Ladlad is the world’s first LGBT political party. Established and based in the Philippines, the party ran two unsuccessful campaigns for seats in their Congress – the first in 2010 (albeit with only three weeks until the election before they were approved to run) and the second in 2013 (with far more time to plan, organize and mobilize).
That 2013 campaign is the subject of the 2016 documentary Out Run, which chronicles an entire year leading up to that election. Out Run, which recently had a screening at the Outfest Fusion Film Festival in Los Angeles, follows the three candidates that the party put up – gay lawyer Raymond Alikpala, transgendered activist Bemz Benedito and the party’s founder Danton Remoto. This is the maximum number of seats they can fill under the Party-list system in the Philippines where 10% of Congressional seats are set aside for smaller political groups such as LadLad to have a direct voice in government.
Much of the LGBT community in the Philippines is poor and living in tenement housing. So with limited resources, the Ladlad campaign was very grassroots – putting both the candidates and the volunteers face-to-face with a very Catholic populace that accepts the LGBT community as entertainment, but generally opposes their civil rights. The party’s lack of resources also required them to make certain compromises by teaming up with other politicians in order to keep the campaign going – which didn’t sit well with some of their supporters.
Despite the momentous and groundbreaking nature of Ladlad’s Congressional campaign, there was still some division within the LGBT community about it. Some activists wanted the campaign to go beyond its anti-discrimination legislation platform and push for full marriage equality. And some of the “normal” gays, who don’t dress up or wear makeup, believed that you have to fix yourself in order to gain rights. So they supported the largely anti-gay but popular Pastor Benny Abante — who was attempting to regain a seat he’d lost in 2010.
Such was the sociopolitical climate in the Philippines – which Out Run outlines very well.
And the stakes were high. If Ladlad didn’t secure a seat from this second campaign, they would be ineligible for the next election in 2016 – halting any momentum that could be gained from this campaign. So, in a credit to how the filmmakers raised the stakes throughout the film, it was that much more disappointing at the end when we find out that they didn’t gain any seats — and heartbreaking to hear that the candidates talk about how they felt they let the community down.
Out Run is more informational than other documentaries I can recall where the balance between information and storytelling was more heavily weighted on the latter. So you come away from this documentary with more than just an understanding of a particular subject; you come away with a greater context and perhaps even a foundational knowledge of it. And even well after the fact, what you’ve retained from the film makes it just as much a learning experience as a viewing experience.
The film does seem to wrap up a bit quickly, but some of that could be attributed to my wanting to know more of what life has been like for the three candidates since the election and the party’s plans going forward based on their 2013 campaign experience than what was presented. But my feeling somewhat shortchanged by what felt like a rushed ending takes nothing away from the rest of the film.