Archive for the film festival Category

MMFF 2016: Oro plata woof-woof

Posted in advocacy filmmaking, digital film, drama film, film festival, MMFF, Philippine Cinema, Philippine film industry on January 30, 2017 by leaflens

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.

oroposterORO (2016)

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.

[poster swiped from their wikipedia page, other stills swiped from Mell T. Navarro’s FB page (beh peram ha)]

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.orostill1

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 orostill3themselves 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.

15267507_694528670714823_3240130399885393009_nThat 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 orostill2horizon 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.

15194604_694528874048136_5231514782967557227_o

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MMFF2016: Kabisera ng buwan, at ang hangin ay may kalamigan…

Posted in drama film, film festival, MMFF, Philippine Cinema, Philippine film industry, women's issues in film on January 12, 2017 by leaflens

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.

 

kabiseraposterKABISERA (2016)

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.

babaebabae-97-nora-aunor-back-sf

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?

himalarestored

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).

mybrotherisnotapig

Picture swiped from here. Pahiram mga beh.

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.

Next!

MMFF 2013: MY LITTLE BOSSINGS

Posted in dramedy film, film festival, MMFF, Philippine Cinema, Philippine film industry, POC Pinoy LGBT channel, queer issues in film on December 31, 2013 by leaflens

Again, I was thinking of making a thorough cinematic review of this film but I deemed it fit to be part of my bunch of MMFF December articles for the Phil. Online Chronicles’ Pinoy LGBT channel instead. That’s because the film serves a double plus plus for the queer community via the character played by Aiza Seguerra and the citation that she received because of it.

Yes, that is a big deal. Because this film has, in my opinion, the best characterization of a lesbian in Philippine cinema in recent history. And we all know that that’s so rare, right? As rare as a butch to butch relationship here. That rare. Basta.

An excerpt:

mylittlebossing lezfamPero kahit ganito pa man kaintriga at kapalasak ang mga napapag-usapan minsan sa taunang MMFF, di natin maikakaila na bahagi na rin siya ng buhay Pinoy ilang dekada na rin. At dahil bahagi siya ng buhay Pinoy, ikinatuwa kong naisama rin ang LGBTQ kahit papaano sa buhay Pinoy na ito. At mas ikinatuwa ko pa lalo nang nakita nating lahat ang suporta sa isang kauri ngayong taon – ang pagpapahalaga sa katauhan at karakter ng isang lesbiyana sa pinilakang tabing at sa labas nito. Ito ang pagbibigay nila ng award bilang Best Supporting Actress kay openly out queer singer-actress Aiza Seguerra para sa ginampanan niyang role sa isa sa mga festival films.

Read the rest of my review here – “Our Little Bossing that could: Isang pahabol na pagpapahalaga sa lesbiyana.”

 

MMFF 2013: The queer overview

Posted in film festival, MMFF, Philippine Cinema, POC Pinoy LGBT channel, queer cinema, queer issues in film on December 31, 2013 by leaflens

Each year, I try to do a summary of the MMFF films and see how the LGBTQ community was mentioned, referred, treated or depicted in these films. It’s part of my duty as a contributing writer for the Pinoy LGBT channel of Phil. Online Chronicles.

This year, it’s quite amusing to note that there is one film with a very vocal queer component and of course there are openly out queer actors who are playing roles in some of these films. I’ve already said my piece about GIRL BOY BAKLA TOMBOY but I still mention it a bit in this summary. So I looked closely at the other films that mattered in this context, namely BOY GOLDEN, KIMMY DORA and PAGPAG.

I also included a bit of MY LITTLE BOSSINGS but I found that I should do a whole article about that, especially since Aiza Seguerra won an award for her role there. As to why it merits its own article, just read it here.

An excerpt of the queer overview:

mmff2013B_entriesSa taunang ritwal na nakasanayan na ng karamihan sa mga Pilipino tuwing panahon ng Pasko, muli na naman tayong makikisilip sa Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) para tingnan kung paano isinabuhay ang mga buhay-buhay ng ilang miyembro ng LGBTQ community sa pinilakang tabing. Dito din natin nasisilip kung paano tayo tinatrato o isinasaalang-alang ng mga manggagawa ng pelikulang Pilipino, kung ang trato ba ay makatao, katatawanan lamang o may konting progresibong pagbabagong nasisilip.

Read the rest of the article here.

Let this be your guide. Happy viewing!

