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28 July 2013

Jason Paul Laxamana’s “Babagwa” (Review): “The Gay Man as the Predator in Philippine Cinema.”

UPDATED: AUG. 4
Jason Paul Laxamana’s “Babagwa” is probably one of the better dramatizations of how social media intricately connects us like a spider web.  The interconnection does not always bring out the best in people, but rather, it simply provides a new avenue for exploitation.  Social media muddles truth much more effectively, and we are all in collective denial that what we see on the web is either a lie or convoluted truths.  On Facebook and other similar social network sites, we are never really ourselves.  We are “profiles with intentions:” to meet friends, to find sex and love, to show off our wonderful lives, to make our acquaintances and friends envious and to air out  our feelings to people who do not really care. Social network sites create an illusion of love possibly being reciprocated; when in fact, it may never be.

Director Jason Paul Laxamana is a promising storyteller.  Certain scenes might have gone wrong in the hands of a self-serving director but Laxamana showed promise in the area of control. The sex scenes, however, were gratuitously lengthy and they do very little in texturing characterization. Pumping scenes, breasts and butt shots are not always the best devices.  Sometimes, they are just like big white elephants on the set.   Still, Laxamana adeptly reels in the audience up to the film’s surprising end.

Unfortunately, “Babagwa” still falls prey to the antiquated homophobic tradition in Philippine cinema; in fact, even Lino Brocka was guilty of this. 

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Laxamana sadly employs the template of the gay man as “the perfect predator in Philippine cinema.” The gay man is the mastermind of anything connected to lust, money and deception.  In my opinion, “Babagwa” would have still worked if Joey Paras’s character was a straight man or a woman.  The character’s seedy actions are after all not motivated by his gender but by his economic circumstance.  Alas, like in most movies, the criminal mastermind of sex and deception must be an unattractive gay man in drag because our society still regards homosexuality as perverted and ugly.  A homosexual man is unlovable and so he must deceive and lure his prey like a spider.  

As everyone left the cinema, I overheard one man in a group of young people ahead of me said, "Bakla kasi, kaya walang magawang matino." (He's a faggot that's why he can't do anything decent.) I waited hoping some of his friends would make a comment on the straight male character and say, "Lalaki kasi kaya walang magawang matino" (He's a straight man so he can't do anything decent) or "Manggagantso talaga ang mahihirap." (Poor people are crooks.) No one said such a thing.  They just all laughed and one girl said, "Ingat, baka bading yung ka-chat nyo." (Careful, your chat mate might be a faggot). 


I rest my case.

3/5

A director with his eyes wide open would have never utilized this regressive negative stereotype. Still, Laxamana has many productive years ahead of him so let us see if he is will be a force for change or just another homophobe with a camera.

Thankfully, Joey Paras’ performance is outstanding.  He stole the whole movie.  Despite playing a negative stereotype, Paras still squeezes in a layer or two in his character so we do not just see an antiquated gay character template.  Paras’ interpretation of the role made the character frighteningly flesh and blood.  His character is not just blurting out profanities, that rage is coming from somewhere real.  In Filipino, “may pinaghuhugutan.”  For most gay men who are tired of being relegated as “the criminal,” the rage is recognizable and should not be ignored.

Will the next homophobic director please stand up, and leave the room?

________

CINEMALAYA 2013 REVIEW SERIES

NEW BREED Film Reviews
Nuwebe
* The Diplomat Hotel (watched but no review)

DIRECTORS SHOWCASE Film Reviews
* Ekstra
* Liars
* Porno
* Sana Dati

2 comments:

  1. thank you for your feedback of the film. as the writer of Babagwa, I would like to say that I simply created and looked at Marney's character here as a person, not as a "homosexual" and is, in my opinion, not an indication of homophobia. I find it sadder when people categorize a person on the basis of only one aspect of him, and in Babagwa's case, his/her sexuality. Up to now, I still can't understand why a lot of people base their whole identity and personality on their sexuality.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you very much for taking the time to comment. You are a good filmmaker and creators should be given much liberty. Criticism is, after all, a subjective exercise; luckily, art is usually a catalyst for open discussion so we can learn from one another. I am privileged. Thanks so much.

    ReplyDelete

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