With the addition of indie film “Lingua Franca” to Netflix Philippines, queer indie films are reaching a wider audience than ever but admittedly Philippine cinema still has a long way to go.
The growing love for queer media (despite many still casting cisgender leads for queer roles) is a start, on top of the few rare gems placing the spotlight on transgender Filipinos.
“Call Her Ganda” (2018)
After President Duterte granted “absolute pardon” to US Marine Joseph Pemberton, this documentary is more relevant than ever. “Call Her Ganda” follows the story of Jennifer Laude, told through three women heavily invested in the case: Virgie Suarez, the Laude family’s lawyer, trans investigative journalist Meredith Talusan and Jennifer’s mother herself, Julita.
“Die Beautiful” (2016)
In the Philippines, too many films with queer characters turn to slapstick comedy for recall. An entry at both the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival and 2016 Tokyo International Film Festival, “Die Beautiful” explores more than just the flamboyance portrayed in its trailer. Trisha (played by Paolo Ballesteros) dies right after she achieves her life-long dream of winning a pageant, and her best friend Barbs tries to give her the wake she deserves, turning Trisha into her favorite celebrities through makeup transformations. The film is a visual narrative of Trisha’s life from childhood till death, tackling her experiences with friendship, coming out, family and queer stereotypes.
“Mamu; And A Mother Too” (2018)
An entry at the 2018 Cinema One Originals Film Festival, this dramedy follows a middle-aged transgender sex worker (played by transwoman Iyah Mina, who won Best Actress for this role) whose sister just died, leaving behind her transgender daughter. She now has to take her orphaned niece under her wing, unexpectedly assuming the role of a mother while balancing things between her job and her long-time boyfriend.
“Mga Gabing Kasinghaba ng Hair Ko” (2017)
Many queer films are unafraid to take the controversial route, and this is one of them. Transwomen Tuesday, Amanda and Barbie are sex workers navigating the red-light district of Burgos, and each of them have their own story to tell. Where many would look at the characters’ job or gender identity, this film seeks to portray the harsh realities they face.
“Quick Change” (2013)
Rarely do we see films about transgender people, even rare are queer films with actual trans actors as leads. This Cinemalaya docu-like narrative focuses on the cosmetic industry, particularly the DIY kind. Mimi Juareza plays Dorina, who made a career out of helping fellow transgender people achieve the body they desire by injecting homemade collagen, which is not only illegal but also does more harm than good on the body. This eye-opening film is a stark reality check through the eyes of the protagonist, who’s both a victim and an enabler of the illegal trade.
“Señorita” is the first feature film of Isabel Sandoval, the director and writer behind “Lingua Franca.” Sandoval plays Donna, a trans sex worker who wants to quit the trade. To break away from her past, she goes back to her hometown to look after her son (who thinks she’s his aunt), only to find out that the mayor’s corrupt ties somehow involve her. At its most basic, it’s a political drama told through characters helpless against the powers-that-be.
Still from “Mamu; And A Mother Too”