Archive for the women’s issues in film Category

MMFF2016: Sunday’s best, all year long

Posted in digital film, documentary film, indie films, MMFF, Philippine Cinema, queer issues in film, women's issues in film on January 21, 2017 by leaflens

That a documentary film, a full-length one at that, was included in the MMFF 2016 line-up signifies that the right people (or at least a handful maybe) are sitting there at the selection committee of this fest the past year. And good to know that they have enough sensibilities to consider all kinds of films as viable entries, even documentaries. Then it won Best Picture pa! Ayuz!

So let’s see what’s up with this beauty.

sunday-beauty-queen-posterSUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN (2016)

d. Baby Ruth Villarama

e. Chuck Gutierrez

Pitch: The film follows the lives of several domestic helpers in Hong Kong who are also beauty pageant contestants during their downtime.

Catch: The catch is that this should be shown more in many cinemas!!! Bakit na-pullout agad.

I think it was 2002 or maybe 2003-4 when I first encountered a queered version of domestic helpers’ lives in Hong Kong. I read an investigative report by IPS, that’s the Inter Press Service or like the Reuters of the NGO world as they say, and that report was in a book they mailed me during the early 2000s (met their head honcho in Bangkok who is Pinay pala, a panelist in Probe Media Foundation’s video docu workshop na napasali ako nung 2002 nga). I was amazed to learn how Filipino domestic helpers engage in same-sex female relationships to curb loneliness, even if some of these women didn’t identify as queer, lesbian or even bisexual, and some are even legally married to a man to boot. But they do it for several reasons: coping, companionship, to fight loneliness and, of course, battle homesickness. But once they come home or visit for a vacation back in the Philippines, it’s like their hetero lives resume without question, and of course without mention of their queer life back in HK. A very interesting and intriguing slice of Pinoy life as an OFW.

Now fast forward to 2016 and I see this reality onscreen, now, in this documentary film that won the MMFF Best Picture award. And the queer conversation is taken to a higher level already, almost a “non-issue” issue as the film portrays it, since one of the prime movers in the documentary is a queer (male-identified/identifying) woman. It’s very interesting to see how the queer character named Leo identifies herself as “lesbian” who is clearly within the more masculine spectrum, yet she is referred to as a “he” by his employers. (Or is it because a gendered pronoun is required to refer to him/her in English by her Chinese employers? I’m wondering if I will problematize this discourse the same way if they were merely referred to using non-gendered Filipino pronouns.) Although she is also referred to as male/masculine by her friends (their term of endearment for her is “Daddy”) and also her female partner, the more feminine or femme character (the one they call “Mommy”) who lives with Leo in her apartment. But regardless; I just find it very enlightening again, and now more so entertaining, since the queer identity is out in the open within this 2010s era of the Pinoy domestic workers’ lives in Hong Kong, and the queer identity of Leo is not an apologetic one (but she drops a disclaimer later, though — more on that below) nor is it a negative one as I’ve previously read in that early research. So yes, happy siya!

15723562_1205333356223683_7889505708413310433_oThat the queer-identified person in the film stages a beauty pageant is also a happy fact. And it’s just so Pinoy queer culture at its finest reinvention, as the film helps in its intelligent yet heartwarming unfolding. Staging beauty pageants (and watching/following national/international ones diligently) has always been there in the culture, and it, of course, traditionally features heterosexual female contestants, with the queer people just fussing about at the background in some supporting role or another. Back home, we know how there’s a subculture that kinda flipped the coin on this one already: showing effeminate gay men naman — who are actually transgender women in nature, but this label still eludes the common mentality about queerness (maybe this also applies to Leo as a “he” or how she identifies as lesbian but her identity is clearly a transman) — actively participating in beauty pageants in smaller areas like in barangays and towns, usually done to liven up a town fiesta or event of sorts.

The barangay beauty pageant is a worthy event to stage lately, be it featuring hetero women or transwomen. And most of the time nga, we always see the person organizing the pageant (or funding it pala or something) as heterosexual. But here in this film, even if a queer person stages the Hong Kong beauty pageant composed of domestic workers, most of the contestants portrayed are heterosexual (save for one quick eavesdropped moment where we hear Leo and the other girls tease another girl as she leaves with her masculine-presenting female partner, or her “Prince Charming” as they joked). Thus, the queer Leo stages “traditional” beauty pageants with “traditional” hetero female contestants. Hmm okay, medyo queer na rin. Ish. Aliw pa rin, though.

SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN shows how this queered pageant offers the domestic helpers (or DH as they are termed) a chance to be beauty queens themselves, at least every Sunday, their designat15385341_1186146441475708_3847054069873803220_oed time off from work. The film follows a handful of women who join these beauty pageants, to the extent of risking their jobs sometimes, as they might miss their strict curfew and get fired (one did). From Monday to Saturday, the film shows us how the life of a Filipina overseas worker in Hong Kong earn their keep. And on Sunday, the film shows us how they spend their time off from work: by hanging out with each other and preparing for their 15 minutes of pageant fame.

Features and stories about domestic helpers in the diaspora tend to highlight only the negative aspect of being abroad. For melodramatic flare, fictional films highlight the ills of having a mother leave abroad to seek greener pastures, leaving behind a family. The OFW DH momma role has already been played by many actresses, from Ate Vi to Pokwang. TV documentaries feature the hardships of their daily lives, sensationalizing their sacrifices. News items broadcast the abuse and the deaths of some of them. That’s why this film initially didn’t really stand a chance against prejudicial publicity due to the body of works that came before it (highlighting the “heaviness” of its supposed premise). One really had to go by word of mouth muna before seeing it. Clinching an award could also help its longevity. But of course, the premise has to deliver talaga. Kaya what one needed to do was just forget the news bit about it, the word of mouth, even the award, and let the film speak for itself by just giving it a chance and watching it. Simple lang.

From the get-go, its premise sounded like a jazzed-up pa-fun-effect version of a sob story waiting to sbq-queenexplode at the background. But one will be astounded to realize that the jazzed-up fun that the beauty pageant journey entails already weaved in the supposedly sob stories of some of the featured women. And no, the “sob stories” weren’t manipulatively shown a la TV Patrol epic style. In fact, they become sob stories because you actually feel the women’s pain with them. And how is that achieved? Just by letting it unfold naturally.

15800544_1205333446223674_2482483383326513596_oThere’s one good example there, of this woman who was being interviewed near a park area by the river or by a body of water, where she later walked the dog of her employer. She was trying to call her children back home and connect via video chat, but the connection was crappy (on the Philippine side, of course). One of the children was graduating, and I think they were trying to show her the graduation ceremonies as it’s happening, and she struggles to be with them “in spirit.” Prior to this, she was talking to them, and trying to explain to the audience as well, that she was apologizing for not being able to come home to attend the ceremony, since she needed to stay for her work, that she needed to work so she could afford to send the kids to school. The way she delivered this fact was just plain and simple, but she was a bit teary-eyed, trying to restrain her sadness. That “quiet” scene was indeed powerful enough to start you bawling; nakakaiyak siya nang hindi ka sadyang pinapaiyak, kasi nakakaiyak lang ‘yung sitwasyon, ‘yung dilemma, ‘yung reaksyon, at ‘yung found moment na ‘yun sa pelikula. You feel her pain, and it’s sadder that way, because she’s not putting an effort to make you sad; sad lang talaga ‘yung sitwasyon, period. Gets?

15844532_1207209902702695_7880778725808231185_oThere are many other moments like these in the film, scenes that make you sad because the narratives of the women — including their daily struggles and moments of happiness with their chosen lives — touch your heart without that obligatory cinematic manipulation, that sadyang “kurot sa puso” device we “cleverly” write in within the scripts. In here, since it’s a documentary, it’s just…found. Like that scene of the girl who was a caretaker of this former film producer/executive who died while she was under his employ. And the producer’s daughter calling up the Pinay DH to tell her the bad news, and how she reacted and coped after, since she was obviously already endeared to the boss.

