Cinemalaya winner courts mainstream audiences | Inquirer Entertainment

Cinemalaya winner courts mainstream audiences

/ 12:06 AM February 18, 2015

JOSELITO “Jay” Altarejos

JOSELITO “Jay” Altarejos

An antiromance film during the love month? Talk about defiance. In true indie spirit, Joselito “Jay” Altarejos’ releases his Cinemalaya winner “Kasal” in theaters this week. “It’s not just about love; it’s about relationships,” he tells the Inquirer.

Specifically, it’s about betrayal and loss—not exactly the most conventional way to court cineplex audiences. But Altarejos was never known for sticking to conventions.


He admits that he is at once “excited and apprehensive” about the theatrical run, which starts today.


“I [can’t wait] to see how audiences outside Cinemalaya will react to it,” he explains. “But I am also daunted because we don’t have the machinery and resources to promote it.”

Although “Kasal,” which won best film in the Directors’ Showcase section of last August’s Cinemalaya fest, is not the typical Valentine-week date movie, it is timely in light of ongoing debates on same-sex unions.


Says Altarejos: “My film asks: What is commitment? Do we need marriage? Do we need same-sex marriage? It presents all sides. It’s meant to engage audiences in a conversation … if not, in a debate.”

“Kasal,” he says, is a bookend in his series of pink films that tackles various gay issues and concerns—among them, the search for identity (“Ang Lalake sa Parola”), quest for acceptance (“Ang Lihim ni Antonio”), struggle to rise above poverty (“Ang Laro sa Buhay ni Juan”) and coming of age (“Pink Halo-Halo”).

Like “Kasal,” “Unfriend,” shown at the Berlinale last year, is also about “infidelity and heartbreak,” he says.


Shedding light on gay lives is important, he asserts. “We have to tell our story. People should realize that our struggles in maintaining a relationship are just like other people’s; that we are fighting not just for gay rights, but for human rights; and that a society that does not grant its members equal rights and opportunities is not truly democratic or free.”

With freedom comes responsibility and Altarejos is keenly aware that some gay films in the past were deemed by critics as exploitative flesh feasts.

“Eight years ago, there were lots of pink films in the market,” he recalls. “We had regular screenings in malls. Then, the quality deteriorated. The genre was exploited without regard for long-term effects. Now, we are wooing the audience again.”


He acknowledges, in a bittersweet tone, “Acceptance of gay cinema in our country is as ambivalent as the acceptance of homosexuals and homosexuality in general.”

To make sure that his message is not compromised by commercialism, he asks himself four questions before embarking on a project: “What is the story? How am I going to tell this story? What do I want to say? Why am I making this film?” In the end, he says, he wishes only to present gay characters in a “real and realistic” way.

“Kasal,” which chronicles the slow and somber unraveling of a passionate gay affair, is a “fitting climax” to his series of pink films.

“Now, I am ready to tackle other stories,” he says.

He recently wrapped up work on “Death by Gokkun,” under the partnership of producers Brillante Ma. Mendoza and Solar Entertainment. “Death” focuses on sex workers who are forced to do something that wasn’t part of the deal.

Who knows?

“It’s not included in Brillante and Solar’s Sinag Maynila fest, though,” he says. “I will start shooting another film, on domestic abuse, next month. Hopefully, I’ll get to do a mainstream love story. Who knows?”

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He directed the TV5 soap “Obsession” and is one of the directors of the “Wattpad” series.

TAGS: Cinemalaya, Indie Films, Jay Altarejos, Movies

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