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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Notes from a Filmfest

I really couldn’t get enough of this year’s Cinemalaya. It’s probably the best batch among the three installments. Here’s the fix, my recollection on competition and exhibition films in chronological order, all viewed a week or two ago:

TRIBU – this year’s Best Picture and Best Actor (ensemble). At first, I thought the film is just what it is: an ultra realistic storytelling of warring gangsters in Tondo. Mababaw sana s’ya except for the last two minutes of the film wherein a little boy is seen entering a room with a gun. The film opens with the line, “sa Tondo, bata ang bida” (pertaining to Sto. Nino or Infant Jesus). I suspect that the boy initiated the war just to get hold of the gun. Very “Ciudad de Dios”.

STILL LIFE – Malalim. One of those films that you have to wait for the ending to catch the twist. The only drawback, for me, is how the acting was directed in this film. Andaming inconsistencies sa mga character ng mga aktor dahil sa interpretation nila. Pwede itong ma-trap sa direction. More plus points: the film was shot mostly in an island somewhere in Guinayangan, Quezon. Na-appreciate ko lalo ang probinsya ko. Bonus na lang ang autograph ni Glaiza de Castro sa aking festival pass (na sinundan nina Alchris Galura, Joel Lamangan, Gil Portes, cast of “Pisay” and “Gulong”, Raymond Gutierrez, Iza Calzado, Michiko Yamamoto, Armando Lao, Auraeus Solito and Karylle).

KADIN – Very Iranian (film). I can’t say that this film will salvage Adolf Alix’s artistry as a director but the film is average to above average. Tamang tama ang build up at maganda ang resolution sa huli. It helps that the film was entirely shot in Batanes.

LIGAW LIHAM – Right after watching the film, my initial comments were “well made but dragging”. And Karylle can’t add pogi points to the film. Her character is more of an Iza Calzado’s. It’s just well made. Period.

BATAD: SA PAANG PALAY – Last year’s winner for Best Actor, Alchris Galura, carries the film very well. Napaka-animated n’ya, para s’yang tubig. Marami pang ibubuga itong batang ito. I now proclaim to be an Alchris Galura fan. Beyond that and Gina Alajar and Nonnie Buencamino’s acting, I feel that some of the film’s components are half-baked (including Gina and Nonie’s casting as Igorot parents). Kahit sa script, naghahanap ako ng authenticity, something that is purely Igorot. Pero konting research at retoke na lang siguro at ayos na ‘to.

GULONG – It’s a bit odd to see this film as a Cinemalaya film. Para akong nanonood ng Hiraya Manawari sa TV. In fairness, the film is very polished. Well made din s’ya. Siguro, ‘yung material lang talaga, medyo off. Hindi rin ako impressed sa script. I can’t forget this line as uttered by Miss Barbara Perez, “Manalo pa naman ang apelyido n’ya pero parati s’yang talo.”

SEROKS – I was warned by some peeps to avoid this film (including one of the lead actors Neil Ryan Sese). The film must be bad, I thought. Unfortunately, it turned out the other way around. I enjoyed the film. Maybe because I was fascinated with multiple characters and their parallel lives. The plus point is the film’s noir look. It’s very “In the Mood for Love” and “Chungking Express”. I was informed by Ching Danseco, a cousin of a cousin and the film’s art director, that they were drunk when they did the film.

HANGGANG DITO NA LAMANG AT MARAMING SALAMAT – Among the films in exhibition, this film is the one I was most interested about. First, I love the stage version. When I saw PETA’s version with Joel Lamangan and Richard Quan, I already considered a film adaptation of the material. Napakaraming one-liners dito. Script pa lang, meaty na. Too bad that the film didn’t meet my expectations. Who cares about snail mails nowadays? I am not sure if we can update the film’s genre. I was rooting for a period film, set to a quaint town when texting and internet were not born yet. The direction is not helping either. Sinahugan pa ng ilang hubaran upang bumenta sa ibang market. The only saving grace is Nonie Buencamino’s acting. The film, by the way, was funded and made by some folks from Quezon Province (including the late Orlando Nadres). I saw some familiar faces inside the theater. A weekend after, the film got a second screening due to its popularity.

