a film by Auraeus Solito
2005 | 98 mins | Philippines
›› The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros - Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros
a heartwarming variation on the first-love scenario
The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros by Auraeus Solito This hugely entertaining atypical coming-of-age story showcases the life of cross-dressing twelve-year-old Maximo Oliveros; Maxi to his friends and seemingly surrogate mother to his two older brothers and widowed father, being devoted as much to cooking and cleaning for them, as he is to looking pretty in true Miss Universe style. Yet such overt signs of effeminacy do not trouble his family. What does however is his growing teenage crush on Victor, the new cop on the block.

Then again, is this any surprise, given Maxi's father is doing a roaring trade in mobile phones of the 'used' variety, whilst his brothers have their own ways of earning a dishonest living. Only when one of them breaks the foundation of the human rights act, namely the right to life itself, Maxi's world is turned upside down, as he is forced to choose between his loyalty to his family and his devotion to a man determined to enforce the law and along the way, teach him the Christian right from wrong. It is a situation in which sooner or later, someone or something has to give.

The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros by Auraeus Solito In Filipino and Tagalog with sparse English dialogue, this uplifting tale from first-time director Auraeus Solito went on to receive the 2006 Teddy Award at the Berlin Film Festival, together with major worldwide acclaim. And it is not difficult to see why. For this is a heartwarming variation on the first-love scenario, one whose emotional conflict of loyalties pull at the heartstrings thanks to a remarkable performance from Nathan Lopez as Maximo, one that perfectly captures the innocence of youth forced to give way to the brutal reality of the adult world. It is a portrayal that steals the spotlight from a fine supporting cast, including JR Valentin as Maximo's object of infatuation and a man who like those he wishes to apprehend, devotes himself to Maxi's well-being.

Clearly filmed on a tight budget, the result is at times a little on the raw side. Yet such in many ways is a bonus, given this work is packed with real people unaware that they are in a film, as handheld cameras record the day-to-day reality of life in the Philippines. It is a reality that is dominated by income inequality, forcing many to choose between a life of illegal easy money or a pittance of a legal salary that barely pays for the food on the table, let alone health care that few in this part of the world can afford.

That Maxi's father never forgave himself over the death of his wife, having been unable to pay the crippling cost of the medical care that would have aided her final days, is undoubtedly what drove him to a life of crime. And yet you do not take home from this film a portrait of a man whose criminal background hides his desperation to raise his family above the slums of Manila. Rather you are left with a picture of a family who are clearly at ease with sexual diversity, even to the point of being over protective of their 'little sister' whose infectious smile and upbeat view of life will stay with you long after the end credits have rolled. And that is a picture, well worth remembering.
screened as part of the 21st London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival 2007
available on DVD as part of the Peccadillo Pictures catalogue
starring: Nathan Lopez, JR Valentin, Soliman Cruz, Neil Ryan Sese, Ping Medina, Bodjie Pascua
cameo appearance by the films composer Joey Pepe Smith as The Piano Man
Copyright 2007 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #132
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