- Young Director Yong Tapang Jr. Bravely Tackles the HIV/AIDS Scourge
- Challenge’s your perceptions and aims to inspire viewers to think critically about HIV, AIDS, and their impact on society
- LGBT struggles that is stirring controversy, debate and calls to action
In the national news nowadays, the LGBT struggle is stirring controversy, debate and calls to action.
There’s still so much more work to do in terms of education, understanding and acceptance.
Budding filmmaker Yong Tapang Jr. bravely delves into another aspect of that struggle—the resurgence of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Philippines amid the confusion of what SOGIE (sexual orientation and gender identity and expression) is.
In his short film, Doon sa Isang Sulok, Tapang tackles the depths of the HIV and SOGIE issues.
“The film is about a struggle a person living with HIV (PLHIV) is dealing with. But more than the story of the PLHIV, it is about a group of friends whose friendship is being tested by such a shocking revelation. It mirrors how a society talks about different perspectives on LGBT issues, religion, sexism, women’s rights and politics all in the backdrop of an engagement party,” Tapang explains.
The subject matter is part of Cinespectra Film Festival’s efforts in awareness-building for HIV and SOGIE and using the powerful tool of filmmaking to engage the people, especially the younger generation, on HIV issues.
CineSpectra 2019: A Film Festival for HIV/AIDS Awareness, as per its web site, has been created as a vehicle to foster a deeper, human rights-based understanding of HIV/AIDS and therefore a wider public appreciation of this epidemic not just as a public-health issue, but in the context of the greater human experience, through film and/or A/V production/short films as well as to consistently foster film appreciation and film screening programs for audience development.
Cinespectra welcomes partnerships with Film Development Council of the Philippines, EON, Love Yourself the and Directors’ Guild of the Philippines Inc..
“The particular story is based on a personal experience on homophobia among close friends. I was also inspired by the idea of our own struggles in acceptance, regardless of the issues we’re facing, that there’s always going to be struggles in every acceptance we are seeking,” Tapang says.
“It was very helpful that Cinespectra Film Festival was able to conduct HIV and SOGIE Awareness workshops and sessions for us to fully understand such issues and different causes before we developed and eventually produced our material for this film festival. As part of the LGBTQIA ++ Community, I thought I already knew everything. Understanding and being part of the spectrum is another process.”
Tapang honed his directing skils in the theater and is now just trying to navigate the waters of filmmaking, having been greatly influenced by Ishmael Bernal, Lino Brocka, Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, and the Mexicans Alfonso Cuarón, Alejandro González Iñárritu and Guillermo del Torro.
“I didn’t have a formal study in filmmaking but back in college (AB Mass Communication in Broadcasting), I used some of my classes as my training ground. I wish to attend Ricky Lee’s scriptwriting workshop to fully hone my style in writing and storytelling,” he says.
Tapang enlisted the help of his theater and television friends to help him realize his vision.
“The characters are loosely based on people that I know or I encountered one way or another. As a director for the theater, I usually create character sketches that I want to paint. As I was planning to produce an ensemble film, each characters have their own back stories that eventually helped the actors understand what role they are playing,” he says.
“Most of the characters I wrote with my actors already in mind. Luckily, all of them were available on the target shooting date that I didn’t have to think of other actors to play them.”
The film is semi-autobiographical: “I can say that as a writer, I put some of my personal experiences in the characters I wrote. But if I have to identify myself with one (or two), it would probably be the characters of Benj Manalo (Alex) and Nar Cabico (Mikoy) as far as being a friend is concerned in the midst of a friend’s struggles in life. I especially love the characters of the two waiters (actor Jerald Napoles and singer-songwriter Zsaris Mendioro) because sometimes I like being in the background, with an outside-looking in perspective in any given situation.”
Any LGBT artist knows that it’s very difficult to fight homophobia, paranaoia and indifference.
But Tapang hopes that with Doon Sa Isang Sulok, a glimmer of hope will spring forth.
“I really hope the film will open more discussions on HIV issues, especially on our road to acceptance. I also hope that as a society, we become more sex positive for us to open the discourse on different angles of HIV issues,” Tapang says.
“During filmmaking, I envisioned that the younger demographs (15-24 years old) will be able to watch and understand it. But at the same time, I want the LGBTQIA Community as the major audience of the film, since I really want to champion the community with the right representation which the mainstream media is lacking.”