‘Out Run’ Looks to Open Hearts and Minds With Its Inspiring Show of Solidarity5 min readReading Time: 4 minutes
As leader of the world’s only LGBTQ+ political party, Bemz Benedito dreams of being the first transgender woman in the Philippine Congress. But in a predominantly Catholic nation, rallying for LGBT representation in the halls of Congress is not an easy feat. Bemz and her eclectic team of queer political warriors must rethink traditional campaign strategies to amass support from unlikely places.
Director: S. Leo Chiang, Johnny Symons
Language: Tagalog, English
Country: Philippines, USA
Runtime: 75 minutes
With the June Pride Month having come to a close, the Queer East Film Festival opens – as if to remind us that acknowledgement and celebration of queerness shouldn’t be set aside. After all, raising awareness of LGBTQ+ issues can’t just be a month long; it should be a constant in our collective consciousness. The festival is just one of the many endeavours of the LGBTQ+ community to champion their rights and to showcase their dynamism.
Among the festival’s line-up is Out Run, a remarkable documentary about the Philippines’ Ladlad Party, the only LGBTQ+ political party in the world. As someone who considered myself as relatively informed about queer issues, and born in the Philippines at that, Out Run made me realise that I’m not as aware as I thought. I was completely immersed in the film, sometimes appalled by the masses’ treatment of the queer community, and often amazed by the community’s solidarity and will.
Having spent some of my early years in the Philippines, I always found the country’s attitude towards the LGBTQ+ community kind of unusual. The sense of togetherness is strong in Filipino culture, usually treating everyone as a kind of extended family. Outwardly, the LGBTQ+ community seems to be part of this family, with shows of friendliness and sociability. But behind this, there also lies an internalised distaste and disgust. Transgenders and gay people seem to only be ‘tolerated’ because the masses make a spectacle out of them.
People tend to disguise this attitude with supposedly lighthearted jokes about queer behaviours and calling them ‘bakla’. I never realised just how harmful that term is, because it’s often thrown around playfully. But that’s precisely the issue – the normalisation of such terms is detrimental. Put simply, I didn’t realise that ‘bakla’ is a painful derogatory term just as any other.
Out Run truly puts into perspective that tolerance isn’t acceptance. Especially for a deeply religious country like the Philippines, discrimination can take more subtle forms that lull people into the sense that change isn’t a priority. The Ladlad Party aims to tackle LGBTQ+ rights slowly but surely, starting from the ‘Gender Recognition Law’. Under this bill, transgender individuals will be recognised and be allowed to legalize with the names and gender they identify with.
The greatest strength that the Ladlad Party has is their people – they know how to mobilise their cause. They reach out to hair salons, local beauty pageants, and other areas to ally with the working-class and LGBTQ+ community.
Benedito’s drive to be the voice of her community is incredibly inspirational, especially with all the odds against her and her team. While they’re campaigning, the members of the Ladlad Party are constantly undermined and ridiculed. Yet, the team meets them head on regardless, always with a polite smile on their face.
Directors S. Leo Chiang and Johnny Symons execute this documentary well, with pacing and sound design that reflect the vibrancy and liveliness of the Ladlad Party and the LGBTQ+ community. But their greatest directorial decision, perhaps, is allowing their subjects to shine by letting the charisma and intelligence of Bemz Benedito and her team take centre stage.
Watching Out Run provides a renewed sense of hope and optimism. The Ladlad Party is proof that while change can be a long and painful process, it’s a necessary one. And if we find it in us just as Bemz and her team did, it will all be worth it in the end.
About The Queer East Film Festival
The Queer East Film Festival aims to showcase rarely seen LGBTQ+ cinema from East and Southeast Asia, and will be streaming LGBTQ+ documentaries from 3 July to 31 July.
– Unseen Perspectives Take Centre Stage – Queerness Represented in Asian Films
– No Guts, No Glory: The Glory Hoes on Queer Films and Presenting Art on Their Own Terms
– PORT AUTHORITY is a Modern Queer Romance That Boldly Affirms the Power of Love and Community