Monday, June 25, 2007

Ang Tatay Kong Nanay (1978)



Ang Tatay Kong Nanay (Lino Brocka, 1978)
English Title: My Father, My Mother

Lino Brocka's Ang Tatay Kong Nanay (My Father, My Mother) is such a delightful film. Sure, it engrosses itself with several melodramatic turns and its representation of homosexuality is limited to the loud transvestite types. However, there's something about the film that strikes you as adamantly sincere (as compared to popcorn fare like Mrs. Doubtfire (Chris Columbus, 1993) or other gender-bender tearjerkers released lately).

During its closing sequences wherein Coring (played with a pitch-perfect sense of both comedy and drama by Dolphy), dressed as Ms. Spain in a low-budget gay-version of an international beauty pageant (again, a testament to Philippine ingenuity), answers a question by the pageant host. Brocka's camera then lingers to Dolphy's exaggeratedly painted face; and Dolphy owns the close-up, delivering his lines with subtle emotionality and tender grace. His manner of answering felt like his character bore the aches of the entire Philippine gay community on his shoulders, and you can easily feel for him. Just when you are drawn to his character's poignant soliloquy, Dolphy snaps out of the mood with a joke, and you laugh, although still teary-eyed.

The plot itself is nothing special. Coring, a gay beautician, is left with a baby by his former ward, Dennis (Philip Salvador). The baby grows up (the boy is played by a very young Niño Muhlach) thinking that Coring is his real father. Everything seems to be smooth until the kid's mother (Marissa Delgado) suddenly shows up to claim her son.

What's special is how Brocka and writer Orlando Nadres pumped up the story with themes dealing with the difficulty and sensitivity in the rearing of a boy by a gay parent. There's a detailed attention on how Coring tries to shield the boy from his homosexuality. A touching sequence shows the boy using Coring's lipstick on himself so he looks like the Indian from a picture book. When Coring sees the boy using lipstick on himself, he scolds the boy out of fear of him turning into a homosexual. When the boy explains that he was only trying to emulate the Indian from the picture book, Coring's fears are waived and he lovingly hugs the boy.

It is that underlying theme that ultimately unites the film, more than the tearjerking story. There are two scenes in the film that adequately resolves the issue of identity. The first one is when the boy catches his father donning a dress in a fashion show. He point-blank asks Coring whether or not he is ashamed of the way he looks. Coring, before answering, wipes the make-up from his face and removes the wig from his head, and gives a reliable excuse. The ending of the film offers a similar scenario. The boy again catches Coring, who just got home from a beauty contest. There were no more questions asked and Coring didn't even bother removing the make-up from his face or the wig from his head; they just hugged. The bonds of fatherhood withstood the demands of society or Coring's own shame of showing himself as a homosexual in front of his adopted son.

This makes the film, with all its stereotypes and conventional narrative arcs, as timely now, as it was decades ago when it was released. It is a gay-themed film that is ultimately rewarding beyond its genre. It preaches acceptance, not mere tolerance. It proposes homosexuality as a non-issue in parental love and affection. Straight or gay, there's something to be gained from watching the film --- a handful of chuckles, a cupful of tears, and most importantly, a whole lot of heart.

8 comments:

RSE said...

I´ve seen this movie in a local TV channel when I was still very young and remember to have really liked it. I hope that they release this on dvd someday. I'd like to revisit it.

Oggs Cruz said...

Hopefully Mark Meily's remake would arouse enough interest for Unitel to give this a decent DVD release.

dodo dayao said...

Hi oggs. I've heard about Mark remaking this. With Michael V,right?

That's worrying.

Michael V's a hoot when he's doing comedy but is it me or doesn't he start to grate when he comes on all serious?

Some people are meant to stay funny, I think.

Oggs Cruz said...

Yup, reportedly with Michael V. I've never seen him do drama, but I'll give him a shot (although he's filling in huge shoes). My only fear is that he might overdo the gay scenes and be unable to balance the comedic and dramatic moments (which Dolphy did flawlessly). I have faith in Meily.

Brian said...

This plot sounds very similar to one a Filipina co-worker was describing today. But I assumed she was talking about a more contemporary film. Are gay parent films common in your country?

Oggs Cruz said...

Hi Brian,

I don't think gay parent films are common enough to be treated as a subgenre in the Philippines. However, there are a few films which do touch on the subject (Joel Lamangan's "I Will Survive" has a subplot involving a gay police officer who has trouble coming out to his adopted son; Lamangan's "So Happy Together" has a gay guy playing surrogate father to his best friend's daughter). I think the subject has become commonplace in Philippine cinema because non-judicial adoption has become a norm here. Most homosexuals would adopt cousins, nephews, nieces, etc. to accompany them to their old age. I have to research about other Filipino gay parent films but Brocka's "Ang Tatay Kong Nanay" is probably the best of the bunch.

zordevan said...

I love your review of this movie. I also remembered watching this in a local TV a few years back and yes, I fell in love with it. I think this is Dolphy's best performance as a gay man.

zordevan said...

Hi Oggs.

I can't find a way to contact you as your email address isn't available here so I figured I'll send you a message on the comment form. I just started a little blog of my own and I'm currently writing an article on Dolphy. We all know now that the ol' man just passed away and I decided to write something about him, highlighting his contribution to the gay community.

Anyway, I would like to quote your review of Ang Tatay Kong Nanay which I absolutely love. I hope it's okay if I'll refer to this particular review quoting on the second paragraph.

Love to hear back from you if you'll give me a go or a no (hope it's a go). You can reach me at zordevan@gmail.com

Cheers mate :-)