There's a thin line between love and homophobia.
That's what Ray Gibraltar's "Brod" would have you believe. Tad (Ardie Bascara) and Terence (Kenjie Garcia) navigate this subcommunity of pseudo-scholastic lords and pledgees. Terence, along with his best friend Mico (Paul Jake Paule), are applicants to the Sigma Theta Omega where Tadeo (a law student) is one of the lords.
As fate would have it, Tad and Terence have become roommates. At night, they copulate in wild abandon, but at daytime, they deny their nocturnal relationship altogether. In fact, they might as well be strangers. Terence braves the impassioned brutality and humiliation brought on by fraternity hazings. When one of the Lords find Tad and Terence asleep and in tender embrace, the violence at the initiations escalates. Are these borne out of homophobia (Terence and Mico keep their sexuality at bay from their "masters")? What becomes of Tad and Terence's irrefutable concupiscence? Will Terence weather the incessant physical torment and agony of a pledgee's life?
Bathed in sepia and muted colors, the film bristles with a reverent atmosphere of dread, alternating with prurience. There is no denying Gibraltar's film making aesthetics. Every scene, populated by thespic novices, are comfortable, skillful and graceful; a skip above the awkward staging and performances of many similar artists in the indie genre. Jie Teodoro's poetry is seamlessly and beautifully incorporated in the cinematic canvas; a move that succeeds more than Khavn de la Cruz's "Paalam, Aking Bulalakaw" (Goodbye, My Shooting Star) - a film that we liked though it's littered with self-indulgent moments (and starred Meryll Soriano).
Ardie Bascara impresses with a strong and confident presence, mining his character with insightful tact. The side story alluding to his family's financial woes (his younger brother is in a hospital, and is in dire need of money) is thrusted several times, but there's a level of desultory commitment to this narrative strain, thus it doesn't quite fly. This was to piece a thread interfacing a fraternity's facility to help out financially strapped members (Tad is looking for a part-time researcher job at a "brod's" uncle's law firm).
Kenjie Garcia does well as the abiding pledgee and Tad's - pardon the pun - backdoor lover! In fact, the ensemble is adequately cast. Also note-worthy is Xeno Alejandro who plays the mean lord, though his character is too uni-dimentionally evil to be believed.
I have an adequate degree of trepidation swallowing the premise that frats are strictly for straights. Heaven knows that society has become partially permissive to the pink community, even in frats. This isn't the 18th century, if you haven't noticed. There isn't much in the script either that renders rational explanation what made Tad and Terence hook up - except of course that they are room mates, and that Tad strips to full monty while changing briefs right in front of a gawking Terence. Besides, these days, it's alright to nudge "frat brothers" to say, "Hey, Terence is my room mate. Go easy on him!" This doesn't necessarily imply a sexual relationship. Not every step of kindness or civility is equated to sexual innuendos.
Some of the scenes are consciously exploitative. How else would you explain a supposedly straight Lord gazing at 2 naked men paint each other's penises, just 2 feet away from the lord's face? Are frats really a haven of homo-eroticism? Straight men find other ways to humiliate other guys in the privacy of their rooms. They don't ogle at guys painting each others dicks, do they?
When Terence is stricken with paddle bruises and violaceous discoloration all over his body, running feverish and weak, we find Tad's concern superficial because once Terence is back at the hazing table, Tad won't even hesitate to inflict new wounds and lacerations. That, to me, is a narrative incongruence between love and violence.