Ahmsareeeh, was quoting this APO Hiking Society song (sing along here). Kailangan lang may kapitan ang lola mo sa pelikulang ito. Kasi kung ito ang unang napanood mo sa MMFF 2016, either bibitaw ka na agad o…matutulog na lang. O makikipaglambutchingan sa iyong jowa kasi malamig ang Disyembre at Enero.
Anyway I digress. Here’s why.
d. Arturo San Agustin, Real Florido
c. Nora Aunor, Ricky Davao
Pitch: A seemingly simple family in a province, with a barangay captain for a father, gets embroiled in unexplained garden variety injustices in 2016 Philippines. Or something like that.
Catch: When the actual pitch of your movie is understood by the audience after 1 hour of watching it, teh, may kailangang ayusin.
With my deka-dekadang film industry knowledge in tow (or info/gut feel since 1990s), I knew that this film will not make it through the January cut kaya siya ang una kong hinabol na panoorin.
For those of you still unfamiliar with how the MMFF works in the country, there’s a lockdown of MMFF-only entries cinemas in Metro Manila and nearby provinces have to abide by, meaning no Hollywood fare muna sa panahon ng Pasko sa Pinas. And it’s but a fair move to help the industry recuperate from being blasted month by month ng big budget Hollywood. Alas, bombastic din kasi ang labanan sa MMFF entries, and the bottomesa of the lot will not see the light of day (or the flicker of the silver screen) come second week of January if they don’t perform well during the MMFF Christmas week. Poor ticket sales and word of mouth work hand in hand this Christmastime reel time, I tell you. For reals.
So anyway, there’s so much hullaballoo about this year’s MMFF crop being indie-indie fare lang at hindi daw ito kikita dahil walang bombastic no-brainer trashy comedies being served blah blah blah ad nauseam. I will not even join that conversation because it’s ho-hum chika na for me, aside from having too many ignoramus loopholes. What matters more is seeing films as films, regardless of how it was produced. And this is what I’m doing with KABISERA.
Na indie pala siya ay hindi ko alam until I checked their Wikipedia page (swiped the poster photo from there, too. Teynkyu!). But that doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that I want to see Ate Guy act formidably again. Sadly, I have to tune in to other things to find that. Wala dito.
I remember her distinctly because when I was still working in mainstream showbiz back in the mid-to-late ’90s, isa sa mga formidable entries namin sa MMFF 1997 yung film niyang BABAE, directed by no less than MMFF 1976 entry MINSA’Y ISANG GAMU-GAMO director Lupita Aquino Kashiwahara (eh kasi boss ko din ang producer ng Gamu-Gamo and then Babae kaya reunion film kami ng tropa nila gow). Aba beh Second Best Picture winner kami dito noh! Galing lang ni Ate Guy kaya dun. Na laging padaan-daan si direk sa cubicle namin to rant endlessly about the Superstar’s no-show mode while problematizing that Babae could be read as a lesbian-themed narrative ay ibang kuwentong pang-memoirs ko na lang hahahaha I swear ang colorful ng life ko back then pare.
The film is actually partly sponsored, if I remember it right, ng DOH, because anti-violence against women ang tema nito, with Nora’s hubby making physical bugbog sa kanya and Juday’s BF Jao making emotional bugbog sa kanya. Generational tuhog ng isyung kababaihan bes, sankapa! Salamat sa paborito kong video rentahan dati na Video 48 para sa hiram na pic na ito.
So yeah, I remember Ate Guy giving great performances in films like that, ka-acting sparring ang iba ding magagaling (in our Babae film, it’s Judy Ann Santos who held her own sa kanilang ina-anak drama tandem, at andun din si Nida Blanca sumalangitnawa). In Kabisera, I don’t know what’s up with her acting here, pero para siyang ‘yung comment na lagi kong naririnig when we critique film students and their thesis works dati sa iskul na pinagtuturuan ko: “They look uninspired.” I’ve always wondered what “uninspired acting” meant, way back when I was a film student in that said school myself, when I hear our film profs say that or write about that (mga film critics din kasi sa industriya mga prof namin). Only when I took the required acting class did I discover what it meant: na hindi ka believable sa acting mo kasi hindi ka bilib sa karakter na ginagampanan mo. It’s that simple. That, or mababa TF mo so uwing-uwi ka na after the take. Puwede rin ‘yun.
