Starring: Eddie Garcia, Rez Cortez, Bibeth Orteza
Director: Jun Lana
by Jovianne Figueroa
“Actually, I’ve never loved before. Not until now.”
It might come as a shock to the fans and lovers of the independent cinema to come across this one-of-a-kind film by Jun Robles Lana. As it detaches itself from the traditional formula of indie cinema, Bwakaw presents a slice of life, celebrating humor and drama – a diversion from the usual hard-hitting subjects, and an easy escape from the heavier and demanding themes of indie cinema.
Bwakaw, named after the dog in the film, is a story about a grumpy old gay who conducts himself in solitude, but actually finds people who want to reach out to him and let him partake in this thing he almost already forgot – life. As Rene works around – preparing for his death, buying his coffin, writing his last will, and waiting for his illness and old age to consume him – his outlook in life turns around with the people around him trying to make him see that there is more to his old age than waiting for death.
The film presents to its viewers the reality of aging and that sometimes, growing old alone and gay makes it a little bit harder. Eddie Garcia, who plays the lead Rene, successfully makes his audience feel the frustrations of having to deal with homosexuality and tight-financing at an age of 70 with almost no one but his trusted dog, Bwakaw.
Despite all the drama of aging and loneliness that Rene seems to face, the movie does not fail to bring laughter and shrieks of excitement to its viewers. One cannot simply not be fond of the deadpan wit of Rene, the humor of his gay friends, the sharp turn of events and of course, the lovable Bwakaw the dog. These characteristics make the film stand out among other independent film as it primaries on giving entertainment to its viewers, a feat which it successfully achieves.
In its Cinemalaya premiere on July, the film won the Audience Choice award and the Best Actor award for Eddie Garcia. It was also recognized as the Best Film by the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) Awards.
Not only has it been excelling locally, but also internationally. Bwakaw had its international premiere at 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, under the Contemporary World Cinema section. The film also garnered a citation from Time Magazine as “one of the Top 10 Films to watch in the New York Film Festival,” one of the most prestigious film festivals acknowledged globally.
Bwakaw has indeed received many positive reviews that it has been chosen to represent the country at the 85th Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
At the end of the film, the filmmaker dedicates his masterpiece to his late mentor, Rene Villanueva, the person whom the lead actor is name after. In an interview with Agence France-Presse, he said: “I wrote it [Bwakaw] to honor my mentor so I wanted it to be a celebration of
life. In order to balance the tone, it was important for me to include a lot of humor in the storytelling.”
Partnered with the outstanding cinematography and a star-studded casting, Bwakaw surely would keep its viewers comfortable but interested, amused but teary-eyed, and gripping at the edge of their seats as Rene delivers his line, “Actually, I’ve never loved before. Not until now.”