Archive for the Philippine film industry Category

Year of the Lull

Posted in Philippine film industry, sine muni, takilya life with tags , on January 2, 2019 by leaflens

Hello folks! It seems like I skipped a whole year, again, without putting a review out there. I’ve actually been doing that more on my public Instagram account whenever I post mini-reviews of films I see, which also get cross-posted sa public author’s page ko sa FB. You can follow that account if you like: @mx_libay_linsangan_cantor. My FB page is: facebook.com/libaycantor.

The year of the lull was actually not much of a choice. I also didn’t feel like seeing, let along reviewing some Filipino films that came out this year, especially the MMFF. While I don’t think I can catch pa the MMFF these last few January days because I’m stuck in bed with a nasty foot sprain, nakakawalang gana na rin actually manood minsan, mainly because of the chika na nakakapagod na ring sundan dito sa industriyang ito, sa totoo lang, industriyang minsang minahal ko nang lubos.

My film-active contacts have been chatting about these on FB the entire year. Lalo na come festival season. Like itong nangyari sa QC Filmfest, nakakaloka nga namang maghabol ka ng sinehan from one end of the city to another. Ang beef ko pa dun, ‘yung ibang movies nasa labas ng QC! Musta namang sa Robinson’s Galleria ba ‘yun o Megamall? Define QC nga, beh. Kalokang geography-challenged problem ituh. Pero nung nakita ko kung sinu-sino ang mga nagpapatakbo kasi nun, aysus… Hindi na ako nagtaka pa hahahahaha. But I managed to get one screening in, primarily because a former student/thesis advisee had an entry (na tinulungan ko siyang i-workshop ang script niya actually, upon her request). I missed the gala kasi, ‘yung kay Sam Lee, kaya I caught it na lang some other day. Apart from that, wala na yata akong masyadong nakita pa. Pero basta mga dati kong estudyante ang may gawa, I make it a point to watch them. Kahit ‘yung mga ‘yun man lang, mapanood ko. And of course, some of my filmmaker friends’ efforts din, kung meron silang ilalabas. Siyempre support din iyon, ever. The rest? Abangan ko na lang sa Netflix ‘yan hehe.

Ito rin kasing MMFF medyo letdown na ang nagaganap, after a hopeful resurgence. Industriyang bulok versus independent openminded thinking na naman. Like what I’ve been saying time and again, “Same mafia, different decade!” Kelan kaya mababago ang sistema? Okay na sana ‘yung a few years ago na may docu, then we go back again to the usual trash cinema cycle. Sino naman ang gaganahan dun? Although this has been a movie marathon ritual for me and my mom for years now, sayang at di namin magagampanan iyon for the past year’s batch dahil nga sa sprain ko. Gusto ko pa namang habulin ‘yung isa, ‘yung gay film ni Eddie Garcia. Sayang. Abangan ko na lang dun sa mga indie cinema houses na nakikita ko, cropping up in Metro Manila. Kakatuwang may mga ganun na! Bisitahin ko kapag may time, lalo na ‘yung mga nasa QC area, sa Maginhawa yata ‘yung isa saka ‘yung sa Anonas branch nung nasa San Juan na isa. Cool! They rerun the indie films and local films there na na-miss ko sa ka-busy-han ng life. I plan to see more of that there. Sige soon.

Sayang itong industriya natin. Minsan talaga two steps forward na, tapos one step back later, then one forward again, then three backwards naman. Wala rin. I thought one giant leap for cinemakind na ‘yung naganap nung mid-2000s with Cinemalaya, but what did it do now? It just produced a newer brand of mafia-like Kami-Kami Productions na naman, junior edition. Like bow down to their system if you want to make your film kind of peg na naman. And it produces egos with cameras, not artistic filmmakers, na kahit ‘yung mga nauna-unang batch of filmmakers ay nakikita kong nasusuya din sa pinuntahan ng mga fests na ito, once hopeful, now ewan na. Sayang ano.

