Archive for the Cine Filipino Category

Pahabol to the year-end roast

Posted in Cine Filipino, comedy film, indie films, intercultural issues, Philippine Cinema, Philippine film industry on December 24, 2013 by leaflens

Glad I was able to catch the Ayala Mall theatrical run of a Cine Filipino entry before the country transforms into its MMFF mode. And I was just going to watch it purely for entertainment’s sake but I can’t let it pass without a proper review because I think the film — and what it tried to do — has to be commended for its merit.

So this is it, pancit. Gora.

turkeyANG TURKEY MAN AY PABO RIN (2013)

d. Randolf Longjas

s. Allan Habon

sc. Teresa Barrozo

c. Tuesday Vargas, Travis Kraft, Julia Clarete, Cai Cortez 

Pitch: A Pinay with a white American boyfriend happily struggle to find the middle ground of their cultures in the hopes of improving their relationship to attain their goal of going to the U.S.

Catch: Most jokes were concentrated on the first half of the film, leaving the second half a bit wanting, but still satisfying ’til the end anyway. So kebs.

And this is why I can’t just let this film pass without saying anything about it: MAGANDA KASI SIYA. It works very well for me because this is a comedy that’s not caricature, and that’s sooooooooo effin’ rare lately in Philippine cinema. I’m talking about the likes of this film and HERE COMES THE BRIDE, for instance, where the film presents a far-out storyline yet it’s believable enough pa rin to make you sincerely laugh. And you sincerely laugh because the comedy is not just shallow or slapstick but it’s quite a mix of both, but differentiated because it tries to have depth in delivery and content. Depth, as in lalim, or at least pinag-isipan ang pagpapatawa at hindi mababaw ang punchlines. You know what I’m saying?

Hindi ito katulad lang ng mga Vice Ganda comedies na siya lang ang nagdadala dahil sa stand-up comic timing/delivery niya ng lines (although those work in certain contexts din naman, like in PETRANG KABAYO). At lalong hindi ito tulad ng mga comedy ng Star Cinema or ng mga dinidirek ni Direk Wenn na parang wishy-washy material lang na mukhang sinulat lang in three days (if may script at all, na para kasing tumakbo lang with a sequence outline lang at shoot na agad!). ‘Yung ganitong mga pelikula, nakakatawa talaga dahil maganda ang materyal, magaling ang delivery ng actors, at maganda ang pagkakahabi ng mga eksena at shot. Yes, it really worked for me.

Of course there’s nothing new in the story, you might say. What’s another film about a white man coupling with a brown girl in our islands? Oo, talamak na nga ang ganitong pairing but even so, each generation has something new to contribute to this intercultural discourse. For as long as we can’t shake off our memory of our colonial history, we will certainly continue to talk about the byproducts of such history in our present. Part and parcel of being Filipino, I think, is to have this discourse out in the open, whether people see it negatively or positively. But I hope we could talk about it in a more enlightened way.

And in a way, this film did. Of course the obvious objective was to show naysayers that the brown girl was not only after the money from the white guy. That’s really the default thinking here, and decades of cultural opinion and practice will not shake off that initial impression. Really. Even if we try really hard. But the film is charming because it succeeds in talking about that impression, and even overcoming it, presenting new ways and perspectives of looking at it.

Ako man baffled sa "cultural" eklavu of eating carbs on carbs, namely pancit canton with rice! Hindi ka nag-iisa, dude! LOLZ.

Ako man baffled sa “cultural” eklavu of eating carbs on carbs, namely pancit canton with rice! Hindi ka nag-iisa, dude! LOLZ.

And the first perspective is this: have the white man speak good Tagalog. That’s really cute, even way cuter than half-Filipinos/half-some-other-country people who come here and speak baluktot Tagalog like they’re the cutest thing after newborn puppies. No, chaka ‘yun dude, speak it. And then of course another cute thing here is have the brown girl learn how to speak proper English without even referring to that dreaded term “nosebleed” because in this film, she doesn’t see her baluktot English as a sign of being dumb (which is what, to me, the concept of “nosebleed” suggests/dictates). And what’s even cuter is she’s open to improving her English diction, without even feeling sorry for herself or without feeling insecure. That scene in the bathroom where they do this as they brush their teeth, plus the one where he drills her with meta cards, man that’s just hilarious! (e.g. Where was I born? / Penis…penisvanya? Pencil…Pencilvania!) And it pays off because Tuesday and Travis have great onscreen comedic chemistry. It works.

