Friday, June 27, 2008

Aishite Imasu, Mahal Kita—1941

Aishite Imasu, Mahal Kita—1941
Nonoy L.Lauzon

Gay presence in Philippine cinema has always been problematic. More often than not, the homosexual is depicted as a marginalized and disempowered entity, a cardboard character, a caricature that is an object of disdain or ridicule if not a source of comic relief or simply a fixture in aid of slapstick.

It is not the concern of Joel Lamangan’s Aishite Imasu, Mahal Kita—1941 (Regal; Basfilm) to depart from such tradition of portraying gays. In developing for the screen its central figure, there is no clear effort to picture the homosexual being beyond its projection as some exotic grotesquerie fit for the carnival. It doesn’t help that the main protagonist dies towards the end of the film as the filmmakers’ probable notion of gay lib is fixated on professing a testament to one gay’s martyrdom for the sake of an occupied motherland.

Needless to say, such standpoint advances no good cause and in fact is inimical to the very interest of the marginalized gay sector whose contribution to the society at large that represses it must always be properly highlighted whenever an occasion comes around if only to serve the purposes of empowerment. Thus, the fundamental flaw of films like Aishite Imasu lies on the very opportunities it wantonly wasted precisely to make a difference in throwing positive light on the gay plight in general.

Fortunately not everything is bleak for Aishite Imasu in terms of critical merits. Its salvation is carried out with the brave performance turned in by lead actor Dennis Trillo. The fact that his is a debut all the more magnifies the most distinguished achievement especially in the context of a domestic industry made barren by rampant corruption, marked breakdown of intelligence and sheer shortage of talent.

Handicapped by the film’s poor writing, Trillo is left to his own devices to nevertheless allow his breakthrough performance to soar. He has to practically struggle against the veiled attempt governing the making of the film to downgrade his role and strip it of its efficacy in order not to take the limelight away from the more favored members of the cast. The ill design tremendously fails and it is Trillo who ends up outshining everyone and outsmarting the very film rendered puerile by its filmmakers’ inability to pursue to the fullest the bold premise of their material.

By way of Trillo’s method, the quintessential Pinoy gay hero gets to rise not merely to assert presence but more so to protest the aberrations of history. There is poetic justice in all this. For all of human history as gays are despised and denied their basic rights, it turns out that there are far worse than gay sexuality that the world must dread and guard against such as exactly the evil that men do to their fellow men in the form of wars, the slaughter of entire races, the subjugation of whole nations. It is ironic that the point is brought home as embodied no less by a most unlikely tragic figure—an accidental querida of war who happens to be a cross-dressing gay but not completely of war’s making. #

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