Cinemalaya 2011: Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank
Since I’m currently in the state of straddling the line between the poverty of creativity (poverty of creativity talaga!) of other people, I should add, and walking out of their spheres of influence (don’t wanna be affected/infected/deflected on) wala lang, let’s review this film. And maybe later, I’ll decode for you that cryptic opening haha.
But first, we go septic.
(THE WOMAN IN THE SEPTIC TANK)
d. Marlon Rivera
s. Chris Martinez
c. Eugene Domingo, Cai Cortez, JM de Guzman, Kean Cipriano
Pitch: Upper class Manila-based independent filmmakers plot out a film featuring poverty and urban squalor with the aim of joining prestigious film festivals abroad.
Catch: Inside jokes have limited humor for all.
I understand the hesitation of mainstream producers to create films and TV shows with the story and characters circling in the milieu of the media. They say that people who don’t work inside such industries, be it in the traditional or alternative media, won’t be able to relate to the problems, heartaches, headaches and victories that media-oriented people experience on a daily basis.
I disagree. Unless you make their story closer to “outsiders” in a way that they will be able to relate as an audience, then you’re fine. Take that Robert Redford-Michelle Pfeiffer 1996 starrer UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL where Pfeiffer started as a weather girl turned credible TV journalist and Redford was a veteran TV journalist helping her out. That one worked simply because their work was interwoven seamlessly with their personal lives. And we feel for them as they get promoted or if they get heartbroken. Add to that Celine Dion’s undying love song as theme “Because you loved me” (aminin, you like singing this sa videoke!) and voila! recipe for box-office ka-ching.
Now with SEPTIC TANK, I really, really, really love the concept of the film, simply because I myself share the same sentiment about filmmakers making films about poverty, urban squalor, dirty dingy crappy Manila, and all that garbage-in-yo’-face crap. In an earlier blog post/rant I posted about, oh, tagal na, maybe two-three years ago, I ranted about how such films have been cropping up like regularly since independent digitally shot full-length films revived the Filipino film industry last decade. Not that I’m not grateful, being from this industry, and being a cineaste. But sometimes, I want diversity. Yes, DIVERSITY.
And I guess that’s what the makers of SEPTIC TANK were also thinking. It’s basically a big critique of upper class independent filmmakers who use poverty as themes in their films simply because that image sells abroad, not because they want to make a statement about poverty in the Philippines, or not because they want to open up the people’s eyes to such issues in order for them to do something, to take action, to contribute to society, and all that advocacy pumping (in short, all the social realism stabs that our late greats were doing before, specifically our National Artists for Film Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal; and oh, how I miss them). But now, nada. Some films, sadly, are like that. And horror of all horrors, some filmmakers tend to think like that. And this is why the term “poverty porn films” cropped up in our existence within the last few years. And this is why I was also asked to speak about it as a guest in Jessica Soho’s GMA News TV channel 11 show Brigada last Monday, to discuss poverty porn. Sadly, since I was straddling nga that line with people suffering from the poverty of creativity hehe, I missed watching that segment. Oh well, somebody upload it online and tell me ha.
So anyway, in this film, we see an indie producer and filmmaker and a production assistant as they try to brainstorm a good poverty film concept and they poke fun at this poverty porn filmmaking “phenomenon” in all aspects — from the filmmakers having such shallow intentions (“Forget Cannes! Forget Venice! Pang-Oscars ito!”) to brainstorming the concept in coffee shops where they can go online with free wifi (“Gawin na lang kaya nating musical, set sa squatters area? Bago ‘yun!”) to casting indie-identified great thespians (“Gusto mo lang i-cast si Mercedes Cabral kasi crush mo ‘yun, e!” – Haha relate ako dito! Chos!) and of course poking fun at fellow indie filmmakers who have egos as big as the Payatas dumpsite because of their success in being poverty porn filmmakers (even poking fun at the entourage of such filmmakers, something that is so true talaga it really makes me roll my eyes). So with all these, kudos to the filmmakers for showing us such things. Yes, in a way, it’s also being mean to such poverty porn films and filmmakers, but seriously, sometimes it’s *nice* to be mean ahehehe.
But after that, after the laughs, after the critique, what do you take home? Sadly, with SEPTIC TANK, nothing much, as well. And this is where it gets alienating for most, if not all, who have seen this and who do not inhabit this crazy yet wonderful world of media and filmmaking. It’s funny for me because I know the context, but if you don’t, then you’ll just get an unevenly paced comedy film where you will get hooked because Eugene Domingo is such a hoot here. If only for that, it’s a success but then again, the inside joke is not for everybody. And the film should have delivered a huge punchline after, the type that packs a wallop in terms of punctuating their statement about what it’s critiquing. Sadly, it didn’t.
But still, I recommend that you watch this. If you’re curious about how such indie filmmakers work — at least the pretentious upper class ones heheh — then watch this. And if only for Domingo, who won best actress for this role at the Cinemalaya awards night, just watch. I really like the way they reduced acting to three major categories, and the “TV Patrol category” is a hoot! Eugene, ikaw na! Basta, inside joke! Just watch this to see what I mean.
Then let’s discuss.