Many moments like these are shown that when the beauty pageant preparation scenes come up, it’s like a sigh of relief, an escape from the engulfing pathos of these Monday to Friday lives, a break from reality — their reality. Kung tayo ngang spectators ay naghahanap ng break from the sad reality, what more these women who live within such realities? And perhaps this is why the symbolism and importance — and relevance — of the seemingly “wala lang” event such as a beauty pageant would be deemed as important and regarded highly by these women: it’s a happy one-day-only respite from their  daily grind. No, it’s not 15181703_1171704282919924_3446965180142806906_nescapism; it’s coping. The beauty pageant gives them some distraction, sure, but it’s more than that: it gives them another sense of purpose, one that doesn’t kurot their puso so much to the point of bawling daily, one where they need to come out as happier naman for a change, to pose as confidently beautiful with a smile, to parade as a human being being valued in another way in this foreign land that only sees them in a (sometimes non-humane) myopic devalued viewpoint. In their small corner of the universe, they want to become magnanimous, even for just a few hours, perhaps a weekend or two, dolled up and forever captured in their selfies, the media coverage, and in their minds. No, they don’t do it for vanity’s sake; they need to have an alternative (and better) picture to frame their (often cruel) lives in the diaspora, and that damn picture better look good!

That the pageant organizer and the pageant participants themselves see the pageant staging as a chance of giving themselves a parallel purpose in their current lives is something worthwhile to realize, poignant to hear, and worthy of supporting and applauding. We all do what we could to survive, and we all do what we could to make surviving more bearable. This film shows us another form of resiliency of the Filipino spirit, and it shows us that we can have a damn good time being resilient, plus we could look good doing it to boot!

Walang itatapon sa pelikulang ito. Parang lahat ng included scenes ay poignant, kailangan, hindi sayang, hindi sitners lang ang peg (o ‘yung mga eksenang pang-fillers lang ng video habang naririnig mo ang narration ng audio). Kahit ‘yung eksena sa bahay ni Leo na nagluto sila ng hapunan, big deal ipakitang independent live-out helper siya kasi big deal pala sa HK ‘yun. Plus big deal for me din to have the queer couple portrayed like any other hetero couple out there: domestic, loving, and very real. No role-playing po in our universe; we just exist, and yes, this is how we love. Pero natawa naman ako ng bongz when Leo mentioned that she (sorry I refer to her as a she ha, kasi she said “lesbian” siya) didn’t start staging beauty pageants so that them lezzies could meet eligible women out there hahaha! Kaloka. Although that’s an interesting concern, and also to note, parang hindi organic kay Leo to use the term “lez” or “lesbian” when narrating her story. I feel it’s a suggestion picked up from the interview Q&A with the filmmaker behind the cam. This is my conclusion since she appears to be “old-school” in that manner, na “mars at pars” ang reference sa mga butch-femme, or to a certain extent they use the term “les” pero not the whole term. That was one moment when I felt the filmmaker’s hand on the material, handled rather heavily. But these touches are rare, few and far between, so they’re forgivable overall.

This indeed is the winning shot right there. Backlit pero makulay,parang mga buhay ng kasambahay na nasa anino ng mga amo pero may natatagong ganda din naman sa pagkatao.

This indeed is the winning shot right there. Backlit pero makulay pa rin, parang mga buhay ng kasambahay na nasa anino ng mga amo pero may natatagong ganda din naman sa kanilang pagkatao. Love this shot! And the moment it came out! Panalo! Directing + editing + camerawork + storytelling = Bonggacious!!!

Kudos much to the people who worked on this. Congrats to my former student Chuck who edited it and also part of the producing team, as I read. I loved how they use the quiet visual language of the cinema to let the stories unfold before your eyes and ears, participatory enough so that you also have the time and leeway to let the messages sink in, to actually have time to listen to your own thoughts passing through your mind as you watch their stories unfold scene after scene and formulate opinions about what’s going on. You have this chance of hopping along for the ride, instead of being a mere spectator na sasabit ka lang sa outside rails ng tsubibo habang umaandar ito excitedly. Yes, no voice-over narration and no voice-of-God type of narrations work well for me for a documentary. It’s the cinematic kind, not the TV kind, kasi ang TV takot sa silence as I found out in that video docu workshop nga more than a decade ago. Talagang taong pelikula ako eh, hindi taong TV, kaya I value the pregnant pauses and the occasional silences that emanate from scenes and in between or within scenes. And I so love this film for having this approach, this treatment. Pang-best picture nga siya talaga, in form and content.

K end of review. I… thank yew!

[All photos swiped from the SBQ FB page. Pahiram ha. Salamuch!]

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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!

Spinderella cut it up one time!

