'The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros'

This year's Cavite undertakes a hectic tour of the dire squatter camps and garbage mountains on the outskirts of Manila; now comes a somewhat more buoyant portrait of Filipino slum life, further evidence of a mini renaissance in the country's long dormant cinema. Twelve-year-old Maximo (Nathan Lopez) is an incongruous vision of lipsticked, hip-swiveling fabulousness. Treating shantytown back alleys as pageant catwalks, the kid is pure flaming flamboyance: a boldly conspicuous outsider in the gritty 'hood. Maxi plays doting mother hen to his family of petty-crook tough guys; his father and brothers, in turn, are not only tolerant but touchingly protective. All is improbably well, until the youngster's undisguised attraction to a hunky cop (JR Valentin) sparks tensions at home. The slide into crime melodrama isn't as persuasive as the film's realist textures, or for that matter its clear-eyed depiction of coming-of-age emotions. In much the same fashion as Gregg Araki's Mysterious Skin, Auraeus Solito's feature debut confronts the taboo of pre-teen sexuality with a startling mix of openness and sensitivity. No less than precocious Maxi, the film is alarming, endearing, and utterly unflappable.

 
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