The other fests were no better din, lalo na ‘yang Cinema One na ‘yan. Pero may mga taon namang umo-okay-okay silang pareho, tapos may year na lalaylay na naman o may kontrobersiya na namang puputok, na may kinawawa na namang mga tao. Haaaaaay crap cinema cycle na naman, digital edition. Nakikimiron na lang naman ako sa sirkulong iyan, kasi nga madalas nakakapagod na ang mga tired old narratives that get rehashed sa kalakaran behind the scenes. Ayoko nang madagdagan pa ang dumarami ko nang uban, sa totoo lang. Hayst.

Kaya stick na lang ako sa panonood at pagrerebyu from a distance. I plan to be more active in this department this 2019. (Sorry kung famous last words-sounding na naman ito hahaha pero pramis, talagang tututs na siya.) I’m actually trying to rehash and streamline my online existence, also to house all of my horcruxes online into a cohesive spot. Been chatting with someone about that last year, so let’s see how that goes later on, hopefully within this first quarter. Also, I’m thinking of creating a pop culture podcast, but that one’s just a dream for now. Let’s see.

Hay, sige cinema, hindi pa naman tayo divorced or anything. Siguro diet lang. Life’s getting too short to waste on bad movies and stuff, kaya focus tayo sa mga mas malaman muna.

And happy new year, folks. See you again soon!

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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

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!

MMFF2016: My briefer (pantyer?)

Posted in MMFF, Philippine Cinema, Philippine film industry on January 12, 2017 by leaflens
mmff-logo

Photo swiped from here.

 

I like this new MMFF logo. It cutely reflects both celluloid and digital via the wheel icons. Then there’s Metro Manila icons within the jeep. And then there’s movement, as this is an animated logo. The font is also reminiscent of the past Tourism Dept. campaign of “It’s more fun in the Philippines!” Enter frame from left, exit frame to the right. Just where we want to go — forward.

And this is supposedly what this refurbished MMFF aims: to move forward, away from the usual Christmas box-office trappings of trashy Christmas film fare. So many things have already been said about this, so I won’t add to the conversation. I’m just glad that I’m seeing more formidable people like my former film professor colleague at the helm of things in the selection committee or whatever they call their committees now. Slowly, change is indeed coming, at least in this “miniscule” part of our world we call Philippine cinema.

But have things really changed? Save from having a documentary — a full-length one at that — enter as a viable competitor, some films sounded like they’re cut with the same cookie cutter of past films while the rest were whipped up by artisanal chefs who kept on reinventing at the last minute before serving. Yes, we saw them all. And we’ll talk about them, one by one.

mmff-2016-posters

Photo swiped from here.

Enero na nang mahagilap ko ang mga pelikula, at nakaka-panic dahil sa threat na aalisin na daw sila agad-agad matapos ang takdang araw ng festival. Aba, perstaym! Dati eh extended nang bongga ang entries, tapos ngayon, hindi magkaugaga sa pag-pullout. Talagang same mafia, different decade lang talaga ang ibang kalakaran sa industriyang ito, na siyang maaga kong kinapaguran, sa totoo lang.

Pero sige lang. Habol lang lola mo. Una kong nahagilap sa SM Marikina ang Kabisera ni Ate Guy, dati naming bida sa 1997 MMFF entry ng dati kong opisinang Premiere Entertainment Productions na Babae. Tapos sinunod ko ang Seklusyon kung saan humabol ang sweetheart ko sa panonood. Umaatikabong reaksiyon, bilang unang beses sa buong buhay niya ang manood ng MMFF entry (Hollywood film buff ang lola). Pero natuwa na siya sa pangatlong entry na napanood ko kung saan sumama din siya, sa Sunday Beauty Queen. Mainam ang gabi.

Ikalawang araw ng paghahabol, Oro lang ang kinaya ng powers ko sa Eastwood. Gorabels lang, fambam duties muna. Pero dapat lang pang-isang araw nga ang pelikulang iyon. More soon.

Ikatlong araw, kuntodo na ang mall-hopping! Sa Megamall naabutan ang Vince and Kath and James. Buti na lang may mochi stall sa harap ng cinemas. Sarap. Tapos talon naman sa Die Beautiful. Kabog! Then diretso na sa errands sa UP Town Center at kumonyo na din sa cinema doon para sa Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank 2: Forever Is Not Enough. Tapos errands ulit bago tinira ang huli, si Saving Sally. Galing kong mag-multitasking anek! Dedma na sa migraine the next day. Masaya naman at nahagilap ko silang lahat. Just like the good ol’ days, eh. Slight.

