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An Honest Review Of 'Baka Bukas' By A Straight Girl

Who else has a bit of a crush on Alex besides me?
PHOTO: Baka Bukas/Cinema One Originals

The Long Plot, Sans Spoilers:

Alex (Jasmine Curtis-Smith) is a 23-year-old lesbian writer-director-photographer-production designer-social media manager who is out to her family and friends—except for the best friend she's secretly in love with, a young actress named Jess (Louise delos Reyes). A turn of events ends up with Jess finding out that Alex is gay, and bristling at not having been told sooner. When Alex's true feelings for her are revealed, Jess begins to entertain the possibility of their attraction. Together, they explore this new dynamic, all while struggling to sustain their relationship on the down-low and realizing its impact on Jess' on-the-rise showbiz career.

The Honest Plot:

Baka Bukas is about a girl who falls in love with her best friend…of the same sex. In this one-two punch, Alex's feelings for Jess not only upsets their dynamic as friends, but causes Jess to question her own sexuality, too.


The Actors And Where You Last Saw Them:

Jasmine Curtis-Smith as Alex

You last saw her on the big screen as Pathy (yes, with an H) in another recent indie release, I'm Drunk, I Love You. Jas is no stranger to indie films; her first film two films in 2013 were the CineFilipino entry Puti and the Cinemalaya 2013 Best Film Transit, for which she won Best Supporting Actress.

Louise delos Reyes as Jess

She was in the 2017 film Mang Kepweng Returns, and was the lead actress in the GMA-7 soap Magkaibang Mundo which ran last year.

Kate Alejandrino as Kate

She is a TV, film, and stage actress who has appeared in the 2017 film Moonlight over Baler and on ABS-CBN's 2015 afternoon series Oh My G!

Gio Gahol as Julo

He is an actor and choreographer who has starred in the stage production 3 Stars and a Sun, has done choreography for Rak of Aegis, and is a regular cast member on the web series Forever Sucks, which also stars Jasmine-Curtis Smith.

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Nel Gomez as David

He is a theater actor and former MYX VJ who has appeared in the stage productions American Idiot, Shrek The Musical, and Piaf.

Did you know?

1. Baka Bukas is director Samantha Lee's first feature-length film.

2. Prior to its nationwide cinematic release, Baka Bukas was an entry to the Cinema One Originals 2016 independent film festival where it garnered three awards: Audience Choice, Best Actress for Jasmine Curtis-Smith, and Best Sound.

3. A lesbian herself, Samantha tells CNN Philippines, "I conceptualized the film because I wanted to see a representation of the LGBT community that went beyond the portrayals that are shown in mainstream media. The characters in this film are fully flawed functional human beings. They are more than just an accessory to the plot, they are the plot."

4. Baka Bukas was inspired by Samantha's own experience falling in love with a female friend, as revealed in this Philstar interview she does with Jasmine Curtis-Smith.

5. Baka Bukas has a mostly all-girl crew. Interaksyon.com reports Samantha as saying, "I've been asked this question a lot like why did you choose to have an all-girl crew or a mostly all-girl crew and I always answer, 'Why not?' I mean, it's about time we women dominate."

6. In this Team Mag article, Gio Gahol (who plays Julo) reveals that he is gay IRL, and Nel Gomez (who plays Julo's partner, David) reveals that he is straight.

7. Preview.ph reports that the TDF denim jacket Jasmine wears in the film is by Factory, a label founded by 20-year-old designer Fed Pua.

8. The song that Alex sings in the bathtub scene is Sponge Cola's "Gemini." Here, she gets coached by Sponge Cola frontman Yael Yuzon on how to sing the song:

What My Friends Think:

I watched the movie with two other straight female friends. We were pretty quiet throughout the entire screening, but here's one thing I distinctly remember a friend whisper just before Alex and Jess shared their first kiss: "Mag-ki-kiss talaga sila?"

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Just goes to show how unaccustomed regular viewers are to the sight of two girls kissing in a film—let alone a Filipino film, where depictions of taboo topics are much less likely to see the light of day.


What I Think:

There are a number of things I liked about Baka Bukas: the visuals are gorgeous, the musical scoring is flawless, the production design is on-point, the silences between the lead characters are heart-stopping, and who else has a bit of a crush on Alex—and her wardrobe—besides me?

There were parts I wasn't sold on, like snatches of cheesy dialogue, montages that felt more like a music video, and a fixation with millennial coolness that took away from the sincerity of the subject matter. And I would've liked to have felt more of a connection and a history between Alex and Jess, whose personalities were so different—Alex was a cynical creative while Jess was a chatty bombshell—it wasn't easy getting on board the idea that they were long-term best friends, let alone lovers.

But ultimately, I applaud the film for going where other films have not dared to go: For depicting lesbian relationships as a beautiful, tender bond between two people who deserve to love and be loved openly, despite their unconventional romantic choices. And the fact that it did so without pandering to the stereotype of the lesbian as a woman who looks and acts like a man is a bold statement that seems to say, "We're here, we're queer, get over it."

Here, some other thoughts I had while watching:

"Jasmine Curtis-Smith is so good in this. And so gorgeous, even without makeup."

"Wow, the hip millennial caricature is kind of insufferable. But then again, I'm one of them:  A multi-hyphenate wearing many hats, a social media slave judging people on their Instagram game, an aimless nomad always searching for the next place to go."

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"Jasmine Curtis-Smith is so good in this. And so gorgeous, even without makeup." 

“What's going on? I thought Alex was with Jess? Why is she holding hands with Kate again? What is she trying to do? If this is how millennials do relationships, maybe I don't belong in this generation, after all."

"Jasmine Curtis-Smith is so good in this. And so gorgeous, even without makeup."

"I want Samantha Lee to direct the montage of my life, with Denise Santos making the musical score. They'd probably make it prettier than it is."

"Jasmine Curtis-Smith is so good in this. And so gorgeous, even without makeup."

I'd Recommend It To:

Any millennial who wants to be part of the generation in which accurate LGBT representations in media are no longer taboo. The more audiences patronize films like Baka Bukas, the more that film companies will see that LGBT concerns don't have to be hush-hush secrets only fit for screening in edgy film fests, and the more inclusive of various sexual orientations and gender identities mainstream media will be.

We all have lesbian, gay, bi, or trans friends, and we don't think their relationships are less valid than ours just because they don't fall under the typical male-female dichotomy, do we? It's time we openly support them beyond just accepting them as friends and peers in our own circles, but by cheering them on as they chronicle the richness of their lives in media.

Catch Baka Bukas while it's still in theaters! Visit the film's Facebook page to find out where you can catch it.

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