Thursday, November 24, 2016

Miss Bulalacao (Ara Chawdhury, Cinema One Originals 2015)

I was elated to see the list of films slated to be screened for free at the Cinema One Originals campus tour in UP Diliman. I’ve been waiting for months to see the critically-acclaimed films, Miss Bulalacao and Hamog. Alas, the organizers scrapped the two films from the slate.

I finally caught up with the two films at the Cinema One Originals 2016 screenings at Cinematheque Centre Manila. The admission price is an affordable one hundred pesos per film. Droves of students came over to watch the Cinema One Originals films. I applaud Cinematheque Manila for fully supporting the quest of master director Lino Brocka in forming the Great Filipino Audience.

Miss Bulalacao is a well-directed, highly restraint comedy film about a teenaged drag queen who gets pregnant. How the residents of a coastal community treated the expectant gay gets most of the screen time. His stepmother lovingly protects him from nasty neighbors. His woman employer, initially repulsed by the idea of a pregnant male person, makes a 180-degree turn and becomes a firm believer of a miraculous conception.

My favorite scene starts with the woman employer convincing the pregnant Dodong to stay with them. A nosy maid listens carefully to the telephone conversation. Sensing the conversation to be going nowhere, the maid scampers away and calls upon a fellow maid to go inside the home. They eagerly wait for the final stand of the boy before going on with their errands. Their nosy behavior is done in good faith. They make sure that the things they will buy will be utilized by their expected guest. The roles of maids may be small but they were infused with truthfulness.

The observant eye of the filmmaker coupled with an ear for believable relationship dialogues make the film grounded in reality despite the fantastical tale of a pregnant male. I also loved the fact that the filmmaker did not go the slapstick route in presenting the pregnancy woes of the ostracized boy. The tears shed by the grieving boy at the end are consistent with the film’s light and serious approach to the issue of motherhood.

The climax of the film book ends the early scene of an alien visit. It clears up any lingering doubts on the veracity of the pregnancy. The film, aside from being an entertaining piece, leaves several questions that audience can ponder. These are not typical beauty contest questions but more of the X-Files type of questions: Do extra-terrestrial beings fall under the familiar gender binary of male and female? How do they exactly reproduce? Is Jesus Christ an alien?

Miss Bulalacao is indeed a winner. On the other hand, Hamog is too dark and hazy for my taste.

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