to retell his crisis-filled gay life in film.
The festival will also reprise queer selections such as Paolo Villaluna's male prison romance "Selda", Aureus Solito's coming of age in the slums story "Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros" and the ground breaking tale of a male masseur in Brillante Mendoza’s “Masahista”. Other titles include “Kurap” and “Love Birds” by Ronnie Bertubin; “Jay” by Francis Pasion and “Dose” by Senedy Que.
Foreign titles include “Feeding Boys, Ayaya” from China and “A Very Natural Thing” from US of A.
The launch of the QIFF aims to compliment the community activities of clans and groups of bisexual and gay men such as the Fabulous 30s & 40s, Panget Clan, HBOX, School Boys Society, Bi Males Clan, Bi-Pilipinas Charity, Elite Mens Circle , Binatang Pinoy, New Age Community, Quatros Elementos Clan and many others in promoting acceptance of queer sexuality in society.
According to Cris Pablo, president of the indie film proponent Sinehan Digitales and QIFF founder, the Queeriosity event is in a big part a homage to the original grand dame of queer Pinoy fests, the Pink Film Festival, which traces its roots back to 1999.
"The present generation of gay and lesbian film makers and actors owe a huge debt to the indie film giant, Mr. Nick De Ocampo, because his Pink Film inspired us to come out of the closet and present our community to public screenings. His example encouraged us to openly discuss queer sexuality without shame," Pablo said.
While not as grand as the original Pink, Pablo said the LGBT community should be proud of the humble contributions the QIFF can do to reinvigorate the dying Philippine cinema industry and the emerging pink video market.
For tickets, venues and other information, visit the temporary promo website of QIFF at www.tagged.com/queeriosity
There are reportedly 12 full frontal exposures of Marco Morales in the movie Butas. If you’re watching in its current theatrical run, don’t bother counting. Most of it has been blurred by the filmmakers as a concession to the MTRCB (Movie and Television Review and Classification Board), which is really just a long name for "Censors". Too bad, because the movie kind of needed the money shots. Economically shot in one dilapidated house with only three actors (plus a few supports), the talky, gimmicky drama doesn’t sustain interest on its own. I wonder if the director, Bong Ramos, was aware that by botching intermittent parts of his film, it ended up disengaging.
There’s still a prevailing notion that story is the most important aspect of a movie. But a sex film without the sex is like a musical without the songs and dances. Sure, you might still understand the story, but is it still an experience? The next time you watch a historical drama, try blurring out the fancy costumes. Or the lingering panoramic views in a travel destination movie. (They don’t add to the story anyway.) The film is likely to seem cheaper and more boring.
Which is what becomes of Butas. A man plots to end his wife’s affair by murder. He first spies on the lovers through peepholes in the ceilings. (Scorpio Nights is proving to be the most influential erotic film in Philippine cinema.) The movie gets even more postmodern halfway, as we watch a video record of the same event that exposes the truth of what happened – sort of a hidden video sex scandal by way of Blair Witch Project. The most clever thing about the movie is how many plot turns it creates with such a limited setup. But ultimately, this is a familiar sin story with an unsurprisingly conservative core: Do any of our infidelity movies ever end in anything other than renewed marital devotion?
As the husband, veteran hunk Allen Dizon keeps his clothes on, but Marco Morales and Gwen Garci are game. They even each have an emotional breakdown in the buff. I’d call it exploitation if they both weren’t such smart actors. I wonder how they feel about the censors deeming their naked dramatic turns unworthy to view. Let’s hope the home video release does them – and us – justice.