Professor Johnny Symons’ ‘Out Run’ inspires at international film fests

Photo in Philippines of activist Santy Layno leading a procession and waving the pride flag

Activist Santy Layno leads a procession waving the pride flag, 2012. Photo credit: Dondi Tawatao.

“A working-class citizen becoming a political leader for the people” may sound like an overdone movie plot, but “a middle-class transgender woman running for Congress as head of the world’s first LGBT political party” is real life. In their newest film, “Out Run”, Cinema Assistant Professor Johnny Symons and S. Leo Chiang document the journey of Bemz Benedito, the first trans woman to run for congress in the Philippines as the face of an LGBT political party, Ladlad — a Tagalog word which translates to “come out” or “unfurl,” as with a cape.

“Out Run' is traveling and garnering buzz on the international film festival circuit with screenings in Hawaii, Sweden, Taiwan, Australia, Scotland, New York and more; it won Best Cinematography at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.

“An artistic political doc, 'Out Run' is both riveting and familiar, as the leaders (including Bemz Benedito, a trans woman who serves as the face of the party) deftly employ campaign strategies that include everything from transforming beauty parlors into headquarters to forming alliances on the local level — even if it means supporting other candidates in quid pro quo moves,” Filmmaker Magazine writes.

Because the Philippines is a country with Catholic roots touching centuries-old soil, many there see the acceptance of LGBT individuals as going against the moral grain. “Out Run” follows the individuals who are trying to turn that tide; during filming in 2013, the members of the party included Benedito, Raymond Alikpala and Danton Remoto, along with supporters Santy Layno and Bhuta Adelante. Although visibility of the LGBT community is more prominent in the Philippines than in the United States, it does not necessarily translate to more progressive outcomes. 

Read more ...