Sige, iisa-isahin natin ito in the days to come, oks? Are you ready ka na ba?

#filmmiron commence!

The future is here, but the future is not now

Posted in Cinema One Originals, dramedy film, film students, film teacher mode, indie films, love story, Philippine Cinema, Philippine film industry, romantic comedy films on February 16, 2015 by leaflens

Or in short, a review of that film that made you quote lovelorn quips this love month. Or earlier if you caught this in its festival inception.

312926_10150401822735190_748755189_10316644_525666240_nTHAT THING CALLED TADHANA (2014)

d., s. Tonet Jadaone

dop. Sasha Palomares

sound. Jedd/Bryan Dumaguina

c. Angelica Panganiban, JM De Guzman

Pitch: Great concept. Fresh take on storytelling. More stories like these, please.

Catch: A good story should be realized by good directing. Pulso is the key. Find your original. Leave duplicates at home. Just saying.

That local movie that got people buzzing again is a good one. This is good news for the new darlings of Philippine cinema, and I’m quite glad that I’ve had the privilege of peeking at the early stages of these darlings’ lives back when they were film students and I their film thesis adviser/film teacher. Teaching back then, I’ve always reminded these kids that they are going to be the future of Philippine cinema if they so choose to accept that path. After all, they’re there in our classroom learning about the art and the craft of this form we so love. As a teacher, I’m realistic:  I know that some of them are just there for the 4-year clocktime course while some are there to gain knowledge and move on to other fields, leaving a handful who will actively pursue different aspects of filmmaking in their lives, be it in the mainstream, the alternative, or the indie. And if they so choose to be part of the film future, then they better prepare for it in the present by looking into the past. For we are only doomed to repeat the mistakes of history when we don’t really learn from it. Tama po ba, Sir Teodoro Agoncillo? But I digress.

The year 2014 was a literary one for this film reviewer and I didn’t have the time to peek into what’s happening in cinemas both local and foreign since I chose to focus on the literary world of my huge universe. That at lumablayp muna lola mo hehe, kaya you know. So I kinda missed Direk Tonet’s other efforts, but I’ve been hearing some buzz about a couple of works she’s done in the past. Alas, since indie filmfest skeds conflicted with my work skeds, I missed all screenings of all things. So I was really glad this Cinema One entry had a commercial release, of course picked up by Star Cinema and supported by the same people who were in that ABSCBN-led indie filmfest. Of course, this might also mean that the same “story consultants” that festered sat on panels to revise review scripts/films already shot were also present in this film to give it a few katay directives pointers. Well, you get the drift.

Like what I mentioned in my pitch, the one thing that this film has is a really great concept. And I bet the concept also had a good script that went with it. The thing with Tonet is that she was able to capture the essence of today’s Pinay who undergoes real shitty hindi-ito-pang-romcom-nampotah type of love stories, and heartbreaks. Like I’ve never been so pleased to see a pretty heartbroken girl say Putangina! or Tangina naman! na pagkalutong-lutong mas malutong pa siya sa Lapid’s Chicharon pare, all because her heart is hurting. Totoong ganito ang tao kapag heartbroken at totoong masakit kaya totoong napapamura ka at totoong wala kang class, finesse o anumang kagalang-galang sa hitsura o pagkatao mo minsan kapag brokenhearted ka tangina tulo-uhog habang hagulgol and all. Angelica’s performance of the brokenhearted Pinay was well-captured here, great performance talaga si ati. Ever since I saw a different side of her naman as a non-sitcom type of comedian in HERE COMES THE BRIDE, pak na pak talaga ang acting ni ati.  That’s why I got doubly curious to see this film when I saw her topbill it.

But then here comes JM, once the darling of our business unit sa dos when I was there in my recent past as part of a team conceptualizing teleseryes and helping out in reality shows. I don’t know if it was the way he interpreted the character or if he still had some remnants of his personal troubles that crept into his professional performance, but his acting really appeared so uninspired. As in hindi siya mukhang inspired to shoot, much less to work. But I think this meh mode niya worked to build the character of the meek dude that will contrast with the loud gal character of the film. Kaya lang sana minsan naman, sana in-injection-an nila siya ng caffeine sa katawan man lang, know what I’m saying. Or maybe I’m just nitpicking. Kape pa more!

