Time can add a revealing perspective to the most consuming of projects, as Filipino film director Kanakan Balintagos discovered in the months after completing work on The Blossoming Of Maximo Oliveros.
After the film was completed on location in his own Manila neighbourhood, Balintagos realised how much the story actually reflected elements of his own childhood.
The story tells of Maxi, a 12-year-old gay boy, living with his small-time criminal father and brothers in an apartment in a Manila slum.
The happy dynamic within the home, however, is unsettled when Maxi becomes infatuated with a muscular young police officer, who is determined to rid the area of corruption.
I think it is every gay boy’s fantasy, especially in the Philippines, to fall in love with a policeman and his image of machismo, Balintagos said.
I know I was certainly in that situation, and it was only after doing the film I realised I was very similar to the boy. My first love was with my cadet officer when I was about 14. I was in the training for the cadets and I had this big crush on my officer. I was pretty queenie around this age too and always had to tone it down. It was crazy, he said.
The Blossoming Of Maximo Oliveros, is the opening film of the Message Sticks Indigenous Film Festival, and deals with what initially appears to be a controversial subject -“ the awakening of sexual desires of a pre-teen boy.
While the film is not sexually graphic in any way, it shows the growing feelings and attraction the young boy has for the older man.
But instead of being met with the usual outcry from conservatives, The Blossoming Of Maximo Oliveros has been showered with acclaim and international film awards, including the Teddy Award for best queer feature film and Children’s Jury Special Mention at the recent Berlin International Film Festival.
It never crossed my mind it was a bad thing or taboo, he says. It is about a boy awakening to his own sexuality, and he is the one attracted to the older man.
I always wanted to make a progressive gay film. In Berlin, during the film festival section for children, one woman asked why the film was being shown to children as she was shocked by it. I then asked the kids who were there if anyone was shocked. One boy stood up and said, -˜No, it is cool.’ With that, the rest of the kids applauded. I then said if one gay child in this audience realises it is beautiful to be himself, then I am a fulfilled filmmaker.
The Blossoming Of Maximo Oliveros screens as part of the Message Sticks Indigenous Film festival on the opening night on Friday 12 May at 8pm and Saturday 13 May at 7:30pm, followed by an Artist Talk with Balintagos after the film. Bookings on 9250 7777.