Bonus Episode 11: Interview with New Filipino Cinema Series Co-Curator Joel Shepard

For a VCinema podcast extra, Joel Shepard, film curator for Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) in San Francisco, sat down with me in the YBCA offices to discuss the New Filipino Cinema Series he curated along with Phibert Ortiz Dy, resident critic at The Philippines-based website ClickTheCity and writer-at-large for Esquire Philippines.  The New Filipino Cinema Series will take place June 7-10th & 17th and hopes are high that the series gets the attendence it well deserves and that it eventually travels beyond the 7 by 7 peninsula that is San Francisco.

For an overview of this event and several of the films playing during it, check out my article, New Filipino Cinema at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts San Francisco.

Direct link: Bonus Episode 11

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Sometimes, in the course of such conversations, one cannot recall the references to books/films/people/news articles in the moment of an interview, so let me provide references that escaped the mutual minds of Shepard and myself during our conversation just below the bump.

1)  The Filipino film franchise Shepard can’t recall in the moment of our interview in which Lilia Cuntapay acted is Shake, Rattle and Roll.  It has had 13 installments so far.

2)  I make reference to a chapter in a book that discusses ‘Proper Speak’ lingo popular amongst Filipino transvestites.  That book, which I picked up at the wonderful Fully Booked bookstore in Manila, is (Re)Making Society: The Politics of Language, Discourse, and Identity in the Philippines, edited by T. Ruanni F. Tupas and published by The Univeristy of The Philippines Press.  The name of the article I couldn’t pull from my memory bank is “The Cultural Idioms of Filipino Transvestism” by Rolando B Tolentino, who at the time of publication was the Associate Professor and Acting Director of the University of The Philippines (UP) Film Institute.

3)  In the course of the interview, Shepard makes reference to an issue in The Philippines regarding the recent increase in HIV rates and how many in The Philippines credit this with sexual activity amongst call center workers and the significant presence of gay men at such call centers.  First, this is something I have heard as well, so it is definitely a meme making the rounds through everyday conversations in Metro Manila, so it is legitimate to mention the existence of this folk-epidemiology.  But as Shepard says during the interview, it is also important to validate if this meme coming out of The Philippines amongst everyday Filipinos is truly based in fact.  I Wolfram-Alpha-ed HIV rates in the Philippines and it only pulled 2003 numbers.  (For those who don’t know, Wolfram-Alpha is a search engine that scours accessible databases and is often a better resource than Google for math and statistical items.)  So I am not clear whether there has been a statistically significant increase in HIV rates in The Philippines or not, although I found articles stating there has been an increase.

As for pegging call centers as a source of increased rates, a random Bing search, (which means I am not completely confident that what I found are the best sources), returns these two stories linked below.  The article from 2010 contests the claim and the article from late 2011 appears to accepts the claim, but emphasizes the influence of the Catholic Church discouraging condom use over that of the presence of gay men at call centers.

No link between call centers and HIV spread? (ABS-CBN News, 2010)
HIV cases soar among call-center workers (UCAN Phillipines, 2011)

If anyone has better studies that provide stronger evidence for or against this claim, I’d appreciate links to that in the commentary.  That said, it  is also important to challenge how this folk-epidemiology places blame for the increase in HIV rates on gay men.  So we should underscore that HIV passes through unprotected sexual contact regardless of the biological sex of partners.  It also passes through other means, such as blood transfusions and needle contamination.

4)  I mis-recalled Quark Henares’ last name as ‘Hernandez’ when it’s, well, Henares.

5)  The Filipino-American bands that will be performing for free on Saturday June 7th that neither Shepard nor I could recall are listed here.