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Monday, October 22, 2007

A Pretentious Take on Pelicula 2007

One of the things that I love being here in the metro is watching film festivals sponsored by some foreign cultural centers like Instituo Cervantes, Japan Foundation, Alliance Francaise and Goethe Institut for a minimal fare if not for free. I haven’t been to a weeklong German Film Fest here yet but I had my share of adventures with Eiga Sai (at one point, they were screening films at PCI/Equitable’s basement auditorium), French Film Fest (even before Ayala Center has THX cinemas, there was Louie’s THX Cinema in Milelong Building) and Spanish Film Fest (always conveniently screened here in Makati).

As for the latter, below are some peliculas that I have seen at Greenbelt 3 (film fest schedule was from October 1 to 14) for P65 each:

1. Los Ultimos de Filipinas/The Last from the Philippines – A good way for me to start the festival, a sumptuous appetizer for what was about to come. The film was done in 1945 and in B&W. There’s something good about this war film. It tackles the struggles of the last Spaniard troop in the country specifically in a town called Baler. That time, they were already mutinied by Filipino townsfolk and were trapped inside a chapel. This happened roughly six months after the implementation of a treaty that all the troops from Spain should be pulled out from the Philippines and the Spaniards were clueless and doubtful. “Los Ultimos de Filipinas” deals with paranoia, hypocrisy, lost love and patriotism.

2. Ciudad en Celo/City in Heat – Don’t be misled by its title. It isn’t an R18-rated film comparable to “Sex and Lucia” or “Y Tu Mama Tambien”. The film undertakes a couple of characters intertwined by a tragic death of a friend. For sure, you’ve seen at least French film of the same genre: non-climactic, talky and reflective. The film ends with an event that reunites the characters, sideswept by love, betrayal, moving on and enjoying life as it is.

3. Salvador – This one’s based on true events. Salvador is our version perhaps of Lean Alejandro, a student activitist who was gunned down during the Martial Law era. Salvador, on the other hand, was killed during the 70’s through a “garote” (their “silya elektrika”), the same machine that killed our Gomburza. The film documents his struggles partly with the underground movement, his fight for the rights and his face-off with death. Salvador became an icon, as he was the last person to be executed for a political crime (he accidentally shot a policeman during a bust for an underground movement).

4. El Proximo Oriente/The Near East – Very fast-paced and too mainstream, a pleaser for Filipino moviegoers who are not yet immersed to European cinema. The film tells a not-so-new story of two brothers and their beautiful Asian neighbor. The superior one, a family man, got the woman pregnant but the inferior one was the one who married her. The cultural and personality clashes are presented in a funny and lighthearted way.

5. El Aura/The Aura – If I remember it right, this film is not really a Spanish film but an Argentinian film in Spanish language. Among the lot, this film is surprisingly good for a heist/crime film. It tells a story of the protagonist who accidentally shot an old man in the forest while deer hunting and eventually took on the shoes left by the departed. What follows is a story similar to a Coen Brothers plot with less humor and speaking lines. This is a fete for the filmmaker as I, its audience, tried to decypher the lead character’s psyche. “Aura”, by the way, is medical term connected to epilepsy. It is described as “a distinctive feeling or some other warning sign when a seizure is coming” (

6. Secret Life of Words – This film won this year’s Audience Choice Award and the screening that I attended was just an encore. It tells a story of an Eastern European woman with impaired hearing who is forced to take a leave from work. The place is probably in England or Ireland. During vacation, she out of the blue volunteered to nurse a patient whose body was severely burned in an accident. The place was an oilrig in the middle of the sea. It was so remote that even the female lead character has to be transported through a helicopter. Given the location and an astonishing cinematography, I was instantly shipped to a port of melancholy (very effective indeed). The film is in English language and starring a big name fish Tim Robbins as one of the main characters (no wonder it got the audience’s nod). He played the patient who has his own ghosts to haunt. The two lead characters eventually tranced into a passage of healing and recovery. A risk that they took and had won over. In some awkward scenes, a narrator with a voice like a child reads somebody else’s thoughts (probably the woman’s). As the film ends, the voice bades farewell as she realizes that the woman has already a fulfilled life of her own.

SIDE TRIP: I didn’t win in the raffle where the prize is a three-in-one package of a night’s stay at Hotel Sofitel, dinner at Alba’s and a language course at Instituto. Better luck next year, amigo.

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