As many other places around the world, Manila has been under quarantine since March due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, and with it most film productions came to a complete halt. This did not stop director Adolfo Alix Jr. (Donsol, Adela, Manila, Death March) to conceptualize and help produce Unlocked, the world’s first series about gay relationships under lockdown.
Unlocked (Image from GagaOOLala)
Unlocked is a 6-episode anthology series originally scheduled to be released on June, in order to commemorate Pride Month, but due to an extremely difficult production process postponed to July 9th. Each episode focuses in a different kind of loving relationship put to test under lockdown, “I wanted to develop stories where the circumstances of the pandemic are a catalyst for a deeper examination of relationships. It acts as a purgation of sorts - be it the physical distance or the paranoia of the situation,” explained Adolfo. The six stories are as follow: a heartbroken man hires a prostitute to help him cope with loneliness, a long-term gay couple need to reevaluate their relationship after being forced to be together 24/7, a single mother is trying to connect with her lover who is a nurse in the US, an elder professor reflects on his life after his young neighbor knocks on the door, a teenage boy comes of age and realizes about his real self during lockdown, a man alone in his apartment experiences a breakdown.
Unlocked (Image from GagaOOLala)
Unlike other recent quarantine-themed productions like Netflix’s Homemade and HBO’s At Home where directors filmed themselves at their homes, Manila’s regulations allowed Adolfo and a skeletal crew of 4 people to shoot in the director’s and actors’ home. However, this did not come without complications as many permissions did not arrive in time and many episodes had to be recast to accommodate all the schedule changes. Among the final slate of actors are the Norwegian-Filipino singer and actor Markki Stroem, known for his role in the first season of Pilipinas Got Talent, indie film darling Oliver Aquino, Angeli Bayani, known for her role in Anthony Chen’s debut feature Ilo Ilo (2013), and veteran actor Joel Saracho, art house director Lav Diaz’s long-time collaborator. Adolfo was really grateful of how willing everyone was to participate in the project, no matter the risks involved, but the utmost safety of everyone was prioritized: “They all had the difficult task of playing characters that have become more vulnerable to the stressors around them (hardships, work stress, and difficult relationships with their partners, family or friends), while we all were suffering the same circumstances in real life.”
The first episode of Unlocked premieres on July 9th on GagaOOLala, with a new episode releasing every week. GagaOOLala will also partner up with director Adolfo to promote #ExtendtheLove, the director’s fundraising project to help film workers in the Philippines during the quarantine. During the 6-week release window for Unlocked, the streamer will donate 25 PHP for every new subscriber coming on to the platform.
Unlocked - Six stories of love in time of quarantine
More information on #ExtendtheLove: https://www.facebook.com/ExtendTheLove
All episodes directed by Adolfo Alix Jr.
Written by Jerome D. Zamora
Executive Producers: Adolfo Alix Jr., Jay Lin
Associate Producers: Jaime Costas Nicolás, Ma. Corazon Villar