MMFF 2013: GIRL BOY BAKLA TOMBOY

Posted in comedy film, film festival, MMFF, Philippine Cinema, POC Pinoy LGBT channel, queer cinema, queer issues in film on December 27, 2013 by leaflens

Well, I’m not really sure if I will do a very thorough analysis of GIRL BOY BAKLA TOMBOY for this space like what I did with 10000 HOURS in my previous post — unless you want me to heheh. Hm esep-esep pa ko k.

But anyway, I already wrote something from a queer advocate’s point of view that was posted in the Pinoy LGBT channel of Philippine Online Chronicles so check it out there na lang muna, for starters.

An excerpt:

GBBT posterAng simple lang ng kuwento, kung tutuusin. Wala namang bago rito. Pero nakakabahala para sa mga tulad naming patuloy na itinataas ang LGBTQ pride dito sa Pilipinas kung hihimaying mabuti ang pelikulang ito at ang mga sinasabi niyang mensahe sa mga manonood.

Una, nabahala ako nang sinabi ni Girl ‘yung linyang “that fag twin brother” nung galit na siya sa pagtataray at pagpapahirap sa kanya ni Bakla. (Fag talaga? Ikaw na laking Amerika, di mo natutunang kapag sinabi mo ang fag ay mapapaaway ka?) At para gantihan ito, ang naisip ni Girl na gawin ay agawan ng love life si Bakla dahil sa analysis niya, sa totoong babae pa rin naman papanig ang isang straight na lalaki, kahit na parang nagkakaigihan sila ng Bakla niyang kakambal. Sa lahat naman ng paraan ng pagtira, talagang kailangang bumaba sa level ng straight girl vs. effeminate gay ang peg? Parang hindi ito nakakatuwa. Eto, dito tayo talo sa laro.

Read the whole article here. Basically, the article enumerates majority of  the reasons why I didn’t vote for this film to be on my shortlist sa aking jury duty sa MMFF Most Gender Sensitive Film Award last week.

I repeat: I didn’t vote for this film, k? As for my top 1 vote (or tie for top 2 rin pala), I’ll write the reviews of that in the coming days na lang, k? Suspense na lang kung ano sila at the moment hehe. K?

K.

P.S. So pinanood niyo na ‘yung 10000 HOURS? Anubeh! Gora watch!

MMFF 2013: 10000 Hours

Posted in action-drama film, film festival, MMFF, Philippine Cinema, Philippine film industry, production life, suspense-thriller film, women's issues in film on December 26, 2013 by leaflens

A first look at the box office results and it seems that Binoe’s latest action caper is like second to the last or something. But no! I believe this film should be seen by many since it’s well made. It’s not your average Pinoy action film mga beks. Anyway here’s my take on it na lang.

10000hours poster10000 HOURS

d. Joyce Bernal

p. Philippine Film Studios

sc. Teresa Barrozo

c. Robin Padilla, Bela Padilla, Carla Humphries, Michael De Mesa and basically a host of fine talents the country has to offer right now

Pitch: A senator about to disclose corruption details decides to run to Amsterdam instead and the story is his life as he was treated as a fugitive chenelyn chuvaness.

Catch: Script a bit didactic at times. But when one talks of corruption in Philippine politics/government/society, we all tend to wax poetic/speak in tongues/swear like there’s no tomorrow anyway, so what the hey.

Never mind that the film was loosely based on the life nga of Senator Ping Lacson as the producers and the PR said. Please overlook that “trivia.” And if you also want to enjoy this film, overlook na lang the fact that Robin Padilla sometimes overacts like he swallowed a “hey I’m a senator so I have to act this way” pill. Yes, some actors are burdened by roles like that: they don’t ingest and digest the role properly.

But what the hey. At least most of the time, we get to see the story unfolding around the senator protagonist. This is clearly a plot-driven narrative wherein the persecuted protagonist just goes with the flow of what happens, even if there’s this impression that the events transpire because he willed it. Anyway, scriptwriting talk aside, I like this film because the tightness of the script’s structure works for me. And it was in tandem with how the film was directed, shot, edited and scored. All of those major aspects working well in this film, working well together, I should add. No pabida effect. Not even the acting was pabida, meaning the actors knew their places and there was no outshining someone else, as they all were in character and played according to what the script/story/directing called for. Now that’s filmmaking at its finest. Like what I’ve always taught my students, filmmaking is teamwork, and I saw that here, clearly.

