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Joel Lamangan's latest oeuvre Lihis has been getting a lot of buzz lately. It might have been talked about because of its graphic depiction of homosexuality, but the film goes beyond its perceived shock value, as it tries to tackle various aspects of social inequality and oppression.
Set in the 1970s, Lihis is about two young male NPA warriors find themselves entangled in a web of frustrations, despair, and victory as they struggle to fight for their love in the middle of war against despotism and dictatorship. Lihis is a story of a fight for freedom and against bigotry.
The movie introduces us to a bevy of characters. There's Ada (played by Isabelle Daza), a teacher and a graduate student who is investigating a town-wide massacre during the Marcos era. As she attempts to probe deeper into the case, the audience is afforded a flashback into the past, and we come to learn that Ada's parents are both communists: Ka Felix (Joem Bascon who eventually goes by the alias, Ka Domeng) and Ka Jasmine (played by Lovi Poe).
To complicate things further, Ka Felix (Joem) also harbors feelings for his fellow comrade, Ka Jimmy (played by Jake Cuenca). This forbidden love between two members of the NPA lies at the heart of the story of Lihis.
The conservative Ka Felix is initially bothered about his homosexuality, and he decides to pursue a relationship with a woman instead (the fact that the movement does not openly approve of their relationship further fuels Felix's desire to lead a "normal" life as well).
However, it seems that true love does trump all odds: may it be the military, the society, or even the underground movement itself.
Despite having a daughter of his own, Ka Felix soon reconciles with the real love of his life: Ka Jimmy.
The movie uniquely pits the two lovers a bigger backdrop of oppression that we are all too familiar with: the Martial Law era.
Ka Felix and Ka Jimmy are already marginalized in their group because of their homosexuality, but they're also fighting a bigger war against social injustice. The setting heightens their persecution further, but they're not just frightened bystanders waiting in the sidelines for change to happen—by joining the communist movement, they're seen as staunch idealists who are ready to fight and die for their cause. They're passionate about their beliefs, and this passion rings true in their relationship as well, as exemplified by their sizzling love scenes.