What’s a festival without some controversy and this year’s Cinema One Originals Film Festival 2019 has had its share with one of its competing films Metamorphosis by J.E. Tiglao. The film enjoyed the free publicity due to it’s X-rating by the MTRCB. The trailer does not say much about the film but its log line goes as such: A coming-of-age story about Adam, a 14-year old kid who was born with both male and female genitals. With such an undeniably thought-provoking premise, the film is a precious addition to this year’s festival roster—winning Best Director (JE Tiglao), Best Cinematography, Best Sound, Best Actor (Gold Azeron), and Best Supporting Actress (Iana Bernardez).
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The casting of the lead—Gold Azeron as the transsexual teen Adam is spot on special thanks to his beautiful androgynous features. He actually looks like a male version of K.D. Lang—a lesbian pop icon from the 90s—with the flawless balance of softness in his features and a brute aura about him. Armed with a natural innocence of teenage youth, his pretty face is matched with the befitting acting chops the role needed, making him a perfect fit for the lead. +4
Being a story about misfits, Adam who from the start felt like an outcast, finds comfort in his overaged classmate Angel (Iana Bernardez), who then once again shines on the screen after starring in Dwein Baltazar’s critically-acclaimed Gusto Kita With All My Hypothalamus. She showcases a different side of her this time as the sensual barrio siren whom Adam is drawn to. +2
Of course, Adam’s feminine side has to be addresed, hence the introduction into the film of the gorgeous Fil-Am doctor played by Ivan Padilla. Some instances though seem like an homage to Call Me By Your Name but again, it had to be addressed. Now, Adam has to choose which side of his sexuality matters more to him. Or does he? Or she? +1
The highlight of the film for me is Adam’s sexual awakening as he accepts the duality of his/her sexuality through self-gratification. It makes use of the character’s reflection to further accentuate the dichotomy of his persona ending with a glorious orgasm. This may all sound too sexual, but the scene is handled very tastefully which should never have merited its previous X-rating from the MTRCB. since it was an essential turning point in the film. It’s definitely good publicity, thanks to those board members who rated it as such. +4
Plot wise, the story is quite well-written with the use of various devices with corresponding payoffs like the sawsawan scene you have to watch, and of course there has to be a butterfly there somewhere given its title. Sometimes, though, the handling of these devices feels kind of a little bit too on the nose for my personal taste and bordering on cringey for others. On the other hand, somehow these work for other audience members moving to tears in certain portions of the film. +1
The subjects of religion and conservatism are also slightly touched on with Adam having a pastor as a father (Ricky Davao) and an illiterate mother (Yayo Aguila). In a perfect family setting, which seems to be the case in this movie, acceptance becomes the resolution. This, after all, is what the film tries to preach and convey. +2
The last scene in the movie—which must be one of the other reasons why it almost garnered an X-rating—is sheer visual poetry. Knowing what the film is all about, you’d get what I mean when I say that it definitely has some nudity. As cliche as it sounds, it's executed artistically and is a fitting ending to the film as a metaphor for freedom and acceptance in the climax of Adam’s metamorphosis. +2
It may only have garnered 16 points on our scale but what I really like about this film, looking past its flaws, is its heart. Acceptance and inclusion are values that the coming generation has to learn nowadays and this is the powerful message that this film tries to impart. It also lends a voice to a highly marginalized sector of our society—our transsexual brothers/sisters and for that I applaud the whole team behind Metamorphosis.
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Photos courtesy of 'Metamorphosis'