Vancouver, B.C.


‘It Runs InThe Family’ – a movie review

Vancouver Queer Film Festival

By Ted Alcuitas

For a movie that tackles such a sensitive issue as the LGBTQ, ‘It Runs in the Family’ is a surprisingly positive and affirming movie to watch.

The anticipation of how each family handles relationships surrounding the issue is quite riveting.

The amazing story of the Cabalus is woven into the narrative, deftly handled by the filmmaker – Joella Cabalu, who was initially unsure how to handle her younger brother Jay’s ‘coming out’ as a gay person. Jay is the central figure in the documentary.

Coming from a deeply Catholic background, Joella was not sure how her own parents would react to his brother’s queerness. She explored it in her first school film – Stand Still, in which Jay and her parents talk openly for the first time about their own conflicting beliefs.

‘It Runs in the Family’ is an evolution of ‘Stand Still’, going beyond her own immediate family to other relatives who were also queer.

Brother and sister first travels to Oakland, California and mets cousin Monica Sales-Cuyong who is lesbian.
In the movie, Monica shares about her own family accepting her sexuality and not putting obstacles to her getting married to another woman, Jolly. They both live in the house with her widower father.

In Manila, they met another gay cousin and a gay uncle, ‘Tito’ Cris.

Cris is open about his being gay and took it matter of factly, providing some of the movies’ light-hearted moments.


“A curse? ” Am I a devil in your face?” “Am I?” Tito Cris asks, incredulous at the suggestion that the family was ‘cursed’ for having so many queer members.

“No,” he reasons. “It must be a seed.” And he proceeds to count how many of them – “Perhaps a dozen!”

This was the most interesting exchange in the film, with two generations interacting with each other with no judgement or rancour.

‘Tito’ Cris was curious about the term ‘coming out’ explaining that in the Philippines, people just accept the way it is.

Jay explains that it is a way of coming out in the west – to publicly acknowledge to the family as well as to others that you are different.

Jay and cousin Carlo (Jazz) Pasion who dresses as a woman, bonds quickly as if they have known each other ever since. Both attend and enjoys the Manila Pride Parade where both were asked to speak to the crowd.

In the end, Jay returns to his home in Vancouver with a whole new insight into his sexuality and his place in society – at peace with himself and his relations.

This movie is a testament to tolerance and the value of accepting each human being for who they are.

‘It Runs in the Family’ is a refreshing commentary coming on the heels of the recent Vancouver Pride Parade’s controversy about indigenous and people of colour being ‘excluded’ from the mainstream LGBTQ movement. (

Produced, directed and written by Joella Cabalu, “It Runs In the Family”  screened to a sold-out audience at International Village Cinema as part of the 2016 Vancouver Queer Film Festival last Tuesday, August 16.

It has recently had successful major screenings in San Francisco, New York, Houston, Texas and Seattle where it garnered the Audience Choice Award.

Cabalu is a Filipino-Canadian Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with an Art History degree from the University of British Columbia (2008) and a graduate of the Documentary Film Production Program at Langara College (2013). In 2015, she was selected to participate in the inaugural Hot Docs Shaw Media Diverse Voices training program and was also selected for the BC Arts Council Early Career Development pilot program.  Her previous film Stand Still was presented at the Vancouver Asian Film Festival.

Cabalu is currently co-producing a short documentary- Repairing Society with Bravofact Canada. “ It follows a movement, a volunteer run movement called Repair Café, where a team of volunteers who are called Fixers meet monthly and people from the public go to these monthly events with their broken household items and get them fixed by fixers so it’s a way to divert broken items from the landfills but it’s also kind of a representation of the best of humanity. Being able to connect with people in your community and also learn how to fix things. Because I think we’re just so used to saying “if it’s broken, I’ll just go buy something new.”

She is also developing a documentary short series on interracial dating from the perspective of women of colour.

She intends to tell intimate stories of personal struggles from the perspective of marginalized people, including immigrants, women of colour, and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ) community.


Twitter @joellacabalu
Instagram @joellacabalu
LinkedIn Joella Cabalu

Joella Cabalu

Jay Cabalu is a Vancouver-based contemporary pop artist specializing in collage.Jay Cabalu is a Vancouver based contemporary artist specializing in collage and pop art. Jay has his Bachelor of FIne Arts from Kwantlen University. With a foundation in drawing, painting and mixed media, his art practice now focuses on collage.

Jay has exhibited his work in numerous spaces in Vancouver, such as the Federation Gallery, the Roundhouse, Hot Art Wet City Gallery and Ayden Gallery. He also frequents Snag, a weekly live painting raffle held at the Cobalt Hotel. | [email protected]

Jay Cabalu at his studio. (Photo: Jasmin Nguyen)

Jay Cabalu at his studio. (Photo: Jasmin Nguyen)