That-Thing-Called-Taddhana

I felt like some scenes showing the boylet’s characters were axed, therefore reducing his performance into a dedma type of guy that ended up not being realistic. Like towards the end, when he mentioned that he mentioned about a person taking care of him with Biogesic or something, I was like “Nasaan ‘yung eksenang ‘yun?” ganun. Weird limbo scenes pare.

The concept of the film is not entirely new. It’s the usual tossed salad of a formula wherein you throw in elements already familiar to viewers and cook them up to serve something hopefully familiar but also new. As I’ve always said in my scriptwriting classes, you can’t reinvent the wheel but by golly push that wheel into a different direction so we could see new scenery and take us to places only you could see from your unique perspective. And literally, this film took us there: to places where we experience heartache so devastating that we tend to forget who we are or where we come from or, more importantly, where we’re going now, now that the love is gone, ‘ika nga ng kanta diyan somewhere. Not new because we’ve already seen films na strangers on a train/bus/plane/what have you ang peg, and of course my generation — and theirs — had Richard Linklater’s Before series as a default peg. But what’s great about BEFORE SUNRISE is that the long train ride produced a chance encounter of a boy and a girl who had a hell of a time killing time by talking to each other about mundane things and profound things. Here in TADHANA, all we see is a girl bawling her eyes out in a Rome to Manila flight, and their only chance encounter, aside from having met at the airport so boylet can help girlet with her overweight luggage, is seatmates sila and boylet couldn’t care less when girlet was watching the quintessential love-lost-and-love-found-but-sana-ako-na-lang-love-mo-ulit-kasi-tanga-ako-nung-pinakawalan-kita local romantic drama film ONE MORE CHANCE in her laptop. That’s about it. I mean dude, I’ve had more conversations with strangers in a 2-hour trip from Manila to Davao/Dumaguete/wherever Philippines, and this is a Rome to Manila flight ha. Ang dami na dapat nilang napag-usapan, lalo na ang unang crucial thing: na sana nagpakilala muna sila sa isa’t isa, karugtong ng pagpapakilala ni boylet sa sarili kay girlet sa airport. I mean, more convos siguro, since tinulungan siya ng boylet, regardless of her sabaw mode from her mega cryola mode k. Yes, we want to be cinematic but being cinematic works when we try to be more realistic at first.

And speaking of being realistic, it really fell flat on its face when meh boylet just went with the flow and accompanied girlet to wherever the hell she felt like going. I mean, sure, realistic pa rin if you ask a “stranger” to eat in a restaurant with you or go to a videoke so you could sing your broken heart out. But to actually have another life form engage you into going on a 500 pesos+ fare ride (one way) going somewhere (so mga lampas 1k yan if roundtrip) out of Manila is a stretch, especially if there was not enough getting-to-know-you-muna moments between the two of them. What TADHANA lacks is what BEFORE SUNRISE has developed well: exposition. As in, we get to be exposed to the who/why/what/where/how come stuff of the characters, before they decide to jump to a higher plot point to take the exposition to its more interesting rising action, hopefully to take us to the wonders of the plot’s climax and wonder where in the world this climax will take place/happen, and how. Alas, this is where I sort of disengaged with the good concept turned unrealized script, as the directing didn’t lead us to these seemingly simple but really truly important “smaller” scenes. Are they not as cinematic for one’s taste? It should be, since it is in the smaller and simpler scenes that you get the most profound insights, or elicit the most intimate of moments, between characters. Yes, this is realistic, but it could also be cinematic. Think about it. How many films have banked on the simplicity of shots, of a moment, a scene captured not because it has a gazillion things happening at the same time, but only one thing happening at that moment, captured quietly on film, a moment for us to ponder on. Pulso. Pinupulsuhan dapat natin ang panahon, ang eksena, ang detalye ng kuwento. Sadly, the film wanted to hurry up to the climax of things that it forgot to set up these important pulses that could make the film beat more towards its apex. Sayang.

