London Film Festival 2006: Day 14

Our diarist heads for the ghettos of Manila, courtesy of The Blossoming Of Maximo Oliveras.

by Paul Griffiths

Nathan Lopez in The Blossoming Of Maximo Oliveras

Nathan Lopez in The Blossoming Of Maximo Oliveras

From Slumming it in Vienna last night to the ghetto slums of Manila in the Philippines this evening. The weather may have taken a turn for the chilly outside (well, it is Halloween) but the The Blossoming Maximo of Oliveros kept things warm inside the National Film Theatre. Not getting into Shane Meadow’s This Is England had left me smarting, but this ultra-low budget debut from director Auraeus Solito certainly made amends.

It is one of several recent films from the Philippines to have registered successfully on the international radar. Having picked up a clutch of awards already, most notably at the Berlin Film Festival, Solito's debut feature is now up for another two here in London – the 9th FIPRESCI International Critics Award and the Sutherland Trophy. It is genuinely moving and funny, focusing on the vivacious cross-dressing 12-year-old Maximo as he is drawn to his first gay love, a policeman.

Afterwards Solito spoke briefly about personal the film was to him.

“I shot it in the street where I grew up and still live,” he said. “I can remember when I was 13 then and the first person I fell in love with was my officer from military training.”

So how much autobiographical truth is in the film for him?

“The text is fiction, the silences are true! I had a realisation at that time of my life, that I was a ‘queen’ then.

“In fact, my high school phoned my mother and said ‘he is too much of a queen’! I had to tone it down, become more butch to get my first boyfriend.”

In the film Maximo cross-dresses frequently and is similarly extrovertly feminine. The lead performance from Nathan Lopez is remarkable and gradually completely outweighs the adults around him as the film goes on. Without it Solito’s film would certainly be a lesser piece. I wondered how difficult it had been to cast for the role.

“We auditioned about 100 boys. We went on the streets to find a real gay boy. However, some just really over-acted – too many soap operas, I think,”

“Eventually there were these two ‘hip hop’ twins who were auditioning for another film. We asked them if they could act feminine. One was more feminine than the other, and he (Lopez) was just perfect.”

Highlights: No latecomers to get in the way of the subtitles this time.

The middle-aged man on the tube meticulously fixing a well designed placard to the front of his hat, which read: “There’s nothing wrong with Veronica”. Good for the both of them.

Lowlight: And now, the end is near. Bugger.

NB. Both the LFF awards winners will be announced at the Closing Night Gala on November 2.

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