Where is the Lie?
The Philippines, 2023, 85’, Filipino
Directed by: Quark Henares
Screenplay: Quark Henares, John Bedia
Photography (color): Tristan Salas
Editing: Benjamin Tolentino
Production Design: Adelina Leung
Sound Design: Erwin Romulo
Sound Mixers: Noel De Brackinghe, Malek Lopez
Producers: Armi Rae Cacanindin, Pauline Zamora, Kren Villaflor Yap
Executive Producers: Bianca Balbuena, Ian Monsod
Cast: EJ Jallorina (Janzen), Maris Racal (Beanie), Royce Cabrera (Dennis), Chai Fonacier (Trixie), Red Ollero (Jeric), Gabby Padilla (Dina), Danielle Ozaraga (Grace), Dylan Ray Talon (Cosmo)
Date of First Release in Territory: TBA
In a precarious time when transphobia is more pronounced and rampant, there’s a film like Where Is the Lie? (as if there’s an abundance of films about Filipino trans lives anyway). The Filipino title, Marupok AF (as fuck), is closer to the film’s spirit, which is about Janzen desperate to find and sustain a relationship. Reviewers might read the film in a myriad of ways: the nature of fiction, a victim’s cry for help, the fictive appearance of social media, but Where Is the Lie? is, through and through, a chronicle of transphobia: about a transgender woman subjected to blatant deception and manipulation, and whose vulnerability is milked to create a game of revenge.
There’s really no other reason Where Is the Lie? gives us as to why Beanie does what she does, even though she doesn’t know why. The closest explanation is that she was bullied by queer people when she was young and manipulation has been her revenge. Beanie, along with her friend Dina and their co-worker Dennis strings Janzen along for months, fabricating a lie that Theo (Dennis) is her long-distance boyfriend by asking several people to call her, Facetime her, and eventually appear as her boyfriend, only to ditch her right away. We get the sense that Beanie has done this before, and she has, but Janzen is her longest “relationship,” the deeper the shit they put Janzen in, the more pity Beanie has for her. But this attempt at humanizing doesn’t go far. Beanie’s video diary (perhaps a remnant of an intended Rashomon-style of storytelling) tells us what we need to know: she is a horrible human being who’s trying to justify her actions.
Where Is the Lie? is buoyed by a perfect cast. EJ Jallorina shines as Janzen, both guarded and emotionally exposed; Maris Racal is a villain you’ll hate through and through; Royce Cabrera exudes himbo energy; and Gabby Padilla is just the right sidekick a villain like Beanie needs. Henares wraps it up in his signature eccentric and wild energy that makes the film entertaining AF, very much like the experience of reading the original Twitter thread: you know you’re headed to something bad but you can’t look away.
A transgender man’s comment towards the film’s end sums up Janzen’s motivations “I don’t think you understand the pressure for us to find a real connection with people. Real love. Because that’s rare. So when it happens, we hold on.” Queer love, especially for trans people, is hard to find. It is refreshing to find a character like Janzen, victimized but refuses to make herself the victim. Even better, though wounded, she tries to carry the torch for her trans brothers and sisters so evil people like Beanie can’t toy with them anymore.
Quark Henares proved to be a thrilling director from the get go, debuting with a short film A Date with Jao Mapa, whose irreverent energy eventually exploded in his second film, Keka, about a call center agent out to avenge her boyfriend’s death. Henares dabbled in genre filmmaking for the next few years but his 2011 film Rakenrol proved to be his most personal, chronicling the ups and downs of a young band trying to make it in the music scene. Henares donned his producing hat beginning in 2017, creating a prolific streak of critically acclaimed films. He returned to the director’s chair with the dark comedy Where Is the Lie? (2023).
2002 – Playthings
2003 – Keka
2006 – Don’t Look Back (segment “Uyayi”)
2006 – Super Noypi
2011 – Rakenrol
2016 – My Candidate
2023 – Where Is the Lie?