Edit: It was a Friday night when we screened at Cinema is Incomplete, not Saturday.
It has been several days since we ended the Sine Bahaghari project and it was a relief to finally finally stop thinking about inviting people, talking to the screening venues and filmmakers, and worrying about the program. The festival turnout was very satisfying, mind you, and the experience was very fulfilling. But my immediate feeling after the last two screening dates was “I’m tired, I need to rest for a few days.”
Tri Mona and Cinema is Incomplete
Prior to the screenings, PJ and I met Tonee in a rather charming restaurant near Cinema is Incomplete. The place is called “Tri Mona” which I thought was a pun on the well-known mall in North Avenue, while PJ and Tonee both thought it was a pun on “try mo na” (Tagalog for “try it now”). In front of the restaurant is a more attention-grabbing establishment called the Zombie Lounge.
Puns aside, the restaurant specializes in organic and healthy dining, serving seafood and some vegetarian dishes. The pancit we ordered used malunggay-enhanced noodles and while advertised as a “solo”-sized serving, could actually feed three people. Another dish I ordered was a plate of pita bread with tasty a daing na labahita and tomato dip. The restaurant was very homey with a New Age-y vibe, having several windchimes, charms and pendants on display.
Cinema is Incomplete is actually a large living room of an apartment in Sikatuna Village which was converted to a videotheque. One has to take off one’s shoes before entering the viewing room and sit on the carpeted floor where several low Japanese tables were arranged. One could get nachos and beer from the nearby kitchen while watching movies, and before the night was over, Juna, Lanchie and I finished several bottles.
The first movie we watched was Roni Bertubin’s “Lovebirds”. A young man introduced his Spanish chatmate to his parents in the midst of the mother’s grand welcoming party. Said chatmate’s arrival shocked the parents and guests because Alexis turned out to be a guy.
I was worried that the movie would turn off the audience but it was actually well-received. “Lovebirds” came from an older school of camp and hammy acting, with Boots Anson-Roa wonderfully overacting as the overbearing mother. Not that she’s the only one: Tommy Abuel, Adrian Ramirez, and Aleth de la Cruz were just as game, the movie looked like a Filipino Christmas dinner table.
Which was just as well because the lead actors needed a good supporting cast. Joseph Izon as Mario was adorable as a lost puppy and was quite good in some touching moments, but he didn’t command attention as he should for a lead actor. Andrés Alexis, on the other hand, was probably more of a ham than the rest of the cast combined, and bordered too close to cloying. For a Spanish guy who supposedly spoke only a little English, he was actually very fluent, had little accent, and said “shit” a lot. Perhaps the second most disappointing aspect of the movie was the lack of chemistry between the two lead actors.
These were very minor complaints, however, compared to Johnron Tañada. We thought the guy didn’t have a speaking role; when he did speak, we wished he didn’t have a speaking role. And then he had another scene where he spoke, argh. We could have been spared of that, really.
But it was Boots Anson-Roa’s movie, really. The bossy, overbearing mom repeatedly admonishes “not in my house” and caused the rest of her kids to flee the family home because, the father admitted, they couldn’t stand their mother. Her disapproval of her son’s internet boyfriend might have been played for laughs, but her behaviour was not uncommon among Filipino parents. It was her character development and eventual change of heart which drove the movie, and I applaud Direk Roni for convincing her to play the role of Amelia.
Tommy Abuel’s unassuming portrayal of Celing, on the other hand, was surprising: while the mother was in denial of her son’s homosexuality, the father very easily accepted it and was even supportive of the foreign boyfriend. And he did it without any grandstanding, gently reminding his wife the roles parents should play in their children’s lives especially once the kids were all grown up.
In the end, “Lovebirds” was not so much a movie aimed at gay sons (and maybe daughters), but more to their parents. The old-fashioned production and the old-fashioned acting speaks to an older generation and asks for love and understanding from the parents towards their children.