And yes, I should commend this because this is rare in Philippine cinema — or at least rare in the last decade or so. To see a film na pinag-isipan bago pa man ito mag-roll sa day1 shoot, that’s really something I admire. You would sometimes detect if a film was just treated in the usual “bahala na shoot” where shots appear tentative, dialogues appear trite and putting the film together appeared like such a chore for the editor. Dito, hindi. I think it helps that we have a director who’s sensitive to how a film will be edited, since Bb. Joyce’s original training was that of an editor kasi. Ito ‘yung may pulso. Kaya kailangan, alam din niya ang tirada ng camera, saan ito ipupuwesto para ‘pag niyari sa post, madali at smooth, mas madali pulsuhan ang edit.

And that’s what happened here. Most sequences had your usual invisible editing style wherein shots flow smoothly kahit cut to cut lang. Magic of filmmaking at its finest and most classic in approach. No fancy edits or paarte shots needed if you know your basics of filmmaking and you know how to harness the tech stuff well. But I also love the way they mapped out the senator’s escape sequences because they were also playful here. The dynamic way of shooting it was seeing the action thru CCTV cams interspersed with the usual stalker-type shots. Then edit them together and present them in multi-frame playback in one frame, but creatively, and you get a good and well-edited thriller that I haven’t seen in a long time in Philippine cinema. Oo, I really have to emphasize that because I love cinema and I love Pinoy ingenuity, and I hate how some producers or film outfits prioritize profit over ingenuity in this “business” cum artform. Hayst but that’s another blogpost na lang hane…

Mataas pati ang overall production value ng film na ito. It’s smooth and clean, well-lit and well-scored. Sakto ang elements sa pacing ng action as it unfolds. I admire the Amsterdam shots and they’re very lucky to have that creative freedom to shoot around town. Kahit ‘yung Pinas scenes naman malinis kaya like I said, mataas ang production values ng film so kudos sa producers ito. So yes, this is not you run-of-the-mill Pinoy action film but it’s more of a drama thriller with action sequences, let’s just put it that way. Action was a necessity only when the senator had to fight off villains after him. I appreciate the martial arts moves, the boxing and muay thai techniques shown “quietly” by Robin here, meaning parang fight sequences siya na totoong puwedeng mangyari in real life. So it’s not your exag x 50 action star acting. Sakto lang, and that works perfectly well for the drama it’s trying to unfold.

And the drama is where the didactic elements enter. Unavoidable, as I said, because the film is about the senator revealing who in the past and present government is in on the corruption stuff that he knows and discovered during his policeman days of fighting kidnap-for-ransom syndicates. Of course this means corruption that reaches the higher echelons of the ruling class in the country, from generals to high politicians yadda yadda yadda. Yes, alam na alam na natin itong mga storyline na ito, bilang Pilipino na sumusubaybay sa bawat corruption scandal na sulpot nang sulpot na parang kabute sa balita. At lahat tayo, may opinyon sa mga kaganapan, pedestrian man o “expert.” Kaya minsan, ‘yung mga linya sa pelikula, ganyan din ang tunog. Kaya didactic. Pero dahil madrama naman talaga tayong mga Pinoy in general, we forgive it.

But this kinda ending scene takes the cake. Didactic visualized = overkill. Minus 10 points for Gryffindor ito.

But this kinda ending scene takes the cake. Didactic visualized = overkill. Minus 10 points for Gryffindor ito.

And being didactic nga is unavoidable, especially given the kind of protagonist you have. If you really look at the heart of it, the story is about how an idealistic person still believes in the rule of law and abhors the corrupt who tarnishes it, because he loves his country so much. But it also discusses nuances that will make you think. Like for example, I like the way they were discussing when to reveal what they know. If I remember it right, there was a line there that said “sa tamang gobyerno/administrasyon” lang nila ilalabas ‘yung alam nila, timing para kalabanin ang matataas at malakas. And that’s very interesting for me. Kailan nga ba tamang oras maging tapat na Pilipino? May panahon pala ito, may oras? Kung whistleblower ka, kailan ka hindi mabibilaukan ng pitong ikaw mismo ang pumito para marinig ng lahat? Sadly, if you’ve been watching the news, you’ll know the answer to this already, to the point of being numb to the issues. Aminin, nakakapagod na. Pero nakakatuwa rin kapag may efforts tayong nakikita para baguhin ito, kaya tayo mismo ay lumalarga at nakikialam na, sa paraang kaya at alam natin. Hello Million People March Against Pork Barrel nga, di ba? There you go, people power Philippines, there you go.

Behind every great man is an even greater woman, gun handling optional. Good acting a must.

Behind every great man is an even greater woman, gun handling optional. Good acting a must.

