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June 02, 2008

Soft Hearts

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Pusong Mamon
Joel Lamangan and Eric Quizon - 1998
Water Bearer Films DVD

Even though the Denver Public Library has a fairly amazing collection of DVDs, plus some interesting titles that I could download were I the owner of a PC, the collection is far from perfect. I may need to encourage someone there to check out Noel Vera's list of 100 great Filipino films. Because it was was one of the two Filipino titles in the DPL collection, I checked out Soft Hearts. The other Filipino film, by the way, is Cavite.

Annie, who works in a call center, longs for the seemingly unobtainable Ron. After a party for the employees, Annie as a close encounter with the extremely drunken Ron. Discovering herself pregnant, Annie goes to Ron only to discover that he has a well established relationship with Nick. Soft Hearts is the kind of resolutely "We are family" kind of film that frequently appears at film festivals. Rather than provoke any kind of discussion, Soft Heart exists primarily to preach to the choir. There is little in Soft Hearts that will be a surprise to an audience, whether it's the ex-military father whose own heart softens, the wacky aunt who dresses flamboyantly, or the boss with a secret of his own.


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What I did find interesting was the ways in which Catholic ritual was used in a scene of a baby's baptism, where a confused priest initially seeks the mother of the child adopted by a gay couple. There is also a gay wedding conducted by a rogue priest. While a ladyboy appears briefly, primarily to motivate the film's one homophobic character reason to brag about beating up faggots, lesbians are mentioned but not seen. Bisexuality is beyond comprehension save for a few kisses. Unlike The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros, the Philippines of Soft Heart is very middle-class and very comfortable. Only in one small way did Soft Hearts surprise me. In a film about Filipinos with dialogue in Tagalog and some English was a Yiddish word used in the subtitles that struck me as totally unexpected. Even a reference to borscht in a Hong Kong movie seemed less odd. I did some research and found that the Jewish population of the Philippines is about 500 people. Could a Yiddish word escape into the popular lexicon? Or as the old Disney song goes, it's a small world after all.

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Posted by peter at June 2, 2008 12:09 AM