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Antonio Reviewed in the US

A Review of Ang Lihim ni Antonio
by Caron Knauer
Read&Watch Section
INS&OUTS Magazine Long Island Cityn NY

One of Antonio’s secrets is revealed early on in this memorable film. Antonio, played by the beautiful actor Kenji Garcia, is a normal fifteen-year-old. The objects of his affection are boys, and his explorations, discoveries, and conquests are vividly and—for the most part—subtly shown. The film deals with its themes head-on, and it’s not afraid to go right up to the edge, (spoiler alert) and go over it in its brutal portrayal of an incestuous rape that leads to murder.
Hector Conange, director of Cinemarosa, Queens’ only queer film series, presented the film to a full house at the Jackson Heights Public Library as part of its kick-off event for June Pride Month. Antonio’s Secret (Ang Lihim ni Antonio) was written by Lex Bonife (in Tagalog; there are English subtitles) and directed by Joselito Altarejos.

Antonio (nicknamed Tong) lives with his mother in Manila. His father’s job has taken him out of town. After a night of drinking, Tong falls asleep next to his friend Nathan, whose sleeping body he explores with his hands. The scene leads to consensual kissing and groping. It’s provocative, yet innocent; a rite of passage that’s rife with confusion and guilt.
Tong’s attraction to men intensifies when his hunky 25-year-old bisexual uncle Jonbert (Josh Ivan Morales) comes for a long visit, moving into Tong’s bedroom. Tong stares longingly at his uncle’s buff body. Jonbert, a hedonistic ne’er-do-well, enjoys Tong’s attention, and allows his nephew to pleasure him several times. But Jonbert soon grows bored of the blowjobs, and rapes Tong. The graphic scene goes on for much too long: We could have used fewer minutes of Tong’s screaming. Tong’s mother, Tere, in a vivid performance by Shamaine Buencamino, walks in, witnesses the abuse, and in a rage, stabs Jonbert to death.

The montage of mother-and-son still shots, which follow the murder, is oddly moving, and the image of Tong washing the blood off his mother’s hands is a soothing antidote to the shocking climax. The acting is compelling, and despite erratic pacing, uneven editing, and some wobbly camerawork, Altarejos is a director to watch. Antonio’s Secret is affecting, disturbing, and worth a glimpse. Available on Netflix.com.