Five films for freedom

Showing solidarity with LGBTQIA+ communities

Upon the boost of the British Council Philippines in partnership with the BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival, we got to see the newest edition of Five Films for Freedom directed by filmmakers coming from Cyprus, the UK, Guyana, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, and South Korea.

The goal of the online and in-person screenings at the Cinematheque Center Manila, Iloilo, Davao, Zamboanga, Nabunturan, and Negros is to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual rights through the short films.

The global digital LGBTQIA+ campaign starts with All I Know, directed by Nigeria-born Obinna Robert Onyeri. Good friends Ebube and Dapo meet up for dinner to catch up. Dapo gets the bill without touching his food. When Ebube questions him, Dapo replies, “Oh, this is a sacrifice I am paying for tonight’s pleasure.”

He hooks up with an online date, never to be found again. This made Dapo’s mother search for her son with Ebube trying not to reveal his shared secret about his best friend.

Stills from 'All I Know,' Butch Up!,' 'Just Johnny,' and 'Buffer Zone'

In Buffer Zone, music brought together two youthful Cypriot soldiers as they man the enemy lines—one is Greek while the other is Turkish. Directed by Savvas Stavrou who is a Sundance Institute Lab alumnus, the playful film makes you sing as the opposing soldiers struggle with their identities in a male-dominated, testosterone-filled army.

Running Up That Hill, written and produced by British singer Kate Bush, will give you the Last Song Syndrome (LSS).

Korean You-Jiin Lee directs Butch Up!, where Hoon, an indie band singer is having a hard time performing the band’s only hit, “Oppa’s Girls,” as it was her ex’s last words to her. She is not considered a “hot” girl in society’s standards so she quits the band and tries to sing alone on the streets. Chaechae, a transwoman, sees her perform and invites her to join a queer band.

Eating Papaw on the Seashore, directed by Rae Wiltshire and Nickose Layne, is a sensitive coming-of-age story of two Guyanese boys, Asim and Hasani, as they discover their feelings toward one another in a society where homosexuality is criminalized. They hide off at the beach during night time to steal a kiss or to make love, away from the harsh eyes of their community where “people talk.” When Hasani decides to break off the relationship, Asim asks him, “Is that what you want?” There is a long silence then Hasana replies, “It would be just easier.” Asim’s dad is sending him to Trinidad for work. Will there be a happy ending for these two young lovers living in a homophobic society?

Our favorite short film comes from Northern Ireland, Just Johnny, directed by Terry Loane and written by Gerard McCarthy. Johnny wears a princess dress at school as dad Dermot picks him up. The family is in a crisis as Johnny decides to wear a dress for his Holy Communion. Mom Maria is very supportive of her son. “I want him to grow up the gayest man on the planet,” she says. But the holy teachings of the church say otherwise. Dermot gets his son a suit to protect him from becoming the laughingstock. It is the saddest day for Johnny. After his Holy Communion, he retreats to his room alone.  “You don’t get to pick the bits of him you’re proud of and the bits you’re not,” says Maria to her husband. “Either love him unconditionally or you don’t love him at all.” Dermot begins to change his outlook and joins his son in a cross-dressing disco activity at school dancing to the tune, “We Are Family.”

Love is indeed a human right, especially for all LGBTQIA+ communities, where freedom and equal rights are meager. Over the last nine years, Five Films For Freedom has been viewed by over 20 million people, in more than 200 countries.

“Tonight’s film showing is part of one of our many activities for our 45th anniversary this year,” says Lotus Postrado, country director at British Council Philippines. “The British Council Philippines is now 45 years old, over four decades of supporting the UK and Philippine collaborations.”