PISAY – My first “kumpletos rekados” film for the year. Tamang tama ang sangkap mula script (very intelligent, no pun intended), direction, acting, cinematography, production design at iba pang aspetong panteknikal. Pang-Oscar Best Picture, kumbaga. If there’s one film that I could recommend to a non-fan of Pinoy films, this must be it. Bonus na lang ‘yung old school OST na bihirang bihira ko nang makita sa mga Pinoy films ngayon.

ENDO – It is this year’s version, in terms of impact, of my 2005 favorite “Sarong Banggi”. Sapol na sapol sa puso. May kirot at may haplos. Isa sa mga script na nagpapaisip sa akin na ‘wag nang magsulat dahil marami nang magagaling na manunulat. I love the metaphor between a short (work) contract and a relationship. Sana nare-renew, sana hindi. The other option is for the film to be preachy and spank the guys who can’t live without girlfriends but “Endo” chooses a path that is less traveled. Acting wise, Jason Abalos is a revelation and Ina Feleo, Laurice Guillen and Johnny Delgado’s daughter, is the next big thing in local film industry.

HAW-ANG – I personally like this film because it was entirely shot in Banaue, particularly in Hapaw Hungduan area. I went there last April and I can say that I’m biased with the film. Medyo kumakanto ang pelikula sa mga nausong “oppression” films n’ung araw, n’ung panahon ni Brocka hanggang sa mga attempt ni Lamangan. Pero may kakaibang alindog ‘yung film na wala sa mga naunang kamukhang obra. Siguro dahil sa cinematography n’ya o siguro, maganda lang talaga ‘yung movie. Aside from “Blackout” and most of the Cinemalaya films, “Haw-Ang” is definitely one of the best films for 2007.

SINUNGALING NA BUWAN – After watching this film, I’m starting to appreciate Ed Lejano’s works (hahaha). Again, I think it has something to do with multiple characters. May ilang part na too artsy pero OK lang sa akin. ‘Yung montage ng “Narito Ako”, jazz version, nagustuhan ko ‘yun. Pero I admit na mahirap panoorin ‘yung film at naiintindihan ko kung bakit maraming hindi makaka-gets.

SHORTS B: Durog, Gabon, Liwanag sa Dilim, Maikling Kuwento, To Ni – I’m not really a fan of Pinoy shorts. Too artsy para sa akin. Pero among the lot, hindi ko makalimutan ang “To-Ni” na tungkol sa imaginary friendship ng isang bata at ng isang rebulto ni Sto. Niño. “Liwanag…” is technically above average and “Gabon” is well written.

ROOMBOY – I missed this film when it was first shown in the first batch of Cinemalaya. Meryl Soriano won a Best Actress award here beating my personal favorite Jaclyn Jose (for “Sarong Banggi”, she won an Urian Best Actress though). I enjoyed the film. If there’s one drawback, it must be Polo Ravales’ acting. Hindi ko masakyan ang angst n’ya at kung napapakita n’ya ba talaga nang maayos o hindi.

TUKSO – The film is produced by a company called “Theater Arts”. To further describe the project, it was directed by Dennis Marasigan (Tanghalang Pilipino’s current frontman) and starred by (drum roll, please) Irma Adlawan, Shamaine Centenara, Nonie Buencamino, Soliman Cruz, Ping Medina and a bunch of actors from different theater groups. When I first saw the film “Sa North Diversion Road”, an adaptation from a stage play, I thought that the material was not film-able. After watching “Tukso”, I was starting to get the hang of it. Maybe there’s really a market for films that have a “stage play” feel (acting, lighting, monologues, etc.). The film, by the way, has a Rashomon-ish storytelling.

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