Posted in children-young adult content, fantasy-mythical, Hollywood dream factory, love story, women's issues in film with tags , , , on March 24, 2015 by leaflens

Or in short, here’s my take on this year’s remake of a tale as old as time, but the messaging is as problematic as ever. Yes, I know it’s as predictable as hell but it still needs to be scrutinized, especially these days when media bombards women and girls with questionable embedded values.

MV5BMjMxODYyODEzN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDk4OTU0MzE@._V1_SX214_AL_CINDERELLA (2015)

d. Kenneth Branagh

c. Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Lily James

PITCH: That ageless tale of an orphan girl with a wicked stepmum and stepsisses who, out of kindness and through magic, snags herself a prince charming with a foot fetish of sorts. Okay glass slippers na nga!

CATCH: That ageless tale just rebooted its age-old problematic messaging and what this tale actually related to young girls out there.

That this film was directed by Kenneth Branagh surprised me more than anything. But no amount of Shakespearean creds or great film creds (Much Ado About Nothing or Dead Again or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein my fave! to name a few) could spin this tale out of its eventual tunnel vision of a message: that in order to get out of a miserable life, a girl needs to be kind and suffer first in order to snag a prince charming. Whoopteedoo.

Daniel Radcliffe, Kenneth Branagh, and Rupert Grint

Or maybe he was directing it as Gilderoy Lockhart. Yeah, Ron’s face, mine as well. Waaah Emma Thompson o! Oops, baka marinig ni Helena BC heheh.

Fine, given that the film didn’t identify its era so we automatically assume that it was from that era where women are considered property of men, saved only by virtue of being the daughter of a man or the wife of one (which still happens today devahhhhh but I digress). Since Cinderella didn’t have both a dad and a jowa, then she just tried to make do with what life handed out to her, until that fated prince comes along.

And this is where my sweetheart and I reacted when watching this film: that women like Cindy here would just accept what life handed her, without giving up a fight. I mean, is she that naive and trusting that she would just accept all the atrocities that her step-sibs/mum would hand her? Siyempre dahil mga palabang eba kaming mag-jowa, bumubula ang bibig namin nang panoorin namin ito, right? [Yup, dapat nasa Insurgent kami pero may kasama kaming kids at ito ang type nila, so there, k.] Granted that Branagh gave us a glimpse of a “palabang eba, slight” ni Cindy during that scene na parang “kinakaawaan” niya ang katangahan ng step-sibs niya, still, it’s not enough for us to forego all of the pang-aapi that she just received without a whimper. And this is where that idea of female sufferance enters the picture, where women ought to just accept these burdens thrown upon her, because woman! Kainis. Fine, given din na pinakita naman ni Branagh na may spunk kahit papaano si Cindy when she encountered the prince for the first time sa forest, pero onetime bigtime lang ito teh, at pag-uwi niya sa balur, yagit mode pa rin ang peg ni ati. Di ko bet.

I don’t know what’s more dangerous: Cinderella being portrayed as naive to the evils of other people, or that naivete is being disguised as kindness. After all, her mantra was her mother’s dying habilin: have courage and be kind. But mum forgot to lecture her that in order to be courageous, one has to stand up when people are being unkind na, right? Isn’t this akin to just accepting bullying when one is being bullied? With so many problems regarding bullying that kids these days face, they don’t really need another film to reassure them that being bullied now is okay because later, a prince will save the day! Kalerks. They should save themselves dapat ang peg. But no, Shrek kasi ‘yun. or Ever After.

And that’s also one point that my sweetheart reacted to: hindi ganyan ang ma-inlove k! Meaning love is not just about finding someone secretly and then later revealing their real identities and then later ulit inlab na sila. Fine, granted na love at first sight ito, a la Romeo and Juliet, but you know what actually happened to those two star-crossed lovers, right? [Na-tegi sila teh k!] At saka hindi mo mahahanap ang trulab mo because of her shoe size. Pero sige na nga, dahil magical naman ito, I’ll give you that: a shoe-fitted love.

And that’s another thing kung saan din kami nag-react: na hindi masasagot ng magic-magic lang ang prublema mo. No caru? Have pumpkin for a coach! No dress? Bibbity-bobbity-boo RTW courtesy of fairy godmother’s wand. No julalays? Have rats and lizards turn into humans for a few hours. At gorabels na sa ball! Tugz tugs na si teh. Winner.