But back to the film. Commendable are the actors here who played their roles well, regardless of how big or small they might be. As I blogged about in my media+pop culture site, I was lucky enough to be part of this year’s MMFF Most Gender Sensitive Film Award jury, so I’ve seen this film way before its Christmas release. And to tell you a secret, this film I voted as my number 2 choice for this particular award, simply because I like the mix of how women were portrayed here. A great revelation for me is Bela Padilla who looked like your “average” pretty broadcast journalist/reporter who turned out to have a chip off her shoulder which made her do the things she did in the story. She pulls off the role believably well, as she reminds me of colleagues and friends in the industry who indeed act and talk like that at work and at home, mga matatapang na palaban pero smart-ass din hehe. This girl should have more meatier roles in the future. Philippine showbiz, please be kind to this talent. At ilabas niyo nga sila ni Bea Alonzo sa isang pelikula hehe bagay silang mag-twin bill starrer teh! Magka-peg sa talent at ganda at aura hehe. But that’s just me.

Minahal ko siya lalo sa eksenang ito. A good confrontation scene with a very good plot twist of sorts. Haha I kras U Bela na talaga ang peg. #dykewoes

Minahal ko siya lalo sa eksenang ito. A good confrontation scene with a very good plot twist of sorts. Haha I kras U Bela na talaga ang peg. #dykewoes

I also liked the way women were pivotal in the life of the senator. Carla Humphries’ role in the Amsterdam portion was also good as she played this parang espionage-like maiden who was sophisticated enough to maneuver around town to legally/illegally help the senator, at the same time passing off as “just another person in town” to help conceal her true identity and the identity of the senator eklavu. Basta, it worked for me. Good characterization always works for me.

I’m just not happy with the two other women roles here, particularly the Philippine president role played by Bibeth Orteza. But hey, we know presidents could be corrupt, yes? Even if they’re women, yes? Okay, I’ll just leave that thought there.

Anak ka ba ng ina mo, o ng ama mo? Good acting nonetheless from Mylene, as usual. Although I don't think I could totally shake off the fact na junakis niya ang boylet na 'yan in age and stuff. Heniweys hemingways moving on...

Anak ka ba ng ina mo, o ng ama mo? Good acting nonetheless from Mylene, as usual. Although I don’t think I could totally shake off the fact na junakis niya ang boylet na ‘yan in age and stuff. Heniweys hemingways moving on…

As for the other woman, it’s Mylene Dizon who plays the senator’s ever-supportive wife. How I wish this character were a bit stronger in trying to pull her act together to keep her family left behind. But on the other hand, I also understand the vulnerability that such a burden would do to a woman like her. Mabigat, at masakit sa loob na sinusumbatan din siya ng anak na lalaki sa isang banda. I wish this character were stronger, but maybe it needed to be weak, to show how the male sons were struggling to be strong din. Hit and miss for me, but I understand the characterization nonetheless. So there.

So that’s my takeaway on this film. The moment the screening finished, I was happy to note that this film is way better than an action film they were touting as great earlier this year. Ahmsareeeh I think this is relatively better, lamang ng sampung paligo ito teh! Also happy to note that some of my former students (both formal and “informal” hehe) also worked in this film pala. Gujab guys! I’m so proud of you, as always. ‘Wag lang lalaki ulo, ha. ‘Yan lang naman bilin ko lagi sa inyo from day1 hehe.

So I do hope you catch it, and I do hope it wins awards on Friday. Let’s see. Goodluck and kudos!

15th French Film Festival

Posted in film festival, flashbacking, French cinema, French New Wave, takilya life on June 2, 2010 by leaflens

Yesterday was fun. I got an invite to attend the press preview of the forthcoming French Film Festival at the Shangri-la Mall Cineplex in Ortigas. Glad that it’s in Ortigas pa rin, somewhat more accessible for me to go to.

Some kind of "travel to discover yourself" film, sort of. You know naman the French, hard to peg in just a simple one-line pitch...

Their line-up this year looks interesting. Well, their line-ups always are anyway. It’s just that in the past years, I’ve grown weary of attending such festivals, unlike in my younger fresh-out-of-film school days when my friends and I would simply devour such showings, inventing the concept of the film marathons in our barkada, which we usually do anyway since undergrad days.

In English, "Offices of God." Title pa lang, intriguing na! Comedy ito. I'm catching this one.

Since our former film department had close ties with the French Embassy, we were also regularly invited to openings of such festivals and other Frenchy gimmicks like their annual Bastille Day celebs and such. But since I gave up my car, I got tired of attending the festivals and events because of the difficult commute going home to Marikina.

Loosely translated as "In (the) Life," this is like an inter-religion drama chuva. Worth seeing how they deal with such issues.

