A review of Jazz in Love (Babyruth Villarama-Gutierrez)
Jazz in Love, the documentary film that opened this year’s Cinemalaya Film Festival, triumphs not in spite, but because, of its simplicity. Villarama understands that her subject matter is already fascinating as it is that there is no need to burden it with superfluous embellishments. In documenting the story of Ernesto “Jazz” Tigaldao Jr., a 22-year old man from Davao and Theodore Rutkowski, a 56-year old man from Germany, Villarama lets us empathize with two people whose love for each other would normally be frowned upon by Filipino society. While we don’t anymore bat an eyelash when hard-up Filipino women marry decades-older Caucasian men, we still get queasy when the “mail-order bride” is actually a “mail-order groom”. Even Jazz himself would want to get married in Germany in a fabulous gown rather than the required tuxedo for both grooms.
Tightly edited and lyrically shot, the film makes us, the audience, voyeurs to this unusual romance as the two men deal with their plan to get married while going on dates in scenic Davao spots. While they cavort and flirt like all lovers do, wheels turn in our heads and we start asking questions. “Isn’t this pedophilia?” Of course not – despite the 34-year gap, Jazz is obviously an adult. “Who is the man and who is the woman in this relationship?” This question was even asked by Ernesto Sr., Jazz’s father, who still could not accept the fact that his son is involved in a homosexual relationship. But why should there be a man and a woman in a romantic relationship? Because the Bible says so? Even if Jazz is the more effeminate and romantic of the two, we cannot presume that he will eventually assume the “female role” in the relationship. Doing so is adhering to our society’s heteronormativity, that everything in life should be viewed through a heterosexual’s eyes. The views of Jazz’s aunt on homosexuality, that we sympathize with parents who have homosexual children but never wish it on our own kids is sadly a representative view of most Filipinos.
“Are they really in love? Isn’t the relationship necessitated by economic realities on the part of Jazz and selfish, prurient interests on the part of the foreigner guy?” But what is love? We can recite a thousand definitions, but sociologically speaking, love is a feeling we have for others who match up with what society teaches us to want in a mate. Most of us choose to love someone, and only one, from the opposite sex, from the same race or ethnicity, from the same social class, and from the same age range. From these categories alone, it is clear that Jazz and Theo love each other against all odds. And it would be hypocritical of us to say that sex and economic gain are not considerations in our own decisions to form a romantic bond with someone.
It’s safe to assume that the relationship would not have been possible without the aid of Facebook and Skype, and in light of a recent study that finds long-distance romantic relationships engender more trust and satisfaction than geographically close relationships, we can no longer say that Jazz and Theo are missing out on the joys of romance just because they spend most of their time separately.
Among the film’s many virtues is its refusal to over-emphasize the uniqueness of the story. The pair hold hands, kiss, and Jazz speaks of the beauty of sex with love the morning after Theo arrives in the country, all in a matter-of-fact manner. If we contrast that to the slow-mos and swelling music and severe close-ups of tear-smudged beautiful faces in My Husband’s Lover, we understand that films like Jazz in Love are what our society needs more of; films that normalize, instead of scandalize, homosexual relationships.
Image taken from http://entertainment.inquirer.net/104547/docu-to-open-cinemalaya