willing to stick with Tuli, you'll be
rewarded. The film, set in a remote Phillipine
province, is slow going at first, and virtually
everyone at the Sundance press screening walked out in the
first hour. I'll admit my own doubts, as amidst all
those scenes of bathing, circumcision, and passion
plays, I wondered, "Isn't this supposed
to be the lesbian film at the festival?"
Except for a young woman, Daisy, who offers to play
the father role in a game of house, the film is so
foreign as to bypass most of the usual signposts of
that (or any) genre.
until later, when Daisy offers another game of house played
in a much more intimate way, that things start to
build momentum in Tuli. Still, I'd argue
in favor of that first half, which slowly introduces
us to a completely unfamiliar way of life and a
male-dominated, country village that leaves very few options
for the girls that live there. Daisy is an exception
in two ways: she has inherited the role of
circumcising all the young men in the village, and she
bristles against expectations that she must then marry one
of them. "Let's show all the men here
our world doesn't revolve around their
balls," she tells her female friend Botchok. Well, if
anyone would know balls, it's her.
interviewed Sundance programmer John Cooper about the
diminished presence of gay films in this year's
lineup, he suggested that the time for coming-out
films, as well as a special subset he called "gays
are people too" films, may be on the wane.
Ironically, Tuli is both, though told in such
an exotic way that everything old becomes new again.
Daisy and her mother eventually take in Botchok, and the two
girls begin an intimate relationship that the rest of
the village comes to see as a rebuke, even a curse.
Things get even more fraught when Daisy decides that a
pregnancy will solve most of their problems, and these very
Catholic girls, ruling out an immaculate conception, decide
to bring a timid Joseph into their unconventional
home. The men in the village may not know what to make
of Daisy, who flips every tradition they know on their
head, and the Sundance audience may not know what to make of
Tuli, either. But if anyone claims this long film
ought to be cut, I'd encourage them not to mess
with the town circumciser.
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