So it was refreshing to be in this loop again yesterday, as the event didn’t really start too early or too late, just right for the 10am snack time they said and the 1030am film screening after. I saw several old-timers covering the event, mga kasabayan ko noon pa in such entertainment coverages since the early 2000s, and I also saw new faces from younger publications.

"Girl on a train" ito (I'm guessing the RER is an acronym for a train station or something), some kind of urban intriguing drama chuva. Wanna watch this.

Nakakatuwa naman. Maluwag pa kasi ang sked ko for now since the start of classes is next week pa naman, I decided to check out the festival ek.

Family drama chever, the title means "Summer Hours." Drama yata itey.

And I’m glad I did. The film we saw, Le Graine et le Mulet, is a refreshing film for me to see, ako na babad na naman sa Hollywood at local indie lately. God, I missed French films! I’ll discuss that film extensively sa Manila Times column ko in the next two weeks. For now, I hope they accept the feature article I submitted earlier. Medyo nag-iiba na pala ang klima doon ngayon since my lifestyle editor just quit, so I’m just playing it by ear there. But I digress.

It's interesting to see the lives of French immigrants of Arabic descent. Happy ito, refreshing for me ang story structure. And the couscous! Yum.

Anyway, the posters here are those of the films to be screened. Exciting din ‘yung Eric Rohmer retrospective since kakamatay lang niya last January. One of the late-bloomers siya sa French New Wave generation nina Godard at Truffaut et al. Happy sana kung di lang sa CCP ang retrospective kainis. A select films of his will be brought naman later to UPFI pala as well as some of the festival selections, pero parang ayoko nang manood dun lately — walang popcorn at proper aircon. Na-spoil ako sa Gateway at SM cinemas na of late hehe.

Ito mukhang happy, about sex and love, French preoccupations.

Anyway, when I don’t have classes yet, I’ll try to catch the screenings. Refreshing din kasing tumambay ulit sa Shang, a break from SM hehe.

Its English title is "Just Anybody" about a twentysomething na parang walang magawa sa buhay dahil rich siya. Parang some people I know hehehe...

The sked is here:

June 3, Thursday
7:30 p.m. – L’Amour c’est mieux a deux

June 4, Friday
12 p.m. – L’Heure d’ete’
3 p.m. – La Fille du RER
6 p.m. – La Graine et le Mulet
9 p.m. – Les Bureaux de Dieu

June 5, Saturday
12 p.m. – L’Amour c’est mieux a deux
3 p.m. – Le Premier Venu
6 p.m. – Welcome
9 p.m. – Dans La Vie

June 6, Sunday
12 p.m. – Le Genou De Claire
3 p.m. – Le Beau Mariage
6 p.m. – L’Heure d’ete’
9 p.m. – La Fille du RER

June 7, Monday
12 p.m. – La Graine et le Mulet
3 p.m. – Les Bureaux de Dieu
6 p.m. – L’Amour c’est mieux a deux
9 p.m. – Le Premier Venu

June 8, Tuesday
12 p.m. – Welcome
3 p.m. – Dans La Vie
6 p.m. – Le Genou De Claire
9 p.m. – Le Beau Mariage

June 9, Wednesday
12 p.m. – Les Bureaux de Dieu
3 p.m. – La Graine et le Mulet
6 p.m. – La Fille du RER
9 p.m. – L’Heure d’ete’

June 10, Thursday
12 p.m. – Dans La Vie
3 p.m. – Welcome
6 p.m. – Le Premier Venu
9 p.m. – L’Amour c’est mieux a deux

June 11, Friday
12 p.m. – La Fille du RER
3 p.m. – L’Heure d’ete’
6 p.m. – Le Beau Mariage
9 p.m. – Le Genou De Claire

June 13, Sunday
12 p.m. – Le Premier Venu
3 p.m. – L’Amour c’est mieux a deux
6 p.m. – Les Bureaux de Dieu
9 p.m. – La Graine et le Mulet

I grabbed this sked sa spot.ph. To see the synopses of the films, go to their site na lang here.

Crime thriller chuva with Jean Reno. Looks interesting.

Here’s the rest of the sked as I wrote in my article:

Film lovers can catch the full run of the French Film Festival at the Shangri-La Cineplex in Ortigas from June 3 to 13 while the full Eric Rohmer Retrospective will run at the CCP from June 15-20. The festival will then travel to Cebu where it will be showcased at the Ayala Center from June 18 to 20. A selection of the festival and Rohmer films will then be screened at the University of the Philippines Film Institute’s (UPFI) Cine Adarna Theater at the UP Diliman campus in Quezon City. For other details of the festival, you can call 633-2227.

O sige, kitakits na lang.

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