Image for How to Die Young in Manila


How to Die Young in Manila


A teenage boy trails a group of hustlers on the streets, thinking one of them may be his anonymous hook-up for the night. One by one, the young men inexplicably turn up as dead bodies.

In his essay on the queer reclamation of Saint Sebastian, Richard A. Kaye wrote, ‘Contemporary gay men have seen in Sebastian at once a stunning advertisement for homosexual desire (indeed, a homoerotic ideal), and a prototypical portrait of a tortured closet case.’ The early Christian saint and martyr, often depicted shirtless and bound and shot through with arrows, has become synonymous with the dichotomy of gay male desire, a sort of rapturous pain. 

How to Die Young in Manila is shot through with Sebastian, not just in Kokoy de Santos’s depiction of the saint, but in its story, as a young gay man (Elijah Canlas) roams the dense and dangerous underworld of the capital city at night in search of an anonymous hookup. As other - nameless - young queer men turn up dead, the city and its people turn a blind eye to their deaths. And yet, our protagonist continues to seek out - and find - the sex he desires. 

This is a stunning and lyrical short from Petersen Vargas, a neat and poetic allegory for the dangerous lengths young queer men are forced to put themselves through in order to live fully and fulfil their desires.

Michael Lee Richardson

Director filmography: 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten (2016), Swirl (2014), Lisyun Qng Geografia (2014)


  • Director Petersen Vargas
  • Country Philippines
  • Year 2020
  • Duration 11 min
  • European Premiere


Bill Douglas Award 4: Against the Grain

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