While it’s greatly apparent that the exciting proliferations of gay-themed stories on digital screens, via boys love (BL) series, have renewed our burning interests on LGBTQIA issues and experiences – we may have to analyze how things have been since its original inception, at least in the dawning periods of digital cinema in the Philippines.
Cris Pablo’s Duda/Doubt, for the record, was the first longform narrative feature in digital format – which happened to be an interweaving tale of gay sex, love, and relationships – quite in extent made it all seem possible for all independent filmmakers to literally shoot the stars and achieve a sense of goal and aspirations that filmmaking can be democratized beyond the dictums of the old and mainstream studio system. While Pablo’s Duda interestingly seeded the cloud and rained profusely over a period of at least 7 years with the explosion of gay soft core Indies – they weren’t exactly focused on the experience of young love and coming of age. They were, in all straight-talk, a spa and splash of sex parades – which in turn became a hotbed of welcomed nudity and other unapologetic physicality on screen. Duda/Doubt was no BL. The first true-gay feature in Asia, South Korea’s Road Movie (2002) is about the experiences and confusions brought upon by the Asian Market Crash, and indeed was no BL. The harangue of criticisms later on to Pablo’s prolific churn-outs, although featuring younger characters, was more directed towards the lower-class experiences; and somewhat the highlighted centering on psychosexual fixations. When Senedy Que’s Dose tested the censorship to its core a few years later– it had a chilling effect on which particular age-group to sidestep, if the trend had to remain and survive. Even the unsolicited fetishism on visual soldering features becomes tamed and oblique. It had officially folded up as the film industry was entirely eaten up once and again by the commercial escapism of the mainstream market.
If the digital cameras were powerfully instrumental in giving voices and images to filmmakers of all persuasions in the early 21st century, the advancing of digital platforms has now given everyone what they have always been deprived of since – the full open access. There has been no real need in knee-jerking to censorships, and there was not anymore a need to power associate in order to send things to fruition.
While younger millennial now lords over the market and in honest supposition – the production wheel – anything is now possible. It has become as easy as the elbow steps on TikTok. The digital audience have now become more secured and focused given the pandemic situation we are all in.
From its Japanese comic’s origin in the late 1970s to Thai series mid-2010s, BLs, for all its worth have crossed intersectionalities in all aspects. In fact, the Japanese Yaoi, was a success because it broke gender stereotypes and appealed very well to female audience. It is as analyzed has been the forefront of their own victories and all the corners have been cut to make the open realities of reassigning the romantic play without the confines of heteronormativity.
As it seems, BL is already making its transference to film and given the current situation will continue to prosper for as long as they remain fresh and romantically titillating. While creative propagation will always be cheered on, it is still significant to put things to perspective. It remains to be a subject of discussion whether queer visibility is sincerely getting a positive push given that these BL fares have cast actors with androgynously vague sexualities. For all its worth, BL needs to recognize and validate the continuing struggle of LGBTQIA people, most especially those who are in the margins of the society – those who are oppressed and violated – and those whose stories remain untold.
Ivan Payawal’s Gameboys, since its premiere in May, has been the talk of the internet for months. Its first season has recently concluded resoundingly. Although, Gameboys claims to be the first BL drama in the country, perhaps, its success is attributable to reconstructing the sub-genre and departing from the known BL tropes. Its actors Elijah Canlas and Kokoy De Santos, who are neither formidable stars nor openly gay, have been celebrated in social media.
Elijah Canlas is a name synonymous to coming of age independent films. Very recently, his film Kalel, 15 has been considered one of the most critically acclaimed films in a year with very lean turnouts. His uber boyish charms and gargantuan acting talents have gained him loyal following. Understandably, Canlas, for his young age – projects both sensitivity and sensuality usually absent in young males. In fact, given how much these qualities are in existence in his midst – he remains a young man up and about for a brighter future of many possibilities. Canlas turned 20 years old in August.
Kokoy De Santos, who is 22 years old, has already astonished audiences with his performance in Eduardo Roy’s Cinemalaya hit Fuccbois, in which he played the role of a bikini contestant who dabbles into prostitution.
Today, it has been announced that a short film that first turned the spotlight on their creative partnership will be screened at the Busan International Film Festival on Oct 21-30. How to Die Young in Manila is about a teenage boy trailing a group of hustlers on the streets, thinking one of them may be his anonymous hook-up for the night. One by one, the young men inexplicably turn up as dead bodies.
The film stars Elijah Canlas, Kokoy de Santos, Migs Almendras, Shu Calleja, and Kych Minemoto. It is produced by Alemberg Ang and Jade Castro; written by Petersen Vargas, Jade Francis Castro and Kaj Palanca; directed by Petersen Vargas who also recently helmed the BL series, Hello Stranger.