Another “new” yet tricky contribution of the film to this discourse is where they meet. The film is basically about these two people who met online, in a website obviously designed for meet-ups like theirs, as they both sign up in a dating website called “kanolovespinay.com” or something like that. Of course these kinds of websites exist in real life. And yes, there have been couples who have successfully formed relationships using such sites. But to the judgmental offline world, this kind of pairing is still suspect just because they met in “non-traditional” means. It’s the whole intercultural judgment, but transferred online.

And in this day and age of world wide web connectivity, many people seek out relations of all sorts online, and that should already be a given, a thing not to be subjected to morality judgments. Sige nga, ano ang pinagkaiba nito sa nireto mo ang friend of a friend of a friend of a friend mo sa friend mo for a blind date? In this case, may kalayaang mamili ang mga magde-date ng kanilang type. And yes, I’ve actually met some women who have met white men in such spaces, boyfriends nila currently or they even married pa nga and have a family na, ganun. Yes, take a look around, take a closer look, and you’ll see that these kinds of pairings — borne out of real love connections — do exist.  And even if it’s viewed judgmentally pa rin, the film was able to laugh at the face of this kind of judgment. At first, the film was laughing along with the prejudice and the bigotry. Later, nakikitawa na tayo sa prublema nila. Later, kasama na natin silang tumatawa sa success na na-overcome nila sa kanilang struggles. And as the film wraps up, napapaisip tayo na oo nga naman, may mga ganitong totoo. At okay naman pala. And then we cheer them on in the end, because what they are are just like who we all are: humans who just want to be in a loving relationship, regardless of race, culture or language divides.

White Kano with brown Pinay who usually has a child or two borne out of wedlock or from a previous failed Pinoy relationship, as depicted here. A common image in our country but still bears new discourse.

White Kano with brown Pinay who usually has a child or two borne out of wedlock or from a previous failed Pinoy relationship, as depicted here. A common image in our country but still bears new discourse.

At bakit nga pala turkey-pabo ang peg? The storyline’s plot centered on the nearing of Thanksgiving Day and the Pinay’s struggles to find an elusive turkey in Manila for the celebration, to make her boyfriend happy. Tuesday Vargas is a gem here, kenkoy na kikay na may puso at nasasaktan din naman. In short, totoong tao, someone na posibleng mars mo sa opis o sa kapitbahay ganun, mga taong totoong puwedeng mag-exist in real life, nagawa nilang ipakita dito in a non-caricature/two-dimensional way. Patok pa lalo sa two best friends niyang kikay na kalog din, sina Cai Cortez at Julia Clarete, lalo na sa mga hirit nila na para lang naririnig ko sa tabi-tabi kapag nagsasama-sama kami ng friends ko o napapadaan ako at napapa-eavesdrop sa mga kenkoy na samahang barkada around town. Mga totoong tao, nakikita sa pelikula, malaki ang identification factor nito sa audience, kaya mas effective na nakakatawa sila, dahil nga hindi sila caricature. Take note of this, please, Star Cinema, Viva Films, Regal Films and other outfits that continue to dumb down Filipino audiences by showing us crass comedy year in and year out. Matalino ang audience oy, kaya taas-taasan niyo rin ang level ninyo please lang, k. K.

Having said that, we now end up giving this film our two thumbs up. I hope the filmmakers continue writing material and I hope they’re given more chances to show their craft to the audiences. The future of Philippine cinema is slowly being secured, thanks to such talents. Sana lang ‘wag lumobo ang mga ulo, hane?

K? K.

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Have a gay day the “indie film” way yey!

Posted in children-young adult content, Cine Filipino, digital film, indie films, Philippine Cinema, queer cinema, queer issues in film, women's issues in film on September 26, 2013 by leaflens

September was a happy time for new film releases that are not made under the auspices of film production companies that either mangle brilliant scripts by letting them “be critiqued” by their lupon of creative consultants or don’t touch inanely written “template films” (read: nagawa mo na ‘yan last year direk and the year before and the year before…) by writer-directors who think they’re god’s gift to Philippine Cinema (I don’t know which god, though. Lucifer? God ba siya? Bad angel pala. Basta, kung sinuman boss niya, ‘yun.).

The first thing I’m talking about is this:

allmasters

The Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) had a fest called Sineng Pambansa National Film Festival All Masters Edition where our living legends were given the greenlight to make films they wanted with concepts they believed in. I just wish these films could have ran longer since people had to catch different screening times and it’s difficult to sync that with one’s life. So I’m reviewing one film from that batch muna for now.

