This Filipino Student’s Animated Grad Thesis Film Is An Ode To Same-Sex Parents

Parental love in any form.

In Ili-Ili, Clister Santos takes the viewers on a heartwarming ride of the love between a daughter and her two fathers.

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While local media, and society in general, still has its ways to go, we are seeing more and more projects that delve into and give the proper spotlight to the many facets of the LGBTQIA+ community. For young LGBTQIA+ animator and filmmaker Clister Santos, that meant focusing the story on same-sex parents in his animated short film, Ili-Ili, also known as Little One. After all, a set of two moms or two dads can be just as great of parents as a straight couple. What started as a project to examine his ideas on the topic turned into the power of queer parental love in cinema. 


It’s not every day that we get proper and varied depictions of LGBTQIA+ stories in local media, much less in the medium of animation. So Ili-Ili stands out for all the right reasons. The 9-minute short serves as the 22-year-old’s graduation thesis film and follows Joy as she interviews her two dads, Iko and Tino, to ask them for advice on how to raise her soon-to-be-born son. However, during the interview, Iko suffers from a heart attack. As the family hopes for his recovery in the hospital, Tino uses an old camcorder to look back on fond memories as well as share advice on what being a parent means. 

Moving away from the idea of the nuclear family, Ili-Ili tenderly showcases the good and bad of a same-sex couple raising a child. To get that point across, Santos interviewed same-sex parents to get their insights on raising children. The film ultimately gives a platform to queer stories in local animated media and brings home the message that families come in all shapes and forms. It’s a universal message – one that is going global, as Ili-Ili was chosen to be one of the movies included in Five Films For Freedom


This annual online celebration of global LGBTQIA+ stories, presented in partnership with BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival, aims to amplify LGBTQIA+ voices and advocate for love as a human right. This year, Five Films For Freedom, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this 2024, is showcasing global LGBTQIA+ stories that resonate with strength and spirit and dive deep into universal themes such as family and acceptance. Ili-Ili, along with entries from India, Spain, the UK, and the USA, is free for viewers to watch online until March 24, which you can do so here

In a time when the LGBTQIA+ community continues to be vilified, such as same-sex couples not having and losing their right to raise children and start families, Ili-Ili is here to remind us that queer families are just as valid as any other. The love in these families is real, and they deserve to be welcomed, celebrated, and protected. 

If you want to watch Ili-Ili, you can do so on the British Council Arts’ YouTube channel for free until March 24. You can check more of Clister Santos’ work here

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