ZsaZsa Zaturnnah Ze Moveeh (2006)

The first time I saw a trailer for this movie, I knew I had to own it. This movie was made for me, and it was my destiny to find it. Sure, it’s not in English (well, mostly not in English), but that’s never stopped me before. Bring on subtitles! I don’t fear them!

The story is your typical superhero fare: a gay hairdresser gets hit in the head with a pink space rock, swallows it, and transforms into a busty, red-haired Wonder Woman analog. She fights a giant frog, flying zombies, and eventually space feminists who want to kill all men. Oh, and it’s all in Tagalog/Filipino, and it’s a musical.

I just… chef’s kiss. Perfection.

I’ve seen this movie several times now (it’s one of my favorites to show to people to expand their film horizons in weird ways), but in anticipation of writing this post I did some research on something that had puzzled me for years: does “gay” mean the same thing in the Philippines as it does in the United States? And, well… not really.

The word used most often in this movie is “baklâ,” which has a different cultural context than your standard “gay.” Baklâ are people assigned male at birth (AMAB) who take on “feminine gender expression,” which includes effeminate gay men as well as trans women. This makes far more sense in ZsaZsa Zaturnnah as the assistant Didi was played by trans actress Chokoleit, while the actor playing the non-Zaturnnah main character, hairdresser Adrian (Ada), would later transition in real life, now going by Ms. Binibini “BB” Gandanghari. While the movie consistently points out that both of these characters are not biological women (usually for a dick joke), the story doesn’t otherwise look down on them just because of their expression/orientation. I mean, Ada gets the hunky Dodong at the end. The subtitles’ translation of baklâ to “gay” is really what muddles things a bit, and that’s just because outside of fan-subbed animes we don’t often get a translator’s note.

Shit, I went on another big gay rant without really talking about how much I enjoy the movie, didn’t I? Um… the movie is fun and funny, a lot of love went into making this, and I highly recommend checking it out!

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4 thoughts on “ZsaZsa Zaturnnah Ze Moveeh (2006)

  1. Really appreciate your taking the time to write about Zaturnnah. It warms my heart to find out how much she resonates with non-Filipinos, despite the film having been released 14 years ago.

    The film didn’t do well when it was released in theaters in 2006, but has enjoyed multiple airings on television, cable, and streaming over the years. The full-length stage musical did a lot better. People say she was ahead of her time. It would really be awesome to see her go global.

    (Just a bit of trivia… Chokoleit passed away a couple of years ago, if memory serves me well. He was a well-respected professional.)

    We’ve been trying to get a Zaturnnah animated feature adaptation (non-musical) produced, but producers outside the Philippines seem to be iffy about her and her story. Crossing fingers and eyes and toes that someone out there will bite.

    Thanks again, and bless you.

    Carlo Vergara
    creator of Zaturnnah

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Haunting Me (2007) | Chwineka Watches

  3. Hey where did you watch this movie with english subtitles? I watched this movie growing up and loved it, hoping to share with my partner who cannot speak tagalog. Thanks!


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