The second thing I’m talking about is this:

cine filipino

Yet another digital film festival grant-giving venture, this time from PLDT Smart Foundation and Unitel, a.k.a. Mr. Manny Pangilinan dude. Again, I wish they didn’t just screen for a week in select theaters where you will make habol the screening times again which, again, is hard to sync with one’s life. Just saying, hey. And I’m reviewing one film from that batch here din.

Queer focus for now.

lihisposterLIHIS (2013)

d. Joel Lamangan

s. Ricky Lee

dop. Mo Zee

c. Jake Cuenca, Joem Bascon, Lovi Poe, Isabelle Daza, Gloria Diaz

Pitch: Two male members of the New People’s Army (NPA) reinterpret norms and ideals by fighting for the country’s democracy while maintaining a sexual-romantic relationship. Gives new color to the chant “Maki-beki! ‘Wag ma-shokot!” we sometimes shout during pride marches hmm.

Catch: Not enough alindog shots of Lovi Poe my lust. I’m a lesbian eh — wrong market Jake and Joem! Just saying lol.

What I like about this film is the pumping scene. Scenes pala, plural. Malilibog ang mga neps na ‘to, pare. As in teh, wala pang 5 minutes into the film/exposition/Act I, may mega-pumping nang nagaganap sa dalawang boylet na matapang! You never know what happens in them boondocks, now, do you? Now we kinda do. Kidding.

What I really like about this film is that there’s some kind of tightness in the way the material was handled — well, overall, maybe, but there are a few kinks here and there, of course. The story is tight enough to stand, tight enough for the premise to be believable — that there could indeed be two “ordinary-looking” men with communist ideals and guns to have strong desires for each other. It was also presented in a matter-of-fact way, like the way other storylines could be presented — that hey, there’s this rebel dude and there’s this rebel guy and they want to fight for the country side by side while loving each other. Indeed, the treatment of the relationship was tender and loving, and none of that “I’m not gay” disclaimer shiz that was present in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN before. In here, the gayness need not be spelled out by the people who have homosexual desires  because they were obviously comfortable in their skins about their sexualities. In short, hindi issue sa kanila ang pagiging beki, teh. Mas isyu pa ‘yung baka matagpuan ng kalaban at mabaril sa engkuwentro.

Pagtapos ng barilan, espadahan naman! Yehessss LOL. Salamat sa mabait na nilalang na gumawa ng montage na ito. Pahiram ha.

Pagtapos ng barilan, espadahan naman! Yehessss LOL. Salamat sa mabait na nilalang na gumawa ng montage na ito. Pahiram ha.

But the heterosexual girl had an issue about the homosexuality, and this is where the first story kink comes in. Lovi Poe as that strong female NPA character had quite a few undeveloped angst storylines that got carried over in the adult version of her (read: When Lovi Poe grows up, she becomes Gloria Diaz pala. Puwede na rin; same kalidad ng alindog, once upon a time.) particularly her angst about “finding out” if her NPA crushie-turned-hubby (Joem’s NPA writer-intellectual character) is indeed gay or at least bi, and then having a fuss about it later in life. There were times when it seemed that her character was clueless about the relationship but then later on, it was also revealed that she knew about it in the first place. So why harbor the gay hate attitude later on, girl? That was kinda confusing for me, man. In the end, i just chalked it up to the character being proud, as in “nakukuha ko ang lahat ng gusto ko” kind of proud — including getting the man she desires, the gay man she desires pala. Ewan, labo ni ateh.

And then there’s another issue of having a kind of “cover-up” in the death of the two gay rebels. Her older version seemed to have some angst about people not knowing the real score about how the two died, or her doing a cover-up of the real story and shiz. This was tied up to her older version’s grown-up daughter’s (Isabelle Daza) quest of finding the real facts about what happened to that seemingly buried history of a massacre in a small town — the town where the two gay rebels supposedly died, and no one supposedly survived save for this kid who grew up and got stuck in a mental institution. Uh, yeah, if I lost you, sorry I got lost, too. These are the other kinks that needed to be ironed out in the film because I think it’s predominantly the gay storyline that got brainstormed better than the rest.

