Real Talk w/ Billie & Emma: Are We Doing Representation Right?
A step in the right direction or a move backwards?
Many now consider the art of filmmaking as a political means to be heard. It’s a way to include the often overlooked into mainstream consumption. It’s a way to tell stories that are often unheard. And as such, it’s become a way to normalize what the general public has deemed unnatural for hundreds of years.
Before the stones are thrown, let it be on the record that the world and the society that lives in it have come far from the times when Africans were sold as slaves and being queer was thought as a disease to be healed. We’re not saying that nothing has changed. But how far have we actually gotten? What do the people of these actual communities think? What are they looking for and what do they want to see?
Billie & Emma stars Gabby Padilla and Zar Donato, and is directed by Samantha Lee. Set in the 90s, it follows the story of Billie, a city girl exiled to live with her aunt in some province. Billie wants to stay low key and remain under the radar—but this all changes when Emma, the high school’s star student, comes into the picture. The two become close, spend afternoons together and begin to fall in love. But the complications don’t end there; Emma soon finds out she’s pregnant.
So we sat down with Sam, Gabby and Zar to discuss the topic at hand: The appropriateness of representation in entertainment (tune in for when the video goes up on Facebook and Instagram). But to make things a little more interesting, we also invited Kelsey Hadjirul, a 14-year-old ally and activist of the LGBTQ+, and her two moms to join in the conversation.
The best of the conversation?
Nothing is a catch-all
While Sam knows that her community is watching—and as much as she wants their stories told—she’s humble in admitting that her films are not a catch-all. Each story is different and not everyone can be satisfied (much more represented) with a single film. Likewise, telling one story above another doesn’t negate the former.
It’s funny because we’re so eager to pick something apart and point out its flaws and loopholes that we sometimes forget to see the beauty it actually provides. There’s something being said here; listen.
These stories need to be told
Not only do films have the power to start discussions, they have the power to make someone out there feel a little less alone. There is comfort in seeing someone like you succeed and there is something empowering about how they can be so unforgivably themselves. So what’s the point in your hiding?
“I can be a famous actor, I can star in my own film even if I’m gay. I wanted to show na hindi siya barrier and hindi siya kailangan itago,” —Sam on selecting out and queer characters
Cha Roque, Kelsey’s biological mom, admitted that she’s a strong personality. But while she is loud and while those that love her love her for that, she’s made it a conscious choice to show how her daughter grew up “normally,” you might say—even if (or really, more like, especially because) she was supported by two mothers.
There are the triumphant stories to be told.
Patience and education is key
Ironic, but sometimes it’s these people that are still stared at for holding hands in public who end up more understanding. They’re aware that the world needs more time to get comfortable and they need more education to see that there’s nothing wrong. But while this is so, there’s no real point in hiding underneath tables and wrapping arms around each other only dark rooms.
It may be hard to change perceptions, but nothing’s going to change if we mask things as the same.
Billie & Emma, if you look closely, is not just about the LGBTQ+ community. There’s more to it than girl meets girl and falls in love; it dares to talk about teen pregnancy, reproductive health and the choice that not many women have the freedom of making.
So did it get things right? Or is it at least a step in the right direction? See for yourself as it shows in QCinema 2018.
Art Alexandra Lara