I’m not even going there, folks. I know ORO has a lot of controversy surrounding it, but we’ll be barking up the wrong tree if I’ll focus on it hehe. Google niyo na lang mga bes. For me, it’s irrelevant to discuss here because I want to focus on the film itself, because I think this one struck gold. See why.
d., s. Alvin Yapan
dop. Ronald Rebutica
p. Feliz Film Productions
c. Irma Adlawan, Joem Basco, Mercedes Cabral and a whole community that we should actually protect IRL
Pitch: A small-scale mining town somewhere in rural Philippines gets disturbed by so-called nature patrollers who end up abusing their powers, to the detriment of the kind folk there.
Catch: Di ko sure ano pa-epek ng camera angling minsan beh, pero sige kineri na rin later.
MGA BEH, MAY SPOILERS ITO HA. HUMANDA KAYO KUNG DI KAYA NG POWERS.
To be honest, I was expecting to be underwhelmed by this film, given the rural setting and the bucolic shots featured in the stills I’ve been seeing online, and reading the log line about a mining town et cetera, I’m thinking, “Ay, mga indie na pang-award ang peg nitey I bet.” You see, there’s a bunch of digital flicks that have been approaching filmmaking like that: pang-award lang. And that was actually parodied brilliantly by the film ANG BABAE SA SEPTIC TANK (the first one). These films tend to overly-romanticize provincial-set stories and overly-romanticize (read: exploit pala) simple stories for an international audience (poverty porn, anyone?). But since my indie faves Irma Adlawan and Mercedes Cabral are in the cast, I thought I’d relax that “expectation” a bit.
Lo and behold, never did I expect that I will strike gold pala with this MMFF entry. For me, I think this is one of the best directed and best scripted films in the lot, because you can see the effective storytelling here. It creeps up on you, unti-unting lumalabas, emanating, like growing organically like a well-cared for tree or shrub, kaya namulaklak ito nang bongz sa climax o huli.
The story is rather simple, and it’s my first time to hear that this was based on a real incident somewhere in Camarines Sur. Which is sad, really, since I think there should be national outrage about the events of the story. But sadly, that’s Pinas for you, hay naku. Anyway, it’s a good thing to see how small-scale mining folks function; you will learn how they also try to care for the environment as they try to mine the small benefits that mother nature provides us humans. And the community is humane about this: the small-scale mining is not totally destructive and not greed-based, as the folks there are not grandly ambitious a community who will exploit the gold until mother nature gives up. We’ve also been highly exposed to other news and issues of these extractive industries and the human rights abuses perpetrated by the corporations given leeway to rape our land for greed, so it’s really a breath of fresh air, albeit just for an hour, to see the more humane way of mining.
For me, it was very interesting to see the daily life of such a community: like Joem Bascon’s miner character who’s just a laidback dude trying to earn an honest living and earning extra so he can marry the love of his life; Mercedes Cabral’s public high school teacher character who’s also nonchalantly taking her pregnancy news in a very calm demeanor; the feisty Kapitana character of Irma Adlawan who serves as the town’s mother image and later mother-warrior protecting her constituency; and of course the small-scale miners there who show us how they do their stuff, from the first process inside the cave down to the collecting of their mini-treasures, with a bonus of seeing this town goldsmith do his thing as well, when Joem went to have some gold fashioned into jewelry or something. These are the “small things” that shouldn’t go away due to “modernization,” methinks. Maganda lang. And it was also interesting to see how things could get shaken up by a little bit of greed with the introduction of Sue Prado’s character, that woman who also buys gold from the townsfolk “in competition” with the Kapitana. Of course such conflict and controversy will hound any community, so here it is.
Things turn for the worse, however, when some thugs with high-powered assault weapons arrive and brand themselves as the protectors of nature, Patrol Kalikasan. Apparently, this is a thing in communities such as this one, and it’s sad that the goons with the guns still terrorize people for gold. Hindi na ba talaga mawawala ang formula na ito sa Pilipinas? Nakakalungkot isipin ito, I swear. So apparently, the thugs are also in cahoots with Sue’s character. And this Patrol stops the operations of the community, even taking the small-scale miners hostage to ban them from illegally entering the mining cave. NKKLK! Their excuse was, the community has no permit to operate a mining thing, so the Kapitana gets a permit and all.
Pero ganun pa rin, the abusive Patrol goons still terrorize the small town, until the town appears so divided as some are forced to work for Sue under the Patrol’s watchful eyes, then some like Joem’s tropa continue their honest work later on when the Kapitana finally gets that permit nga (since the people there have been mining for decades, they thought they didn’t need such a permit na or something like that). So of course, everything goes awry when the Patrol thugs wreak more havoc and shoot Joem and his tropa while they were having their occasional inuman session one night. And this is where the film gets political after an hour: the mining issue becomes a national issue with the deaths of these innocent men. Walang kalaban-laban, binaril lang nang ganun. Insert national outrage here. Sadly, the case known as “Gata 4” is still unresolved, as I read. Gata is the real place where this incident took place. Kaya sad, sad, sad. But I’m glad it became a film. We learn of our nation’s troubles, heartaches, and aspirations in cinema sometimes, and this is one of them times.
That one is hooked on the story and its unfolding is a success brought about by the tandem of good directing and good scriptwriting, topped with the very inspired acting of all, as in all, the actors involved. Mercedes as that cool lang na titser gets her moment during the crucial wake scene, as she slowly dissolves and realizes that the love of her life is gone (bonus ‘yung tumakbo siya from the iskul to the mining place and back sa bahay ng nanay niya to get one gadget that the town doesn’t use often: the cellphone). Kapitana’s feisty mother-warrior mode was also excellently portrayed by Ms. Irma, deserving talaga ng best actress award si ati dito. She appears like one of those kind kapitana women na community leader, mabait pero matapang kapag kailangan. She pulls it off well. And well, Joem is Joem, oks naman si koya, pero talagang ganun lang ang acting ni koya no, yung parang steady heartbeat na minsan babagal at minsan bibilis, pero may beat pa rin at maaantig naman ang heart mo when needed. So he gets the job done.
This would have been perfect nga sana if the film’s camerawork improves a bit. Like I don’t get the tilting horizon effect of some shots as the actions unfold, and sometimes it’s excessive that I just want to grab the cam and hold it steady na lang. LOL. But that’s just me.
Overall, I really think this should have won best directing. Kinulang yata sa dasal dahil napunta dun sa isa. Award! LOL. Hay naku, heavy ang heart mo after watching this, pero hindi naman wazak na wazak mode, kasi nga mapapaisip ka sa mga nangyari, at makikisimpatiya ka enough para sumigaw din ng HUSTISYA! Ganern.
Thanks for this film, team Oro. Good luck dun sa dog controversy na lang.