TIFF 2012 – Bwakaw Review (Paolo Kagaoan)

Photo from http://www.tiff.net

Bwakaw (2012)

Starring Eddie Garcia and Rez Cortez

Directed by Jon Robles Luna

Bwakaw’s bleached cinematography perfectly reflects its protagonist Rene’s (Garcia) crotchety world view – that of an old man who can’t just wait to die. Through and with him we see the unvarnished wood of his pre-colonial wooden house, the white strands of his gray hair, the powdered pallor of his ex-girlfriend Alicia’s face. Then we as the audience know more of his life. His dog named Bwakaw who eats and seems healthy for an ex-stray, a nosy and superstitious neighbour, a hate relationship with a tricycle driver named Sol  (Cortez), a priest with whom he entrusts his will, and two gay friends whose idea of a house call is bringing in two more oblivious ‘boylets’ – or super cheap male prostitutes – to his house. And he treats those characters within his life like the curmudgeon that he is. We laugh with him as he laughs at his fellow man. But colour make a splash in his life before it’s too late.

Photo from http://www.tiff.net

As an LGBT Filipino man myself I have to be weary about depictions of race and queerness. I worried whether or not Rene and the other gay characters would be cliched, but I find the term ‘gay stereotype’ problematic in itself. The persons controlling the labeling of gay men as stereotypes would find ways to accuse the latter of being ‘too gay’. Transvestism and pink hair – stereotype. Certain facial features – stereotype. It’s an uphill battle and an unwinnable war. It’s also arguable that Sol is a stereotype of troglodyte heterosexuality to balance the gay characters out.

Photo from http://www.tiff.net

In that respect, this movie doesn’t make my blood boil but there’s a scene in it that almost did the job. The one I’m talking about in particular is between Rene and Sol, who develop a friendship. Cortez makes a few of his lines look wonky, but Lina, who also wrote the film’s screenplay, moulds Sol to be clueless about his footing within his relationship with Rene. Not to be spoilery, but it also seems like Luna arranged their final scene to excuse each other’s surprising yet alcohol induced decisions. But since this is an LGBT movie, we stay long enough with the gay characters for them not to be laughing stocks. Oh, they’re funny but the audience can also see their vulnerability and fraternal natures. Garcia also handles his character deftly, with stature and comedic charm, as expected of a veteran actor, elevating a movie that’s a part of the evolving Filipino queer cinema.

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