And this is how Nora’s take on the docile obedient wifey role ruined the film for me. Well, the storytelling also didn’t work, but first things first: It looks like the universe knocked the wind out of her acting prowess and gave it to someone else. Parang bato ni Darna na pinaluwa na sa kanya para isubo na ng iba. And what were we left with? Something of an echo of past greatness. Sad. There’s this one particular scene where she was wary of having a hunch confirmed (that her hubby was gunned down na) and she made her way slowly, as in eeeeveeeer soooo sloowly pababa sa hagdanan para puntahan ang nakahandusay na jusawa sa lupang inuulan (siyempre kelangan umuulan ang death scene! More drama! Waaah.) Tapos ‘yung eksenang convinced na convinced siya na inosente ang asawa niya. It’s like the one person she’s trying to convince is herself — na marunong pa rin siyang umarte. Nalungkot naman ako ng bongz teh. Uber-bongz.
Siyempre, malilimutan ba natin ang napaka-Ate Guy moment na ito in Philippine Cinema, one of the best lines ever?
Salamat sa pag-upload ng excerpt na ito, mga beh!
And of course, from Gamu-Gamo, itself a great critique on the presence (and abuse) of the US bases here in the Philippines (her bro was gunned down by American soldiers who mistook the boy for a baboy damo daw).
To sum up this Kabisera film, parang ganito lang siya: “My husband is not a pig! My son is not a pig!” Tapos insert call for hustisya dialogue. Roll credits.
Na hindi namalayan ng audience mismo sa loob ng sinehan na tungkol pala ito sa extrajudicial killings ay isang fail na fail na teh! Sorry, kahit kasi basahin mo ang synopsis o log line, wala kang makukuha. Dahil sa unang 30 minutes ng film pa lang, di mo na alam kung saan siya pupunta. Para siyang choose your own adventure teh. Comme ça:
Plotline 1: Barangay Chairman has hints of being corrupt, ergo riding in tandem hitmen try to gun him down, twice.
Plotline 2: Higher provincial politicians try to “bribe the good man” but goes awry.
Plotline 3: Family man of a barangay captain flexes macho flirting skillz when younger and sexier secretary applicants flirt with him out in the open, amidst the death stare glares of subservient domesticated wifey.
Plotline 4: Religious wifey gets persuaded to check out a palm reading seer outside of the church who predicts ominous omens that tadaaaaah will come true later I swear. Bad foreshadowing isdatchu?
Plotline 5: Captain and wifey deal with conflicted son number 1 who wants to shift out of his nursing course but who doesn’t want to go back to working on a cruise ship of sorts (they talk about this to death) and face conflicted son number 2 who impregnated his jowa agad-agad.
Tomoo, magandang game ito: Choose Your Own Story Arc To Develop. Gow. Kasi by the time Act II commences, biglang kabig ng manibela at:
Suma-subplot na plot pala 1: Pinasok ang bahay ng unidentified high-powered gun-toting gunmen ang bahay at pinatay ang kapitan.
Suma-subplot na plot pala 2: May bloody bank robbery in town at si kapitan pala daw ang isa sa mga suspects dun, kaya tinimbog.
Suma-subplot na plot pala 3: Kasabwat daw ‘yung isang junakis kaya biglang nagtago matapos um-attend lang ng birthday party so hindi na siya umuwi since then. (Ha? Ma.)
And don’t get me started on the role of the woman/wife/mother in a Filipino household being subservient blah. My inner feminist is also screaming. I’m ignoring her this time. Bigger screams to face, beh.
I know that in life, we have so many issues we face and struggle, but in fictional storytelling, we need to weave these sub-narratives of our lives together in order to bring us to a coherent whole. Sadly, this film forgot their cross-stitch needles. Walang tahian teh. Facundo, ibili nga ito ng Singer sewing machine, ahora mismo! Kalerks.
Even the slow-pulsed/paced directing can’t save the life of a script that sounds so first draftey. As in, kung ipapasa mo sa akin ‘yang script beh, mamumula ang mga pahina sa mga corrections ko pramis. Revise revise revise. Tapos shinoot na lang bigla without approval. Edit edit edit. And yeah, it doesn’t help that the themes of the film echo 2016 sociopolitical concerns. Or if we’re going to follow the “logic of 2016” (a.k.a. ang logic na illogical) eh sige bes pasok na pasok ka. I admire the effort, brave siya to boot, pero hilaw pa sa luto ang putaheng ito. Balik muna sa kusina beh. Timpla pa more. Baka maka-jackpot na next time.
Sayang. But I’m still happy na may Nora Aunor entry ulit sa MMFF. Sana mas magandang materyal na sa susunod. Or taasan niyo TF niya para mas inspired ang acting? Or I dunno what will make it tick next time. Choose your own production path na lang din sa susunod. Huwag susuko. Gawa lang ng gawa, k.