Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros

The World Film Festival has started slow – some days I’m not even watching a single movie – but it is picking up.  Yesterday I caught a Thai independent film called Sanctuary Rhapsody by director Supucksarun Sumonnapraprad.  The description was as follows:

A girl tries to enter the world of men, but it’s a world she doesn’t understand and has little feeling for.

What it ended up being was a poorly-made film from a technical, narrative, and aesthetic regard.  It was essentially long shots of a girl lying around the house, doing laundry and other chores, intercut with various conversations in which one man, or that man and his friend, or just the friend, would sit at a small restaurant and talk – or not talk – as the hand-held camera bobbed around like a home video.  Minimal dialogue, no story line, no point of confrontation nor resolution.  And the whole thing looked like crap.  If you’re going to make a film, even an inexpensive one shot on digital video, first spend some time watching well-made movies and observing how the film is put together.

Anyhow, yesterday’s second movie was much better:

Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros.

Maximo 2 Like a flower growing from a crack in a slum sidewalk, twelve-year old Maximo (played by talented newcomer Nathan Lopez) is very gay in a very not-gay place: the gritty shanty town on the outskirts of Manila.   Hanging out with his friends, producing campy Miss Universe drag shows, and enduring the occassional taunts from bullies, Maxi is more accepted than not, despite his incongruousness.

At home, where a shrine to his mother sits in a corner, Maxi plays doting mother figure to his father and two brothers, all of whom are petty criminals.  Surprisingly, they are not only tolerant but are very loving of him, teasing him from time to time but accepting him for who and what he is.  (Left: Maxi with one of his brothers)

Maximo 5 Things change when a handsome new policeman (JR Valentin) rescues Maxi when he is being attacked one night, taking him back to his house.  The cop becomes a love interest who takes Maxi’s attention with tremendous patience, despite some teasing from the boys down at the station. 

As a corrupt police chief is forced to retire and replaced, the cop is eager to help the new chief tackle the local crime problem, having a very clear-cut sense of right and wrong.  Trying to set Maxi on a path away from the crime his family is engaged in, the cop tries to get Maxi to rat on his brother, who commits a murder. 

Maximo 7 Ultimately, Maxi is caught in the middle when his family seeks vengence against the squeaky-clean cop and then the police retaliate.

The movie is handled in a loving way, not over-wrought, not over-acted.  Director Auraeus Solito’s debut addresses what might otherwise be a taboo subject – the love of a pre-teen for an adult – in a very sensitive way.  Well-constructed and well-acted, the film grows like that flower in the sidewalk’s crack, becoming so much more than one might expect. 


3 thoughts on “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros

  1. Good day! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after going through some of the posts
    I realized it’s new to me. Nonetheless, I’m certainly pleased I discovered it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back often!

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