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Half-baked worthy story of ‘Ang Gasgas na Plaka ni Lolo Bert’

“Ang Gasgas na Plaka ni Lolo Bert” by directors Janina Gacosta and Cheska Marfori tells a simple enough story (at least on the surface) of a senior gay man reminiscing by listening to old music. It’s more than that; and that’s why it doesn’t always work.

Cinemalaya 2020 goes virtual this year because of Covid-19, and the focus is “removed” from full length feature films to give “chance” to short films (which are in the main competition).
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“Ang Gasgas na Plaka ni Lolo Bert” by directors Janina Gacosta and Cheska Marfori tells a simple enough story (at least on the surface).

An older man, Lolo Bert (Dido dela Paz), receives a box (from people we never meet) containing old photos and a vinyl record. It wouldn’t properly play (i.e. thus the title), so he took it to a store of vinyl records for it to be fixed. There he met the blabbering owner, Miyo (Soliman Cruz), and they form a special bond.

But yes, there are supposed to be other issues getting tackled here, e.g.:

  1. Homosexuality (and even gender fluidity)
  2. Aging
  3. Mixing #1 and #2, aging as a gay man (including loneliness, etc)
  4. Based on the intro and the involvement of a non-government organization on this, HIV (and the HIV status of a senior gay man)
  5. Stigma and discrimination because of a person’s SOGIESC and HIV status

For a 16-minute flick (over 17 minutes if you include the credits), does the short film work?


I’d say, NOT ALWAYS.

I especially found issues with:

  1. Continuity – e.g. check the rainfall; and abrupt removal of the vinyl record from the turntable.
  2. The initial, establishing shots were supposed to make us feel the passing of time; and maybe it’s just me, but it didn’t. It was more of an incoherent “a day in the life of”, not helped by the inconsistencies (see #1 above).
  3. Somewhat forced acting – e.g. the encounter in the vinyl record store. The best scenes were when the characters didn’t talk at all.
  4. Lines straight out of “Ate Guy school of acting” – i.e. when people start talking like they’re just delivering what’s written for them to deliver, instead of talking as “normal people” would.
  5. Forced narrative – e.g. the “friendship” between the old man and the store owner. I know this isn’t a feature length film; but… rushing felt like an imposition, instead of us (viewers) discovering it with the characters.
  6. The limited budget is apparent – e.g. count the characters.
  7. Underdeveloped storylines – e.g. perhaps because they didn’t want to dwell on the HIV status of the character (except when he takes his meds; though the meds may also be because of his advanced age), we never really get to know the difficulties encountered by PLHIVs who live old (for instance, do the filmmakers even know that there was a time when PLHIVs had to take gazillion tablets to live/survive? And that these have adverse effects on them as they age?).


But that this short film isn’t all bad has to be stressed; it has good things going for it.

  1. There are the chosen topic/s – i.e. particularly in local film industry, we continue to NOT see stories tackling the intersectional issues this film tackles. That this attempts to do that is… a welcome development.
  2. Camera/filter used, enough to remind you of the “olden times” and that this flick was made with memory-tinted lens.
  3. Subtlety. This one is a good and a bad, actually. Good because it’s not “in your face”; but also bad because if we want to talk about HIV at this time and age, there’s nothing “subtle” about it (e.g. check #7 in the ISSUES WORTH HIGHLIGHTING above).


Over all, though, it’s a somewhat… unrealistic… flick for me. Even “cold” at that.

Because, seriously:

  1. If you have a house that big and you’re “lonely” being alone, and if you know others may be in the same boat as you, why not let others in – e.g. house some of PLHIVs kicked out by their families because of their HIV status, take in some of the LGBTQIA members who live on the streets after they were disowned because of their SOGIESC, etc?
  2. If you have a store that seems not to be making money, it’d be long closed already.
  3. I am not sure the people behind the flick met senior PLHIVs to better understand what they go through (e.g. their issue isn’t only being alone, but the side effects of the early drugs they used, among others).

I say give this a go; it’s just 16 minutes after all. Just don’t expect to be really, really touched by it; or be blown away by it…

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