Fantasy, Cinematography and Story in “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros”
By Mila D. Aguilar
“Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros” is the first full-length Filipino movie on YouTube, a pioneer in the project to upload Pinoy indies to the popular Internet facility. It is in response to this generous gesture of YouTube and Filipino indie directors that I am moved to write a critique of the movie, which I otherwise would never have been able to see.
At the same time, I have been barraged on Twitter lately with news of Jerry Sandusky and John Travolta, two of the most horrific, though still unproven, examples of homosexual abuse, and cannot help but see the contrast. I will explain this contrast at the end, but first let me go to the movie.
“Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros” is directed by Aureus Solito, an independent director who is at the same time a declared homosexual. His protagonist in this film is a wisp of an effeminate boy nicknamed Maxie. Maxie, as the first shots establish with repeated, prolonged and therefore rather undue attention to garbage swimming in a flood of water, lives amid the filth of an urban poor community.
Cinematography is this movie’s greatest strength. Through gloriously dinghy scene after scene, we learn, one by one, that Maxie is one among a rather big bunch of transgender boys who are not given any particular attention by the community but come and go as they wish and are accepted without question or condemnation. Early on, we see a hefty mustachioed man in his forties selling what looks like a contraband cellphone to a woman in front of a low-slung house in an urban poor alley.
As the cinematography unfolds, we learn that Maxie’s role is to cook, do the laundry, and darn torn clothes for his family of three, a father and two brothers who are all macho and grown but love him as he is. Maxie seems to be a replacement for his deceased mother. The man who sells the contraband cellphone turns out to be his father.
As the story unfolds, a handsome young policeman turns up in the community. He becomes the love interest of Maxie and the complicating factor in this story of the blossoming of a child homosexual in an urban poor community whose father and brothers make a living thieving.
The story unfolds beautifully because cinematically, with enough drama to capture our attention but without the needless sound and fury of usual dramas. It is rather a very Filipino portrayal of a love that transpires slowly and gently.
But alas, the young policeman, it turns out, is onto the petty crimes of Maxie’s family, and tries to work Maxie into transforming his family. That sets the story into its climax, which ends in Maxie’s Papa being shot to death in the dark by the returned station chief in front of the young policeman and in full view of a half-hidden Maxie.
It is here that the story begins to hiccup. What was the issue between this returned station chief and Maxie’s Papa, that the former killed him in cold blood? That angle is not fully developed in the course of the story.
Aureus Solito has spent so much loving time on his love story that we missed that angle. All we know is that the Papa is suddenly shot in the dark, with the young policeman and Maxie presumably, or rather, perhaps, seeing each other as the tragedy occurs.
The next problem, of course, is: What will the brothers, who are in on their father’s petty crimes and means of livelihood, do? They promise to avenge their father’s death, and they are on their way and fully capable, having already killed Maxie's tormentor on his behalf. But how does it happen that at the end of the story, they are suddenly sending a taller Maxie off to school, still calling him “sister” though he is without his usual girly frills? And then again, how does it happen that Maxie himself does not agonize over the fact that his beloved policeman just stood by as the station chief killed his father?
Have they been transformed? Has HE been transformed himself?
We do not know, but the last scene provides a prodigious clue: Maxie walks slowly and in a rather straight manner to school through a fuzzy tree-lined park, followed in a jeep by his policeman friend. The policeman parks the vehicle on the route, gets out, then sits by it, waiting as Maxie strides by him still walking fairly straight.
It is then we realize that the movie is a homosexual fantasy set amid the squalor of urban poor reality. The reality is that yes, there are many openly effeminate and transgender boys in urban poor communities, and they are accepted and loved by their families and the masa. The fantasy is that one of these urban poor homosexuals could get a handsome young policeman to love him enough, without getting anything in return, to tide him through his growing, and perhaps, to extend the fantasy even further, aging years.
Fantasy is the reason why Aureus Solito’s cinematography could be so beautiful, while his story could be so inexplicable on two key points: the father’s killing, and the brothers’ transformation. Indeed, on three key points, the third being the handsome young policeman’s manifestation of a profound, loving and lasting malasakit for a bakla.
Such fantasy lies in stark contrast to the brutal homosexuality displayed in the court case of Jerry Sandusky and the allegations against John Travolta. In the latter two, we are witness to the use of money and power to entrap the unsuspecting into savage, cruel, vicious, brutish, heartless, ruthless sexual dalliances with big muscled homosexual men. In stark contrast, an effeminate homosexual of Maximo Oliveros’ mold wishes, perhaps against reality, that some big, muscled but gentle and handsome man would fall in love with him and take care of him forever.
Unfortunately, such is not the case, as the hiccups in Maximo Oliveros’ story indicate.
You can see the full movie at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z42YxfR7-LI