Mar 2, 2013

The Blossoming of Maximo Olivares

The Philippines has produced a surprising number of gay-themed films, perhaps more than any other country outside the U.S.  The Internet Movie Database lists over 100, dating back to 1954.  Many are available in the U.S.: Macho Dancer (1988), Sibak (1994), Burlesk King (1999), The Blossoming of Maximo Olivares (2005), and Twilight Dancers (2006).

Maximo Olivares transcends the Euro-American model of gay teen movies, in which: 1. The teen believes that there are no other gay people in the universe; 2. Everyone is horrifically homophobic; 3. Everyone is horribly depressed.

Maxi (Nathan Lopez) is a 12-year old gay boy living in the slums of Manila with his father and brothers, who are thieves.  He actually behaves more like the Filipino third gender, bakla or "ladyboy": he has feminine mannerisms, wears makeup and jewelry, takes on feminine-coded jobs like cooking and childcare, and calls himself a "girl."  But who cares how he's defined when his family and friends are perfectly accepting, and Maxi is perfectly at home in his world?

When Maxi gets s a crush on Victor (J.R. Valentin), the police officer assigned to investigate his father, Victor responds as any adult would to a flirtatious 12-year old: he is flattered by the attention, and tries to nurture and big-brother the boy, but he resists or ignores Maxi's attempts to frame himself as a "girlfriend."

But then Maxi begins showing up at work, causing teasing and taunts from Victor's fellow officers, and Maxi's Dad (Ping Medina) thinks that Victor has been sleeping with him, so Victor backs off.  Maxi is devastated.

Events take a tragic turn when Victor's boss kills Maxi's Dad.  Later Victor tries to renew the friendship, but Maxi ignores him and walks off alone.

Nathan Lopez, who is actually heterosexual in real life, also played a gay teen in the Filipino soap opera Sana Maulit Muli (2007), and currently stars in the soap Be Careful with My Heart.  JR Valentin got his start as a model, and was named winner of the Bodyshots modeling competition in 2000.   He has appeared in several movies and tv programs in the Philippines.

The Blossoming of Maximo Olivares is #8 on my list of 10 Gay Movies I Loved.