And yes, why wouldn’t it? It’s a quaint and novel premise that’s not seen in many popular culture forms. Gay NPAs, sankapa teh! That in itself sells the story without effort. Then pepper it with bits and pieces of historical situations then (Marcos era) and now (Noynoy era), and you got a political film, easy. And then show many pumping scenes and kilitian moments between the two handsome gay dues and weh, umupo ka na lang and let the film sell like beefcakes er hotcakes pala. Appeal to prurient interests? Check! Appeal to lovey-dovey marriage equality romantics? Check! Ma-appeal na leading men kissing each other? Check! Pasok sa banga na lahat. And never mind na lang if the pretty Miss Universe-looking (or former Miss Universe title holder) women are also in this film. I guess they’re the eye candy naman for the straights and the lezzies. And I admire them three women because they also gave good acting performances here, sans being framed in a maalindog way (which I still protest BTW but hey…).

Kinilig naman ako sa eksenang ito ng lambutchingan mode. Pero kelangan talagang naka-topless si Jake? Sige na nga...

Kinilig naman ako sa eksenang ito ng lambutchingan mode. Pero kelangan talagang naka-topless si Jake? Sige na nga…

Overall, it’s still a good quality queer film. The lighting was okay naman (except for my eternal angst about blue/uber-liwanag lighting in night scenes in Philippine cinema, but that’s another discourse) and the editing was also good. The directing is surprisingly good as well. Direk Joel is kind of a hit-and-miss director for me, depending on the material he’s handling. But this was surprisingly okay. Ricky’s script was also okay in his ang-bawa’t-karakter-ay-may-bubog kind of way (yet another discourse, saka na lang) which works well here, save for the kinks I mentioned na nga.

If this gets shown somewhere else, it’s still worth catching. So go catch.

*

chacha2ANG HULING CHA-CHA NI ANITA (2013)

d., s. Sigrid Bernardo

dop. Alma Dela Pena

c. Angel Aquino, Teri Malvar and a bunch of talented actors of all ages

Pitch: Tween girl from the province falls in crush with a returning pretty kababayan who has her own secrets to unravel.

Catch: A few kinks in the way some subplots introduced are ended or woven in the main narrative but we overlook it because Angel Aquino is so pretty to look at. Yes we’re biased that way, hey.

What I like about this film is that Angel Aquino is very pretty to look at. In a non-male gaze kind of way. Meaning I am a lesbian and I could look at the film and the shot makes me desire her. If you’re a man and you’re straight then you will also obviously lust after her because that is the default mode of the male gaze. If you’re gay and you like pretty things then you will like the way she was shot because she looked pretty. And if you’re a straight woman then you’ll probably look at her and wonder how she does her hair because it’s so pretty and you want yours to be that pretty, too. All angles — or gazes — covered pare, sankapa hihi. But of course there’s a good motivation behind the perspective, and it’s largely hinged at the main story it’s telling: the teen girl Anita’s developing crush on the prettiest girl in their town. So yes, the way she was shot, it works! Kudos to Alma for this. Plus the overall cinematography na rin, while we’re at it.

Alindog, thy name is Angel. Mas sexy if may itak, bow. LOL

Alindog, thy name is Angel. Mas sexy if may itak, bow. LOL

And I’m glad to see that their tandem is still alive, Alma and Sigrid. Together, they work well cinematically and it shows.  Sigrid’s handling of her own material is also good because it shows that she cares as a director how the scenes should come alive. This is evident in the way the children’s scenes were shot. Anita has two best friends and their barkada trio is a hoot to watch. Although sometimes, having written children’s narratives and directed children’s TV shows, I somehow lose my grip on my disbelief that these kids are real kids. I mean sure, we have bibo kids and we have bibo wunderkinds (like TV’s Ryzza Mae), but some of the dialogues of the kids are too bibo to be true for me. It’s one thing to keep it real in a bibo way, but it’s another to overdo it na kasi. Some are overdone in my opinion, but it’s still a small kink that could get shrugged off anyway.

The main narrative is okay naman. The main story is framed by the present time where we see Anita as a drill sergeant ba or something, basta someone who commands a platoon inside a military base or camp. A package of her mother’s main source of business, the tahong chips (Aha! Tahong talaga ha! I see what ya did there, ya dykes lol!) catapults the whole film into flashback mode to introduce us to Anita during her childhood, back when she was merely a typical teen rebel who misses her dead soldier father so much until she smartened up to win the attention of the love of her little life, Pilar. The whole film’s journey is hinged at the unraveling of why Pilar came back (supposedly to start over a life with an ex-bf who turns out to be Anita’s uncle) and what she does in the meantime (a former OFW physical therapist turned local hilot/massage person) and what she does towards the end of her own narrative (revealing plot dump after plot dump regarding her supposed pregnancy-cum-abortion or her supposed “skills” to “abort” and her main reason for leaving — which was being pregnant and surprise surprise kung sino pala ang nakajontis kay ati and such). Her narrative becomes a bit convoluted and confusing towards the end, which wasn’t helped very much by the dream-like interpretation of the ending sequence with the grown-up Anita coming back and passing by Pilar’s now-abandoned house (of course the cinematic clues lead us to conclude our own conclusions, mainly choosing whether Pilar left or died or whatnot, meaning kayo na bahala kung ano ang nais niyong kinahinatnan ng byuti ni Angel ditey).