Well, I guess wala na naman akong magagawa sa tale as old as time na ito, with messaging as dangerous as shit, so I tried to focus on the finer points of the film while watching it. And it involved fixating on the stellar cast . I mean haller, Cate Blanchett as the wicked stepmum pare. Dapat mag-usap sila ni Angelina Jolie mylab at gumawa ng Maleficent meets Cinderella’s Evil Stepmum movie pare! Patok sa takilya yun.

images-4

If only for this scene, watch this film and see how this Academy Award-winning thespian makes bawi this forgettable story. Walang kupas!

I don’t know how much she was challenged in portraying this role, but she sure looked like she was having fun channeling filmic femme fatales for this role hehe. I don’t know but she reminded me of Marlene Dietrich in some scenes, while that emerging-from-the-dark scene confronting Cinderella and her glass slipper was just awesome. It felt like it didn’t belong in this film. Yes, that’s Branagh indeed, bumabawi si bakla lolz.

 

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Dietrich, meet Blanchett. Pero minsan rume-Rebecca rin ang peg ni ati so hmm ayan hodgepodge.

 

At kumusta naman din na andito ang alter-ego ni Bellatrix Lestrange in the form of Helena Bonham Carter’s portrayal of the Fairy Godmother. Again, I guess she was trying to find some deeper hugot of this character pero wala naman talagang mahuhugot dito. So I guess she had fun playing this “alter ego” hihihi. Yes, I get it: raket lang ito, kids. Sige, kelangang kumita paminsan-minsan.

images-3

Uhm, Black Swan ba ituh lola Helena? It’s the wand, ano? Lolz. 

As for the notion of a happily ever after, I think there are many tales that have debunked this already, so maybe that’s why they decided to humanize the prince here, so he won’t be altogether 100% charming. By injecting some angst into him (i.e. I want to marry for love, not for political connections chenerz), we could now justify why he ran away from the ball and went bouncing after the belle in blue. Although that landian scene sa swing was a bit funny, and I detected a bit of sexual nuance here hehe. Puwede siyang symbolism for a one night stand kaya haller (i.e. landian blues then hawakan blues then takbuhan blues then ask si bakla ng “What is your name?” sa kalandian lolz yeah I’m overreading #bagotarepublic na by this point).

1893_PrinceCharming_CinderellaLiveAction_23

Ako lang ba ang bothered sa bakat ni boylet??? #himatay

Well, what more can I say? If you want to see a live action version of this Disney animated classic, then go ahead and watch this, if only for these superb actors. Other than that, just be prepared to guide impressionable young minds who might be watching this with you, and help them un-suspend their disbelief after watching this story. Yes, because they’ll need it, teh. K? K.

Queering the historic universe

Posted in bioflick, book to film, drama film, Oscars, queer cinema, queer issues in film, women's issues in film on February 23, 2015 by leaflens

Oscars 2015 rush started with this film for me. So here are a few thoughts. Queers, listen up!

imitation gameTHE IMITATION GAME

d. Morten Tyldum

s. Graham Moore from the book by Andrew Hodges

c. Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley

Pitch: A glimpse into the life of Alan Turing whom we might be neglecting as the dude who is credited for the creation of the basis of our modern-day computers. And yes, he is gay. 

Catch: You see the strengths and the weaknesses as you watch the film unfold. But you tend to overlook this unevenness because it has an engaging story.

As I wait for the actual Oscars 2015 live telecast as I write this, thought I’d jot down a few notes here about the films that I was actually catch and somehow moved me, in a way. This is one of them.

I know of Alan Turing from a few years back when I was searching for queer-identified people in history. Glad to learn that the modern day computer is somehow directly due to his work. But he is more known for being the genius code-breaker during the war against the Nazis, and he was a great asset of the UK during that time because of decoding how the Nazi communication machine worked. Until, of course, they slapped him with an indecency case, all because he was gay.

