Sunday, September 09, 2012

Bwakaw (Jun Lana, Cinemalaya 2012 Directors Showcase NETPAC Award Winner)

Happy Grandparents' Day to our beloved elders!

Indie filmmakers have given voice to various issues affecting senior citizens. Abandonment, senility, and lack of a companion are some of the issues predominant in those films dealing with the elderly. Cinemalaya and Cinema One Originals have championed several of these multi-awarded films including Diablo, Layang Bilanggo, and Six Degrees of Separation From Lilia Cuntapay. One of the very best stories is by a Palanca hall-of-famer, Jun Lana.

Lana's excellent film Bwakaw tells the story of Rene, an elderly gay diabetic trying to get to grips with the serious illness of his dog, Bwakaw. The mongrel has been his faithful and sole companion the last few years. The woman he'd loved before forbade him to visit her. Who else can Rene turn to for companionship if the dog dies?

Rene (Eddie Garcia) is different from the screaming faggots and outlandish gays portrayed by Dolphy, Roderick Paulate, and Joey de Leon. Rene doesn’t put on garish make-ups, wear women’s clothes, or don skimpy two-piece bikini. I cringe when people say that Facifica Falayfay is one of the best characters played by Dolphy. Facifica is a hideous character who lies about the identity of the harana serenaders and initiates cat fights. It's no wonder then that his family tries to reform him. There's a positive thing about the film Facifica Falayfay, though. It served as inspiration for Auraeus Solito's Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, as seen in the beauty contest segment and the brood of tough goons. The difference however is gay teen Maximo is accepted and loved dearly by his family. 

Rene has more of an affinity with the closet gay Don Benito in Tubog sa Ginto. Eddie Garcia plays them both so they are masculine in appearance. The wondrous thing about the award-winning performances of Garcia is he didn't overplay the characters, both of which are hard to portray. Don Benito hides his homosexuality from his family to the extent that he hires a voluptuous secretary to mask his affair with a leech of a lover.

On the other hand, Rene is a straight guy, or used to be one, until he reached senior citizenry. He realized too late that he is really gay. He used to have a girlfriend named Alicia. But, despite fifteen years of being a couple, they didn't get married. No reason was given for the break-up, although the rainbow of gayness must have hovered over his clouded mind back then.

The most moving scenes in the film are the ones featuring Rene and Alicia. A heart-tugging scene shows elderly Alicia (Armida Siguion-Reyna), in a rare moment of coherence, pleading for Rene not to visit her anymore at the retirement home. She wants Rene to remember her as she is now, a woman who've regained her precious memories of the first and only boyfriend in her life. There's no tinge of regret or anger over her fate. Her loving act of saying goodbye relieved Rene somewhat of the heavy cross of guilt for the perceived pain he might have inflicted on Alicia. 

The heavy drama is balanced with rollicking funny scenes, especially those inspired by Soxie Topacio's Ded Na Si Lolo. Rene has been considered  'dead' for a long time because of his preoccupation with the past, perceived sins, and regrets. He has made up a will and packed up his things into balikbayan boxes. His decrepit house is bare with only the boxes lining up the walls. He is just waiting for his death and has even experienced sleeping in his coffin, which he bought at a summer sale. But, two deaths later, and Rene is now unpacking things. His house undergoes a makeover. He starts to live and the last scene shows him going on a trip.

Director Jun Lana crafted a film so good that if only the late comedy king Dolphy had a film like this in his oeuvre, then there's a higher chance of him being hailed as a National Artist for Film. Bwakaw has a well-written gay character in Rene. The latter is also one of the more memorable elderly characters alongside Dolphy's character Gregory in Omeng Satanasia

How about Eddie Garcia as nominee for the National Artist for Film? Well, let's just respect the selection process and be thankful that we've been blessed to have seen and enjoyed the films of the late Dolphy and veteran actor Eddie Garcia. I can't wait to see what other film projects are in store for Garcia and other venerable acting legends.

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