The unexpected international attention for Jun Robles Lana’s first film outside of the Philippine studio system has given the longtime commercial filmmaker a potential turning point for his career.
by Ada Tseng
Bwakaw’s 70-year-old protagonist Rene is the type of man who scowls at well-meaning neighbors, doesn’t think twice about hitting his childhood friend’s partner in the face with a blow dryer, and spends more of his time preparing for death (revising his will, buying his own coffin) than living life. The only living being that accepts his often insufferable temperament is a stray dog named Bwakaw, who eventually becomes a quiet but irreplaceable fixture of his otherwise solitary existence.
Rene is based on director Jun Robles Lana’s mentor, the late playwright Rene Villanueva. Villanueva was the facilitator of a playwriting workshop that director Lana attended in high school. For the next few decades, Villanueva supervised all of Lana’s plays, teleplays, and scripts.
“I was 16 when we first met, and he died in 2007,” says Lana. “He taught me the value of work. He taught me to be very disciplined as a writer, and I still write every day in the morning because of his influence.”
The story of Bwakaw departs from Villanueva’s real life, but the “grumpy old gay man” character was “truly Rene,” says Lana. “But then if you got to know him, you understand that he also has a sensitive side to him and sense of humor.”