Yes, folks, in a first-world country such as the UK, abominations such as this happened. Gays were persecuted, and in Alan’s case, he was made to choose between serving time in prison, and taking hormonal therapy drugs to “alleviate his homosexual disease.” This was, of course, the 1950s, and no civil rights movements connected to sexuality was happening yet. Too bad Alan didn’t live to see this happen during the next decade, as he took his own life before the 1960s happened.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, sorry.  On to the film muna. Yes, this was indeed a moving film, queerness aside. The film chronicles Alan’s life during the time his neighbor reported a robbery in his home. Turns out to be a “booking gone wrong pala.” Yes, my dears, dahil kloseta nga ang lola mo, may-I-booking siya ng boys sa balur niya, or else tegi nga siya. But this one booking stole from his house kaya doon nagsimula ang gulo for him. When he didn’t want to press charges, a police dude got suspicious and decided to dig deeper, even searching for Alan’s wartime records na classified or absent for public consumption. So of course they picked him up and it was during the interrogation scene where the police learned of Alan’s great contribution to humanity. So the film used this sandwich-type of narrative wherein you split the present and they flashback to the past to tell the meaty palaman of the film, and then go back to the present to wrap up the sandwich.

The palaman is, of course, the meatier side of the story. This is where we learn of Alan’s journey from being a Cambridge professor up until his wartime recruitment nga. He belonged to an elite handful of cryptologists with just one job: to decode the Nazi Enigma machine so the allied forces could read the encrypted messages/communication of the Nazis. What a job eh?

As is the case with uber-brilliant people, they are, of course, anti-social. This didn’t bode well for our no-nonsense hero, who had to be tutored to have social graces by another genius woman — Joan Clarke, played brilliantly by Keira Knightley. It was surprisingly refreshing, finally, to have a woman acknowledged for her brains and not merely her beauty or her reproductive system. I like the character of this Ms. Clarke girl who became an unofficial but crucial part of Alan’s team later on. Of course we see the gender bias at the beginning, when Alan wanted to recruit more people and tested them via a timed crossword puzzle. That was really intellectually cute. And the men in charge couldn’t believe that a woman could have done such a feat. Kainis lang of course. Pero mas kainis yung muntik na niyang talikuran ang job just because as a woman, she is expected to stay home with her parents, find a husband, and have a baby. Hay, reproductive system function, oo. But it’s also so cute how Alan was able to “persuade” her to join the team. Ewan ko ba, basta ang daming intellectually cute moments ng film na ito hehe watch it to understand what I mean.

imitation keira

I am woman, hear me code! Sabi ni lola Keira hehe. Talagang behind a great queer man is a het girl. Historical fag hag lang ang peg lolz. I kid, I kid! Love you Keira!

 

The strength of the film is its pulse: the way it ticked and took us rhythmically from scene to scene, which is the good work of an alert director and a good editor making a tight script come to life. I just wished the cinematography was at par with these other aspects, but you can’t win ’em all, I guess. But this is a good enough combo for me: script-directing-editing. This film pulsed these so well, kaya feel mo yung edge-of-the-seat excitement as to how they’re scrambling for time and going against odds to have Alan’s decoding machine — nicknamed Christopher — work in time before snooty authorities pulled the plug. Of course the excellent acting of the cast worked well with these aspects of filmmaking kaya more edge sa seat ang peg teh! Lalo na when Christopher finally worked. And then another dilemma begins. Kaya tiri-tirintas na ang development ng drama na talagang hihilahin ang interes mo until it ended.

And then, within the flashback, we have another set of flashbacks concerning Alan’s childhood, especially his boarding school days where he was bullied in an all-boys school. And we see his only friend there named Christopher, who introduced him to a book of cryptology of sorts. Siyempre doon na-formulate ang queerness ni koya and we see that, but we also see his heart being broken there, because of what happened to Christopher. Kaya ang love of his life ay ginawa na lang niyang prototype ng modern-day computer natin. Kalerks, this.

This film will really break your heart several times, especially if you’re queer and you see all this happening just because he’s queer. But I didn’t like the way his queerness was inserted here in the beginning. Like we didn’t really see any hint of it except when he confessed later on that he is homosexual — first to his co-worker who turned out to be a double-agent/spy (so of course his homosexuality was used against him by this dude as blackmail material) and second to Ms. Clarke whom he was trying to “save” (i.e. pinapauwi ng parentals dahil single pa siya at malayo ang work daw) by offering her marriage. Nagtapatan naman sila na bekiloublanco si koya at tanggap ni ati yun, at hanggang fiance mode lang naman sila para lang manatili sa work si ati. Kaya lang, yun nga, this was all in talk. Walang masyadong scenes to show this, na sana they humanized Alan more in a way. But I guess they didn’t want to show that, or they didn’t find enough historical evidence to portray him as such. But this is also where you’ll see why Keira was nominated for a best supporting actress award: that turning point of confrontation nila ni Alan, when he was saying na he didn’t care for her at all, basta kasama lang siya sa work and all. That sampal and that pagpipigil ng another sampal and that look and that body language ni Keira at that moment, galing! It reminded me actually of another turning point scene ng isang Academy Award winner: si lola Kate Winslet during her courtroom scene sa THE READER when she was being questioned for her role during the Nazi occupation. Yung moment na hinampas niya yung mesa sa frustration in defending herself, galing!!! parang similar in effect sa aking yung two scenes na ito ng mga aleng ito na kras ko hehe. Winner kayo mga darling, ever.