Sa henerasyong ito ng budget travelers, may pera at panahon ka bang mag-up and go nang basta-basta without thinking of your job (na sa later scenes lang nabanggit), your money (yaman nila to be buying bus tickets just like that ha) or your time? Iangkla ang cinematic sa realistic para mas lumipad siya nang husto. #justsaying

Sa henerasyong ito ng budget travelers, may pera at panahon ka bang mag-up and go nang basta-basta without thinking of your job (na sa later scenes lang nabanggit), your money (yaman nila to be buying bus tickets just like that ha) or your time? Iangkla ang cinematic sa realistic para mas lumipad siya nang husto. #justsaying

And speaking of not quiet, cinema has its way of speaking to you without letting you hear anything. A good, quietly captured moment could actually speak for itself, and there’s no need to drown it with melodramatic musical score. The film also suffers from this drowning from time to time that I wonder if the filmmakers or the producers are scared of “not hearing” a scene. If so, then it becomes television fare, where the execs seem to be scared of that thing called dead air. In cinema, there is that thing called pregnant silence. Ang daming laman kahit wala kang naririnig, dahil sa ang nakikita mo ay marami nang sinasabi agad. At ang dami niyang feels! You got a great actor na and a great story to boot, so let them speak for themselves sometimes. Sayang these moments, especially when the girlet was just feeling the moment, kunwari ‘yung nasa Sagada siya and shouted her frustrations amidst the clouds atop Mt. Kiltepan. Her shouting on that quiet scenery could have made a great poignant scene. But again, it was drowned by musical score. Heartache needs to be felt lang sometimes, not heard. Let the scene breathe on its own. I hope they keep this in mind next time.

And this is why I titled this review the way I did. Because no matter how we tout that the future of Philippine cinema is already here, the future that we hopefully want to happen is not quite happening now, at least not yet. Not when the mainstream’s heavy hand is so obvious in shaping the form of these future-leading folks, not when these young ones feel like they have to be or mimic their mainstream mentors in order to be taken to the fold. In a way, if this is the objective — to become one with the fold — then this film has already succeeded. But seeing that the future may also want to have a different take on things, then maybe we still have to see what they will come up with next, in order for us to get excited more about how they could revive the future of this art we so love. But yes, this is indeed a great start.

I could see why so many people like this film, the same reason why I like it: its believability. I mean, sino ba naman kasi ang hindi na-heartbroken sa Pilipinas, at may populasyon nga dito na nagtatangkang maglakbay kapag ganito ang moda. And yes, laging ang default ay bundok: Baguio, Sagada ganyan. Natawa nga ako sa concept na ito, at salamat at may nagtanong nito finally. Puwede rin namang beach ang puntahan, di ba? Bilang archipelago tayo, mas madali ‘yun. Pero siguro dahil love could move mountains dapat ang peg, bundok ng tralala ang inaakyat ng Pinoy para doon hanapin ang sagot sa tanong ng lahat ng heartbroken: huwayyyyy or huwaaaay meeeee. And of course, andiyan ang unending love quotes and love songs to make you cry. Pero sana din naman, nailatag ang characterization ni girlet bilang love-quoting girl, kasi iisang quote lang lagi ang kinu-quote niya, and it kinda gets tiring teh. Quote pa more, girl. Dami pa riyan. Buklat ka ng Eat Pray Love baka makatulong hane? Or Shakespeare. Yes, these are the new things that we want to see in our local films. This believability works. It’s just the delivery that lacks a bit and I find wanting. In Tagalog, tinimbang nguni’t overweight sa ilang bagay at underweight sa iba. Yes, we want a new cinematic recipe indeed, and thanks for this really nice bite. But I hope the cinematic commercial cookie cutter gets challenged more next time. Hashtag just saying.

Again, great story. Loved this film because of the good concept. Witty will truly save the world, to quote Tonet’s other business, but I also hope someday, witty will be brave enough to break out of the mold, to discover her own. Andiyan na naman, eh. And the audiences are ready for it; long overdue, actually. I guess all I’m saying is: talon pa more! 🙂

Good luck with the next one. Looking forward to it.

 

[All images swiped from the internet. Salamat sa mga nag-upload.]

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: 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!

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