This year’s Youth Jury Prize was awarded to the film that “provides a fresh and innovative perspective of South East Asia, while seeking to challenge boundaries of themes and film-making techniques. The winning film must also be able to engage audiences emotionally and possess a clear directorial vision within the given medium or genre”. Suffice to say, emotional engagement and the pushing of conventional boundaries were the two key factors that the youth jury had to take into consideration when deciding on the winning film.
On the day of selection, the youth jury spent a solid two hours discussing the ways in which each film struck a chord in us, as well as the areas in which it was lacking. Many questions surfaced. Do we take into consideration the director’s past experience? What constitutes a winning film and how much do we want it to be an encouragement to the director? To what extent does the film shed light on issues pertaining to the region of Southeast Asia, while also remaining relevant and understandable to a global audience? Through our debates, we discussed these questions and sought to negotiate our differences through understanding why and what we were disagreeing upon. Although it was a tough process to decide on a single film that ticked off all the boxes, what really took the cake was PR Patindol’s Hilom, which offers viewers a fresh look on themes of sexuality and brotherhood while also tugging at our heartstrings through the innocent lens through which these issues are being discussed.
Hilom follows the journey of two brothers who uncover their own identities and seek to understand themselves and each other through the discourse of love. In addition, the film reveals to us the conflict between childhood and adulthood, where more often than not, adults project their own anxieties unto children which, consequently, affects how these children see themselves. Adult influence on identity formation is especially significant as these identities often transform into more serious issues that manifest later in the child’s life.
Looking at the theme of sexuality through the lens of childhood, the film provides an interesting perspective on an issue that has been often avoided, especially within the Southeast Asian context where the notion of homosexuality has been widely frowned upon. In addition to focusing on such a sensitive issue through the soft lens of innocence, Patindol offers a new way of understanding homosexual love by revealing to us the fine line between brotherly and romantic love, where it is often hard to distinguish the two within the film. By interweaving these two definitions of love, the film suggests that perhaps, homosexual love is not as foreign as it seems. Homosexuality is just another aspect of love, where love, at its core, is a language that is universally understood.
Ultimately, by using childhood as the mouthpiece through which such a controversial topic like sexuality is being discussed, Hilom not only challenges societal boundaries, but offers a rethinking of how we understand sexuality. The film injects just the right amount of emotional engagement through its delicate uncovering of the raw, and thus, genuine feelings of joy and frustration that the brothers feel. At its heart, Hilom is a celebration of childhood innocence that speaks to each of us in a fresh and personal manner.