The platonic loves of 12 year old gay boys (Ang pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros reviewed)


Ang pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (Philippines, 2005)

Seen: Saturday, 11th April 2009 (DVD, repeat viewing)
Runtime: 100′
Director: Auraeus Solito
Cast: Nathan Lopez, J.R. Valentin, Soliman Cruz, Neil Ryan Sese, Ping Medina, Bodjie Pascua
Production House: Cinemalaya Foundation, UFO Pictures
Plot: (from imdb)

A 12-year-old gay who comes from a criminal family falls in love with a handsome policeman.


Impressions In Short
This is the first Filipino movie I ever saw and it’s the reason I throw myself at any random Filipino film I come across in the hope I find something which is just as good - so far I never have ;)
It’s a really sweet, coming of age sort of film and even though the plot may sound a bit pervy to some, it’s actually very innocent.

More About the Film
One of the many great things about this film is that it manages to be sweet, but not too sweet. Unlike many other films of its sort, it stays gritty and if it can’t stay gritty and sweet then it crosses into bitter-sweet *grin* It’s a very honest film.
Filipino cinema (or at least what I’ve seen of it) is mostly a very low-budget, DV kind of film industry. Probably the largest of its kind. This film epitomises this. It was shot in 13 days on a mini-DV camera for $10 000, mostly on the director’s own street. All of it was done on location (the director’s apartment was used for the policeman’s house, one of his neighbour’s apartments was used for Maxi’s house and they shot at a real police station and a real prison for some of the other scenes). The camera is hand-held throughout and the lighting looks completely natural. As you may imagine from reading this, the low budget aspect of the film is very, very clear, but it doesn’t detract from it at all. The editing and camerawork is quite stylish despite it all (actually, I’m yet to see a Filipino film where this wasn’t the case, even though all of the Filipino films I’ve seen appear to be shot in similar conditions) and whatever you may think, it’s a film which has clearly been made by professionals, who really know their craft. In the West, when one is working on such a low budget, that is rarely the case.
The story is great, albeit a little weird for somebody from a different cultural context ;) I remember some of the platonic loves my friends had at around that age. I think the weirdest one was a friend who wrote love letters to a priest in our parish. He was a very nice priest and at first he took it very well, but eventually it got to him and he started approaching her friends (i.e. us) with frustration, asking us things like “well, what does she expect - that I’ll marry her?”. So people trying to act out those kinds of slightly ridiculous platonic loves at that age is perfectly plausible to me. The thing that totally doesn’t fit into my own experience of life is that a boy could have that sort of love for another man at that age ;) But I’ve been assured that in the Philippines boys do declare their sexual orientation at that sort of age and it’s just accepted practise. They might get teased a bit, but they don’t have to contend with violent attitudes the way a boy from my cultural context would have to. When you take this piece of info into account it all starts to make sense. And the “romance” really is played out beautifully.
The acting in the film is awesome. Nathan Lopez as Maxi is terrific. You may remember that I’ve already gushed about him on this blog before. The story of how he got cast is quite interesting. Originally, the director wanted to cast a gay boy in the part. There’s a whole gang of queens on his street and so he auditioned all of them for it, but he found that they either exaggerated it too much or just weren’t comfortable enough in front of the camera (he did eventually cast some of them as Maxi’s friends though). He went on to audition various other boys - around 100 in all. Then he found out about two twins who were hip hop dancers. They had been auditioning for one of his producer’s other films, so they decided to try them out for the part of Maxi. Both of the twins were straight, but one of the them was more feminine than the other and so that was who they cast *grin*
They really got the casting spot on and they couldn’t have picked a better boy for it. He’s foot perfect, not even one false note.
J.R.Valentin as the policeman is great too and they have fantastic chemistry together *grin* The whole cast down to even the really small supporting roles is very natural and honest.
I was surprised to find that the British DVD has a 15 certificate. The film is really quite innocent, so I would have thought it could be a 12. In fact when I first saw this film at the Warsaw Film Festival some years back, the director told us that it had played in the children’s section at the Berlin festival and to his own surprise the children loved it (he didn’t think it had any inappropriate content, but he had expected them to get bored). So I sort of wonder why the film was given a 15 rather than a 12. I looked at the BBFC guidelines for a 12 certificate and am quite bewildered about which were not met. I looked at the write up on the film and the only clue is that it looks like profanity may have been the offender *sigh*

Yes! *grin* Unless you have some sort of grudge against hand-held cameras and naturalism or something.
This is a very enjoyable film and it apparently made it to no. 1 in the Filipino box office, beating out Hollywood productions like King Kong.

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