Marginal notes on the depiction of sexual violence in selected Cinemalaya 2019 films

Some forms of sexual violence were depicted in some Cinemalaya films this year.

Some forms of sexual violence were depicted in some Cinemalaya films this year.

Gasps and squeals filled the usual silent air in cinemas as the camera movement almost bared the naked bodies of the male protagonists of Fuccbois in its gala screening earlier this August. With the feeling of seemingly being in a large class of fifth graders, audience reaction can indeed distract someone from the masterful storytelling of the film’s direction.

On another hand, we could focus on some points on how sexual violence was depicted in selected Cinemalaya 2019 films, namely—Pandanggo sa Hukay, Iska, and Fuccbois. Fair warning, spoilers ahead.


Pandanggo sa Hukay

Pandanggo’s premise was promising. It was a tale of a small-town midwife, Elena, who assisted childbirths while trying to provide a better life for her own son. A sudden event of Elena being kidnapped was the highlight of the story. Being held captive, she experienced emotional, psychological, physical, and sexual abuse.

It was disconcerting, though, how the rape scene in the film felt like a spectacle as it lacked depth in the narrative. The abuse also seemed like a plot twist waiting to unfold.

Elena did escape, albeit barely successful, but was left with no time to process what she went through.

What could have been a powerful story of an ordinary woman hero and of womanhood from a film that claims to champion women’s voices, became a story of an isolated case of a crime incident where the victim comes out alive.



Iska, the film’s title character was a victim in and out of the film from the miseries she was set to undergo.

A loving grandmother who struggles to take care of her autistic grandchild, Iska is also a wife to a womanizing, uncooperative, and apathetic husband. Useless as the husband was characterized, he also subjected Iska to marital rape which also adds trauma to his grandchild.

The rape was matter-of-factly and sooner the film would be pushing Iska off to lower depths before she decides to make her husband leave.

Ironic to what the title connotes as it connects the character to the militant struggle in the University of the Philippines, the tale was of despair as spectacle which offers no redemption.



Fuccbois is one of the, if not the, best paced movie in this year’s festival line-up. The story puts on the line themes of power and sex.

The world was well built and stakes were well bet for the steaming and strong journey of two male bikini models, Miko and Ace. Nuanced characterization also pays off very well for the narrative—except when it ends.

A brave tale such as Fuccbois, could be much better with a braver stance.

At the end of the film credits, what we could take away from these types of films is a richer discussion on topics as sensitive as sexual abuse. It is of great importance that these themes be explored with sincerity and a critical perspective.