Tapos nung bumalik na nga ang film sa present ulit, to wrap it up, we see Alan being slapped nga with the indecency case, turning into a recluse while on therapy drugs, and being visited  by Ms. Clarke. Good to see they remained friends naman pala, and that’s where they concluded the film, with notes saying na Alan took his own life chenes nga, but never forget that your computers today are the result of Turing Machines before. So there.

Yes, homophobes, a gay man's invention led to your modern day computer. Kung wala siya, wala 'yan.

Yes, homophobes, a gay man’s invention led to your modern day computer. Kung wala siya, wala ‘yan.

Hay, lungkot.  Nakakatuwa na finally, lumabas din ang buhay niya sa film nang ganito. Maganda naman ang portrayal and all. It’s another good notch to add to queer history, cinematic or not, basta history natin. We need to see more of our lives out there, see how we were treated, and see what we contributed to the world anyway even if we were being (mis)judged. Maybe this is indeed a reminder nga for us to not take our “queer freedoms” for granted today, but it’s also a reminder to celebrate them because somehow, we have (some of) them freedoms nga, in a way, which Alan never did.

Anyway watch watch watch. Happy siya, in a sad sorta way. Basta! Sana manalo ito ng award later. Fingers crossed.

 

[All photos swiped from the internet. Thanks to those who uploaded them.]

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!

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

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

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

The first thing I’m talking about is this:

allmasters

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

The second thing I’m talking about is this:

cine filipino

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

Queer focus for now.

lihisposterLIHIS (2013)

d. Joel Lamangan

s. Ricky Lee

dop. Mo Zee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

chacha2ANG HULING CHA-CHA NI ANITA (2013)

d., s. Sigrid Bernardo

dop. Alma Dela Pena

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hashtag alam na!

 

 

MMFF 2012: Thy Womb

Posted in drama film, MMFF, Philippine Cinema, women's issues in film on January 13, 2013 by leaflens

THY WOMB (2012)

thy womb poster2d. Brillante Mendoza

s. Henry Burgos

dop. Odyssey Flores

mscore. Teresa Barrozo

c. Nora Aunor, Bembol Roco, Lovi Poe, Mercedes Cabral

Pitch: In a Muslim community down south, an infertile wife agrees to find another wife for her husband so they could have a child in the house.

Catch: ‘Yun na ‘yun. Maniwala ka bang the pitch is also the catch? Basa kung bakit!

Kasi ganito ‘yun teh. ‘Yung pelikula, maganda. ‘Yung scenery lalo na. Tahimik lang siyang nilatag, imahe after imahe, na ipinapakita ang buhay ng isang particular na lugar na ito sa Muslim community somewhere in Mindanao. Culture kung culture spectacle teh. May pinakitang kasal ng isang lalaki at babae (si Mercedes Cabral the indie cutie) na kahit parang may pumipilit na suma-subplot na naghahabulang saglit na military vs. rebels chuva, kebs pa rin si ati at may-I-dance siya ng ritual dance ng kinasal, to the tune of that dayang dayang song na sikat ay may rele pala sa kanila doon.

Tahimik ding pinakita ‘yung buhay ng mag-asawang ginampanan ni Kuya Bembol at ni Ate Guy. Na gumagawa sila ng mga special colorful na banig tapos binebenta nila. May moments na ‘yun lang ang pinapakita, na naghahabi lang hibla by hibla si Ate Guy. Tapos si Kuya Bembol nagluluto at nagkukulay ng hibla. Tapos tahimik ding pinakita na minsan, fisherfolk sila. May maliit silang bangka na may motor tapos nangingisda sila sa vast Mindanao waters, na minsan may rebels at nahagingan sila ng baril tapos kinulimbat ‘yung fishes na nahuli nila. Ganun lang.

