Last night, I was with Dave, my org buddy in RC (DZUP Radio Circle), to watch the gay-themed film “Pare, Mahal Mo Raw Ako”, directed by Joven Tan (Paupahan, Booking) and starring Edgar Allan Guzman and Michael Pangilinan in his film debut. During the entire film, Dave was commenting how good the film was (“Buddy, ang ganda talaga! Ang ganda talaga!”). When the credits rolled, the entire audience was applauding. I had a different opinion of the film, so this made me think–did I really not like it or was I just taking myself too seriously? I guess it’s something in between. After all, no media text is ever innocent.
The premise is simple. Mark (Guzman) is in love with his best friend, Red (Pangilinan), but Red is straight. Mark couldn’t hide his feelings anymore, so when they go on vacation, he decides to confess his feelings to him.
The film is trying to have the best of both worlds by mixing comedy with drama, and this is not surprising at all, as Viva Films mostly adheres to the mainstream formula of what-makes-this-film-a-fantastic-box-office-success. My problem is that the message of the film becomes difficult to absorb when on one hand, the main characters express pain and sadness on such a sensitive issue of coming out and finding one’s identity, and on the other, the supporting characters provide comedic relief by, ironically, making fun of the LGBT experience.
I’m not saying that this should be overtly political. But it is not difficult to deduce that the film takes a stand–love knows no gender. Mark even made a monologue about it sometime in the film. This self-awareness is necessary because we get to know that the filmmakers have a sense of understanding of what power a film can hold. In short, it has an agenda, no matter how subtle or indirect. But this standpoint is too abstract and did not translate to the scenarios presented in the film.
For example, [possible spoiler–start here] the straight friend who engaged in oral sex with a transgender in the film was presented as funny. The friends of Mark who found out he’s gay were making jokes about male-to-male sex and the scenes were intended to be funny as well (but think about it–would there also be punchlines if they were talking about heterosexual sex?). Lester (Matt Evans), just randomly at all, puked when he heard Mark coming out to Red. Paul (Joross Gamboa) made a laughing stock of his gay fubu who made his term papers in high school. And in the end, Mark was grateful that Red accepted him (okay, it’s given that we have a confused lead character, but this is 2016, do we really have to thank straight people for ‘accepting’ the LGBTQ?). [possible spoiler–end here]
It did not help that the film had 3 or 4 music videos (some of it worked but others just feel so stretched) and that there were unnecessary characters–the waiter who was disconnected with the rest of the film (and as the film’s voice of reason, really???), the lesbian parents (Nora Aunor and Ana Capri) as token lesbians (to be fair, there are only few images of LGBT parents on media, so they served some purpose perhaps?), and the common woman friend Kaye (Katrina ‘Hopia’ Legaspi) as the third person in the love triangle (whose decisions were questionable).
So yeah, I most likely did not really like it. But what redeems the film for me (as in sa kaso ko lang talaga) in the slightest is the phenomenological experience. Going to a theater house is a communal experience. You are part of the audience; you join the crowd laugh or cry. But it’s different for a gay-themed film. For some people, it takes a lot of guts to even just show up at the cinema. To be associated with anything gay is still a stigma.
So watching the premiere of “Pare, Mahal Mo Raw Ako” at UP CineAdarna–with the effems, bears, twinks, borta, bi-curious, straight-acting, discreet, paminta, or whatever-the-fuck-they-want-to-label-themselves-on-Grindr–creates an imagined community, no matter how temporary. And the film, despite its flaws, is reflective of the experiences of people who can relate to it (after all, media texts on LGBT characters are still limited). As Dave told me when he saw me not laughing at the jokes, “baka ‘di lang ikaw ang target audience, buddy“.