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Thinking and Talking about Arts and Culture in Southeast Asia

Coming out and breaking through: The Philippine queer cinema roundtable [Philippines]

“Queer cinema in the Philippines is going through some kind of resurgence. Although LGBTQ stories have always had a constant presence in local film — a number of iconic LGBTQ classics enjoyed mainstream success from the late 70’s to the early 90’s — the number of local pink movies released per year had dwindled dramatically. It wasn’t until the introduction of digital cinema that Cris Pablo (“Doubt,” “Metlogs,” “Chub Chaser”) and other independent film directors — such as Brillante Mendoza — began populating select screens with queer content.

For a while, queer cinema was tagged as highly sexual and provocative, juxtaposing images of naked men with city squalor. Over the last decade, though, the breadth of queer themes explored in film continued to expand. There were more stories of coming out, of friendship dynamics and family ties, of unrequited love and zombies in drag.

Soon, audiences began clamoring for more. The success of independent films like “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros” and “Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington” spurred major studios to come out with offerings of their own. A number of their efforts — particularly those featuring Vice Ganda — broke box office records.

Just last year, more than 20 local films featuring queer characters and storylines were released. The drought in queer content, it seems, has ended. For many within the LGBTQ community, this can be considered a triumph. What better way is there to foster more understanding of LGBTQs than to tell their stories?

And yet, there are still legitimate concerns of whether the stories being told onscreen give fair representation to the community as a whole. The LGBTQ experience, after all, is not limited to strict and finite forms of expression. Although there seems to be a gradual uptick in movies featuring the varied experiences of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender women and men, it isn’t quite enough. LGBTQs still long for more.

CNN Philippines Life invited some filmmakers and members of the LGBTQ community for a roundtable session on the current state of local queer cinema and its audience. On the panel are directors Jade Castro (“Zombadings”); Baby Ruth Villarama, (“Sunday Beauty Queen,” “Jazz in Love”); Samantha Lee (“Baka Bukas”) — who is also CNN Philippines Life’s multimedia director —; and LGBTQ advocates Loreen Ordoño, Metro Manila Pride coordinator; fiction writer and NGO worker Lakan Umali; and writer Stefan Punongbayan….”

 

Read the complete roundtable on CNN Philippines.

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