Jay directs ultimate gender film
Edgar O. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - August 9, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Capping a decade of directing seductive gender-driven films with warmth, insight and delicacy, Joselito “Jay” Altarejos did something beyond the box in Kasal (The Commitment), his official entry to the Directors Showcase of Cinemalaya X. It has a continuous scene of seven minutes of lovemaking. 

Kasal is a mature relationship story, albeit a gay one, that shows it is like heterosexual relationship, nothing different or shameful.

From the screenplay by Zig Dulay and Jay, Kasal is a slice-of-life drama of a gay couple, filmmaker Sherwin and lawyer Paolo, as conjured in this order by Arnold Reyes and Oliver Aquino with the intimacy of shared friends and wounds. Their resolve to stay together is challenged as they attend a wedding. It is also a candid observation and absorption on how an alternative couple navigates through the different institutions in the Philippine social system.

Jay subscribes to the Foundstory Filmmaking as propagated in the Philippines by master screenwriter/script supervisor/director Armando “Bing” Lao where everything is found. As such, all of Kasal’s scenes and elements are realistic that Jay disagrees to categorize Kasal as fiction.

“With frontal nudity, Kasal’s same-gender lovemaking is a crucial scene. The film dwells on the decay of a relationship and it is imperative that a couple of three years engages in intimate moments,” Jay explained.

To test his actors’ preparedness to this explicit content, he asked prospective players to act it out during auditions. “I eliminated a lot,” shared the director with an impeccable attention to details. But this was not the reason he had several backouts.

Principal photography met major hitches. Polo Ravales and Mike Liwag pulled out for different reasons. “But, everything was for the better. Arnold is a great replacement,” Jay explained.

How did he achieve such realism? “My actors had no inhibitions and they were into their characters. I explained to them what I wanted to feel and see. I just told them how male-to-male sex is done. They had to practice, choreographing it themselves. They did the scene superbly well,” Jay explained.

Jay had to shoot the same scene five times, even requiring to reshoot not only it but also the two days that were earlier videotaped due to the change of actors.

“Its treatment is conjunct. I covered the event happening before, during and after the love scene in one long take. I need it to be that long so that it wouldn’t titillate the audience but rather take it as ordinary happening bordering on it being a boring thing,” Jay shared.

In the final cut, he did not use different takes to “perfect” the scene. “I just used one take. No cuts, no cut-aways. I used Take 2 because I demanded more as I wanted it to be realistic and they gave it,” he clarified.

It turned so authentic that advance viewers asked if it is real or acted. “Arnold and Oliver impressed me; they did a truthful simulation,” Jay said.

Jay is used to X- and R-rated film classifications in a decade of directing full-length features from Ang Lalaki sa Parola to Unfriend. Ang Laro sa Buhay ni Juan got an X on its first review due to the sex club performance between two male characters. “But that scene was so tame compared to Kasal. The sex scene in Laro is just a performance; the one in Kasal is more realistic. Mukhang totoo talaga,” he evaluated.

The only exemption is Pink Halo-Halo, a film about a boy with developing female tendency, the son of soldier on R&R (rest and recreation), and which Jay intended to be a film for children. “It is my only film which is not R-rated,” he said with a hint of pride.

How he went scot-free in a country where film classification is strictly implemented is open fact. Screening at the CCP is censorship-free so it did not limit his creativity and freedom of expression. But Kasal will be necessarily a different cut at the Ayala cineplexes.

Completing the cast of Kasal are Rita Avila and Maureen Mauricio with some of the country’s best indie actors: Ruby Ruiz, Rener Concepcion, Ron Cieno, Ray-an Dulay, Sue Prado, Chloe Carpio, Kimmy Maclang, Lex Bonife, Luis Ruiz, Christine Florendo and Nats Sitoy.

Almost specializing in gender films that tackle relevant gay themes and issues, Jay is the only Filipino director who has pursued this with single-minded purpose. He disagreed that such accomplishment was determined by the so-called producer’s prerogative as co-financier of several of these films.

“My growth was not ‘determined’ by it but is somehow affected by it. But, the real growth is gauged by the filmmaker himself, by me,” Jay self-assessed.

“Viewers familiar with my filmography can see my growth as a filmmaker in Kasal. I contemplated on making it as my last gay-themed film,” Jay revealed. He stressed that he plans to make films on other relevant subjects.

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