If the 1991 Hollywood movie Thelma & Louise was fierce, the Filipino comedy film Si Chedeng at si Apple (Chedeng and Apple), which runs on a similar plotline, is fiercer and whimsical too. The film hit the right note during the ongoing Bangalore Queer Film Festival (BQFF), where it was screened on Friday.
Chedeng and Apple revolves around two women - peas in a pod, witty, vivacious, spirited - who set off on an action-packed journey. The titular characters, played by Gloria Diaz and Elizabeth Oropesa respectively, are in their 60s. Chedeng's husband has passed away, while Apple has just murdered her abusive husband after he burnt her thighs with a singed knife.
While one might wonder where the plot is headed, Chedeng reveals a long-hidden truth, which sets the direction: "I'm a lesbian," she announces at the funeral of her husband.
While her sons dissect their 66-year-old mother's announcement, one among the three - an intelligent approach by the writers - explains the often misconceived definitions of gender identities and sexuality. āThere's no age limit for coming out. The world is not going to fall into pieces,ā the son, who is gay, bursts the bubble for his confounded siblings.
Chedeng shares with her confidante Apple that she is heading to Cebu (in the Philippines) in search of her long-lost, former girlfriend, Lydia, whom she had abandoned for a āsafeā heterosexual life. With the severed head of Appleās husband in a Louis Vuitton bag - an important prop in the film - the two friends set off on the journey sans any luggage or au revoir.
The next few days of their journey are filled with goof-ups, verbal sparring and uncertainties: from Chedeng encountering an imposter to Apple stepping in excreta, having a one-night stand with a 28-year-old man and even getting jailed for a night.
Their adventure involves numerous trips in public buses, a boat and even riding triples on a two-wheeler.
While many have compared this 2017 Filipino film to the popular road movie Thelma & Louise, what gives the former a distinction is its dialogues - lines that set off uncontrollable peals of laughter and giggles, inspire āawwā moments and throw the viewers into brief yet deep thoughts. There is never a dull moment throughout the 1.5 hours of the film, so much so that the minor lapses in editing and cinematography (lack of focus in certain scenes, for instance) get easily obscured.
The quality of storytelling comes as no surprise considering it is directed by two screenwriters - Rae Red and Fatrick Tabada.
Fatrick, who is the co-screenwriter of the 2016 comedy hit Filipino movie Jesus Is Dead, adopted similar story elements when he wrote Chedeng and Apple - a road journey and finding someone long-lost. Rae Red co-wrote the 2016 Philippine coming-of-age thriller, Birdshot (streaming on Netflix). Chedeng and Apple is the directorial debut (in a feature film) of the duo, and they've succeeded in adding to the discourse of the rights and welfare of the LGBTQIA+ community in the Philippines.
The film has travelled to film festivals in many countries, and has received special mentions as well.
The 10th edition of Bangalore Queer Film Festival (BQFF) features films, short films, documentaries, art exhibitions, performances and panel discussions, all celebrating love and life, united. BQFF is on till August 4, Sunday, at Goethe-Institut Max Mueller Bhavan, Indiranagar, Bengaluru.
For the BQFF schedule, click here.