(STAR) FUNFARE By Ricardo F. Lo - (Photo - Rocco Nacino and Paulo Avelino are getting rave reviews for their performance in Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa, directed by writer-director Alvin Yapan, produced by Alemberg Ang. Their dance is one of the film’s most talked-about scenes. Starring with them is Jean Garcia (left) as the literature teacher caught in a unique love triangle with Rocco and Paulo.)

There was a time when actors, both Hollywood and local, were kind of homophobic. They wouldn’t touch gay role with the proverbial 10-foot pole. Only comedians (led by Dolphy who is as straight as a ramrod; others are “confirmed”) could get away with it with glee!

Even in these modern and “permissive” times, when asked if they are “ready” to play a gay character (not comedic but serious, such as those played by the late Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain), they invariably shake their heads and say, “I’m not ready.”

But there are those who dare and, so to speak, “cross the line” with favorable feedback. Remember how great opportunities opened for Dennis Trillo when he agreed to play a cross-dresser (turned down by a few actors) in Regal Films’ Aishite Imasu? He won an acting award in the Metro Filmfest and that jumpstarted his career.

There are others who dare, including Rocco Nacino and Paulo Avelino who got rave reviews for their performance in the Cinemalaya indie Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa by writer-director Alvin Yapan, produced by Alemberg Ang. The film revolves around the unique love triangle between Karen (played by Jean Garcia), a literature teacher who moonlights as a dance teacher, and Marlon (Paulo), a student failing in literature class who is enamored with Karen, and Dennis (Rocco), a student who is good in dance that Marlon hires to tutor him in dancing in order to impress Karen. Through the private lessons, the two guys grow closer. Dennis begins to fall in love with Marlon who doesn’t reciprocate.

Sayaw, which combines dance, poetry (by feminists/poets Rebecca Anonuevo, Belinda Santos, Merlinda Bobis, Joi Barrios, Ruth Elynia Mabanglo and Ophelia Dimalanta) and gender issues, was initially aimed at the LGBT (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual and Transgenders) market but thanks to word of mouth, according to Alemberg, “it has attracted the ‘mainstream’ crowd.”

The Cinemalaya screenings of Sayaw last July were sold-out, it also won Best Music and Best Cinematography, was nominated for the Halekulani Golden Orchid Award for Best Feature Film at the Hawaii International Film Festival and won a Bronze Prize at the Bogota International Film Festival in Colombia.

Rated PG-13 by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) and graded A by Cinema Evaluation Board (CEB), Sayaw opens tomorrow in selected SM theaters, Robinsons Galleria, Shangri-La Mall Cineplex, Gateway, Ayala Trinoma and Glorietta.

Here are separate interviews with Paulo and Rocco done for Funfare by Alemberg and company:

Ano ang naramdaman n’yo nu’ng in-offer sa inyo ang role?

Paulo: When I first heard the word Cinemalaya from our producer I already wanted to do the film because I have never done one for Cinemalaya. When I read the script, it made me want to do it more.

Rocco: I was kind of hesitant at first when my manager told me about the project. But Alem and direk Alvin set a meeting to explain the film and our roles and what they wanted to tackle. I was inspired by their words about their film and their vision, and I felt honored that they specifically chose me for the role.

How did you prepare for the movie?

Paulo: It was no joke. I took dance lessons for two months.

Rocco: Well, I dance in Party Pilipinas, so I was quite comfortable with it. Pero ‘yun pala kakaibang dance ‘yung gagawin namin sa film. So I was excited about the dance classes under Eli Jacinto. The preparation was hard. I kept asking direk Alvin a lot of questions how I should speak, how I should act, how I should look.

How did it feel doing your first indie, your first gay film?

Paulo: I never really thought of it as a gay film. Doing this film, I felt like I was reading a book with rich content.

Rocco: N’ung una nakakailang. Pero I learned to embrace my role, knowing that there are people who could relate to my role. It felt good, really good, that I was able to achieve what direk wanted. I learned to appreciate the third sex more after the film, because it isn’t just one kind of gay, there are many kinds when you talk about it. So I appreciate them more now.

Weren’t you worried how your family and other people would react? Di ba kayo natakot sa stigma o ma-typecast?

Paulo: Kakaiba, eh, at hindi say kabastos bastos. Hindi ito ang typical gay film na inyong mapapanood. My family’s reaction? I don’t think any of them has seen it.

Rocco: Well, siyempre natakot din. Pero sayang ‘yung experience. As an actor, gusto ko maka-portray ng iba’t-ibang characters; acting is always a learning process. My family was kind of against it at first, but they understood when I talked to them and then they supported me all the way. Ngayon, they always talk about it and panay ang promote nila. Hahahaha!

What positive effects did working on this film have in you?

Paulo: I learned a lot from doing this film. It helped me not just as an actor but also as a person. It made me experience something new, something that I think I would not be able to do again. It was an opportunity that I don’t think will ever knock on my door again.

Rocco: It helped me become more open. Natutunan ko na maging mas natural in my acting.

Anu-ano ang iba’t ibang reaction ng mga tao?

Paulo: So far, I have only heard good things. The reaction from students is different from that of the usual crowd. It’s like a kilig love story to them. Hahahaha! I’ve read some articles about the film and they’re not bad.

Rocco: Well, sobrang nakakatuwa na walang negative reactions. Puro maganda ang narinig ko from the press and from those who have watched the film. I’m happy knowing that direk Alvin was successful in his objective on the film. I felt that people respected me more. Gusto ko pa tuloy gumawa ng marami pang indie films.

Did the movie change the way you look at gays?

Paulo: Well, I always have a high respect for the third sex but (that respect) went even higher after doing this film.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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