Tapos tahimik ding nag-usap ang mag-asawa na ‘yun nga, kumuha ng bagong asawa para maanakan ni Kuya Bembol. Nalulungkot kasi sila na walang bata sa bahay kaya naghanap sila ng bagong babaeng may silbi ang bahay-bata. Enter frame si Lovi Poe the mainstream cutie. Pinakita din dito ang struggle ng mag-asawa na mahanap ang perfect yet affordable next wife na afford nilang bayaran ang dowry. Ito interesting for me as a feminist. Mas mahal pala ang gelay kapag titulado at nakapag-kolehiyo. Parang 120,000 pesoses yata siya or something. Tapos may extra pa, mga tinapay saka magarang belo saka reams ng yosi para sa padir at madir ng gelay. Interesting makita ang kalakarang ito.

In fairness, sa kuwento, affordable ang byuti ni Lola Lovi. ‘Yun din pala, tahimik na pinakita kung paano nag-raise ng 80,000 pesoses yata or more ang mag-asawang mananahi ng banig at sometime fisherfolk para afford nilang bayaran ang Lola Lovi dowry. Kelangang ibenta ang motor ng boat at nag-pitch in ang community for fundraising. Pero may request ang lola, na pagkaanak niya, palayasin na daw ni Kuya si Ate sa balur at silang dalawa na lang ang magsasama. Yes, finally, conflict! Na dumating mga makalipas ang isang oras at kalahati ng katahimikang paglalahad ng mga imaheng kultural.

Tapos eto na, nang manganak na nga ang lola mo, si ati ang nagpaanak at pinutol pa ang umbilical cord at tinago for souvenir. Tapos tinitigan lang siya ni kuya at lola and then pagkaputol ng cord, BAM! Pinutol na rin ang pelikula, literal. Credits na. The end.

And I was like, Thy Whut???

Napaganun na lang ako. parang naglalatag pa lang ang kuwento, naglalatag pa lang ng istorya, parang ang mga pangyayari sa naratibo ay nagsisimula pa lang maging interesante pero malabong tinapos na ito ni Brillante. Kamusta naman. Sige, maganda ang katahimikan ng mga imahe, fine. Magaling ang pag-arte nilang lahat dito impernez, fine. Pero naman teh, asan ang script??? Asan ang laman ng istorya??? Naman eh. Nalurkey akey. Di ko knows kung ano naganap. Kaya ayun, bitin lola mo. Buti na lang at biased ako at naisalba ang mga oras ng katahimikan ng pelikulang ito sa pagtitig sa ganju mode ni Mercedes my crush at ng alindog-in-a-shawl mode ni Lovi my lust. Pramis ‘yun lang tumawid teh. Haynakuh beks di ka na natuto. Di ba ganitich din naman ang reak mo sa ibang pelikula ni koya BM? Oo ‘pag naiimbey ako I talk to myself, di ka kasali dito, beh.

thy womb lovi

Hay Lovi, why so pretty?

Hay nakuh. Sayang. Andun na sana e. Maganda na sana ‘yung mga katahimikang subtleties na sinusubukang isaksak ni direk sa pelikula. Pero walang direktang story consciousness ang pelikula. In short, wala kang masyadong kakapitan na kuwento. Scenery na lang, fine. Konting filmic nuances (esp. acting, cinematog) fine. Pero kuwento? Wiz! Balik sa workshop ‘yan. Now na.

Saka sana Tinagalog na lang nila ang titulo. Saka lost ako sa choice na “thy” kasi di ba associated itich sa Christian/Catholic writings? “Thy will be done/on earth as it is in heaven.” Um mga followers po ni Allah ang characters. May counterpart ba ang thy chuvaness sa Quran? Just wondering. Parang mali, eh. Maling-mali.

Hayst. Sayang. Wala, ang lola Mercedes at ang lola Lovi ay nasayang lang ditich. Anyway kebs, naka-rampage naman sila sa Venice Filmfest saka sa Cannes din yata. Hm bakit kaya nanalo ito sa Venice? Siguro relate ang judges dahil puro tubig ang nakikita dito sa film. Di ba Venice canals chorva mode? Wala lang, wafung na akiz. Naubusan ng popcorn.

Next!

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