So Pilar’s journey is being unraveled together with Anita’s own narrative about having a crush on her and making things work in order to get her little objectives met (mainly to earn enough money to afford a full body massage from Pilar and changing the way she looks to be more impressive). So in this part, we see this Ang Pagbibinata Ni Anita mode which was a happy development in the beginning since the discussion of sexuality was, once again, presented in a matter-of-fact way, meaning it’s okay to Anita and her friends and family that she is developing a crush on another woman. In short, hindi na naman isyu ang pagiging biyaning ni ati. Mas isyu pa ‘yung dapat makasali siya sa sagala at makasama sa pamilya niya sa kanilang yearly visit sa sayaw sa Obando thingie sa Bulacan, their province.

Ang Pagbibinata Ni Anita-batumbakal na taga-frisco. Charut! Kung may kapitbahay din ba akong ganyang kaganda eh di sana mas maaga tayong namulat sa katotohanan ng life, aney? LOL.

Ang Pagbibinata Ni Anita-batumbakal na taga-frisco. Charut! Kung may kapitbahay din ba akong ganyang kaganda eh di sana mas maaga tayong namulat sa katotohanan ng life, aney? But no. LOL.

And that treatment of queerness is what’s formidable in this material. I like the way that the film treats being a lesbian here, that’s it’s a non-issue — which is how it should be treated in real life anyway, hey. And this is what gives the film heart: to see Anita struggling with her crush, trying to court Anita in her own innocent adolescent way (culminating to a funny scene where she tries to pedal the bike where Pilar was riding in its sidecar — hilarous!) and trying to balance her crush and her family/friend “duties” and such. I could see why this kid won the best actress award for this festival since her portrayal is so real and honest, probably a refreshing thing on the big screen lately, huh. So never mind if she knocked out the Superstar in this category. Give chance to others, as we usually say when we played during our youth. Devah?

I just wish that the film was tightened more in terms of its other elements. Like the element of the dance and the cha-cha. While they were running motifs in the film, sometimes they pop out from out of nowhere just to be in that sequence, you know what I’m saying? Like that cha-cha scene in the market as Anita passes by to collect money for her mom’s business, and then she imagines Pilar appearing there and dancing with her. The other dance scenes were okay, like the one in the beginning where two secret lovers were canoodling with each other or even the way Anita’s mother was trying to exercise via dancing. But I’m still trying to figure out the main symbolism of the Obando dance since, in our culture, this is where you go to dance so that the heavens will grant you a child. I’m not sure why Pilar was spotted there towards the end or what’s the meaning of little Anita’s participation in this fertility dance fiesta. But if it’s in the general category of “dance-ask and you shall receive” then okay, I buy that, but what exactly did Anita want to achieve or ask for? As an adult, we see her commanding an army platoon in the beginning and in the end we see her reminiscing about Pilar which culminates into a dream-like sequence nga of adult Anita kissing Pilar (or at least a whiff of her image, an imagined image perhaps).  Is that what’s being asked — an imagined kiss, an imagined closure with a past crush-love? Not very clear, this. And it’s left at that.

The ending left me hanging, even if I loved 80 percent of the film. I wish it could have had more oomph since it gave the feeling of having loose ends towards the end. Perhaps give the adult Anita a lover, a happy support for her life, to maybe conclude and tie it up with the lessons she learned — if any — in the whole teenage flashback regarding her crush with Pilar.

Still, it’s a good film to watch overall. The acting, cinematography and directing will carry you well into the end. It’s also easier to forgive those few narrative lapses in such queer-positive films, actually. So I’m cool with that.

Congrats to the team for pulling this through, though. I wish there were more materials like this one. I’m glad this festival was supportive of queer-positive love-crush things, unlike other festivals we know. But that’s another plot altogether hihi.

Hashtag alam na!

 

 

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