Only bigots hate seeing queer narratives take space in Filipino cinema.
Surprisingly, these past few years have been good for the Philippine LGBTQ+ community, though we are not yet close to what other countries have achieved. But we also can’t ignore the continuous rise of queer web series, the legacy of QCinema’s Pink Festival and the huge increase of queer narratives on the silver screen.
Gay slapstick films still exist in commercial films. But indie narratives continue to break the toxic notion of sexual identities as punchlines. Isabel Sandoval’s award-winning piece “Lingua Franca” is clearly one of them.
Two months since its debut on Netflix US, it’s finally making its appearance on Netflix Philippines.
Brooklyn, New York serves as the backdrop for “Lingua Franca.” It tells the tale of a Filipino transgender woman who works as a caregiver for a Russian-Jewish grandmother. While looking for a way to stay in America, she finds herself falling in love with the grandmother’s grandson. It’s the immigrant struggle mixed with finding love in a city you weren’t born in.
It has garnered accolades from global festivals such as the Chéries-Chéris, Molodist International Film Festival and Bentonville Film Festival. Recently, Isabel won the Best Actress award at the Pacific Meridian International Film Festival in Russia, a country where authorities see LGBTQ+ rights as a threat to their nation’s values. It’s a huge step for Filipino queer visibility and narratives overall.
At a time when bigotry, especially towards our transgender community, still exists, a film like “Lingua Franca” is more important than ever. Transgender violence is rampant in our country. Just look at the lives of Jennifer Laude and Donna Nierra.
With no laws protecting our LGBTQ+ community, stories like Isabel’s film are important to break toxic traditional mindsets. We are not your comedic punchline—we’re people. We have stories and lives to share just like you.
“Lingua Franca” drops Nov. 6 on Netflix, while TBA Studios will hold a screening at Cinema ’76 as well.
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Still from “Lingua Franca”