If you’re a fan of last year’s award-winning transgender dramedy Die Beautiful, then you’re likely to enjoy Deadma Walking (the title a clear play on the 1995 Oscar-winning death-penalty drama Dead Man Walking), which began production last week and is expected to be submitted as an entry to the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) this year.
The upcoming film— about an out-and-proud, terminally ill gay man named Mark (Edgar Allan Guzman) who enlists the help of his straight-acting best friend John (Joross Gamboa) in staging a fake wake and funeral to know what his friends would say about him—has been garnering praises even when it was still an unproduced screenplay, which Eric Cabahug wrote in 2014 and which won him second prize in its category at the 2016 Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature.
One of that category’s judges, theater and television director Soxie Topacio, described Cabahug’s script in a statement as “comedy after comedy with a surprise ending.” Another judge, filmmaker and professor Ed Lejano, said the movie “promises to be this year’s Die Beautiful,” adding that it’s a “rollicking comedy about a fabulous, fake death.”
As far as Cabahug is concerned, though, Deadma Walking is “a celebration of the creativity, chutzpah, and can-do spirit of the Filipino in the face of trials and adversity.”
To be sure, Deadma Walking shares some obvious similarities with Jun Robles Lana’s hit film, including the integral involvement of a wake and the strong friendship between two LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) characters. But there are differences, too, the most important of which is Die Beautiful’s protagonist is already dead, while Deadma Walking’s pretends to be so.
The Deadma Walking cast and creative team seemed set on making their movie markedly different from other films of its type during their press conference at Limbaga 77 restaurant in Quezon City on May 22. For their part, both Guzman and Gamboa, longtime friends who have taken on gay roles in the past (the former, most recently in last year’s Working Beks [Working Gays]; the latter, in the 2015 independent movie I Love You. Thank You), said their roles are unlike any they’ve tackled before and, thus, are challenged to own them.
I’m sure they would try to meet the challenges their roles posed. After all, they have the acting chops, proven by the prizes they received from the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, incidentally for screen adaptations of works by Palanca award-winning novelist Eros Atalia.
Guzman won the Balanghai trophy for his leading role in the 2011 sex comedy Ligo na Ü, Lapit na Me (Star-crossed Love), while Gamboa won his for his supporting turn in the 2012 drama Intoy Syokoy ng Kalye Marino (Intoy the Merman of Marine Road).
Guiding them throughout is first-time helmer Julius Alfonso, who served as assistant director in Joel Lamangan’s Felix Manalo, Chris Martinez’s Working Beks, and Marlon Rivera’s Ang Babae sa Septic Tank (The Woman in the Septic Tank), among other features.
If Alfonso’s movie credits indicate anything, it’s that he’s sure to apply all he has learned from the filmmakers he had worked with before and, at the same time, put in his own take of things in his directorial debut. Expectations would certainly be high.
And supporting them all is producer Rex Tiri, the main man behind T-Rex Productions, which was responsible for bringing the late Gil M. Portes’ last two films, Ang Hapis at Himagsik ni Hermano Puli (The Agony and Fury of Brother Puli) and Moonlight Over Baler to the screen. Deadma Walking is the second comedy that Tiri has produced, the first being the 2016 QCinema International Film Festival prize-winner Patay Na si Hesus (Jesus is Dead), which also has a wake figuring in the plot.
A lot of things may happen in the production in the next few months. With that in mind, I genuinely wish Team Deadma Walking the best of luck. If the film they would make stands distinct from Die Beautiful on its own terms, chances are moviegoers would not make deadma and start walking—no, rushing—into theaters, knowing that they wouldn’t walk out disappointed.