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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Roughly Four Months Ago: Notes from Pelicula 2012

Pelicula (or Spanish Film Festival) at Greenbelt 3 remains my favorite, locally held film festival specific to a certain foreign language. First, it’s ticketed but for a minimal amount of P65. There’s no need to queue and argue with the mall guards who do not really like films. Tickets can be purchased in advance and/or through online via Second, they raffle off a trip to Spain at the end of the festival, usually during the viewer’s choice screening (this year, the bragging rights went solely to Argentina’s “Un Cuento Chino”). Third, there are staffs from Instituto Cervantes in the area attending to some queries regarding the film entries or in case you have an epiphany to study the language while watching any of the films. And lastly, the selection is just incredible, not so artsy and not so mainstream.

Below is the list of the films that I saw from last year’s Pelicula. I know it was held around four months ago already (October 4 – 14, 2012) but I just want to take note of the films before oblivion beats me. Here’s my share:

Un Cuento Chino (Sebastián Borensztein, 2011) It's the best way to start a film festival that tries to address language barrier and initiate camaraderie. On top of the novelty (an Argentine guy meeting a Chinese guy and attempted to communicate without having to talk), there’s a glimpse of how the government treats this inevitable situation. The plot may not be that fresh but I liked its treatment on quiet scenes, muted colors and emptiness. I giggled when I saw that plate of morcilla and chinchulin. The cow (an Asian farmer’s best bud and a South American’s main source of parilla) in the first scene alone tells about universality and how everything can be connected. I remember seeing its movie posters in Montevideo but I can’t watch it because there’s no English subtitles available.

Grupo 7 (Alberto Rodríguez, 2012) A fast-paced action film about a police unit that is tasked to clean up the city of Seville in time for the World Expo in 1992. Could be taken either as a popcorn flick or yet another film about police brutality. It got me glued from start to finish. I can say that it is my kind of film, the one that borders from being entertaining and at the same time, anchored in something insightful and substantial.

After (Alberto Rodríguez, 2009) For the same director who did “Grupo 7”, this is a display of versatility. It's about three friends in their 40's who had their own share of epiphany after an evening of drugs and booze. In short, it’s a film about the so-called midlife crisis as told in a Rashomon-like style. The intertwining stories may look old and overdone but it still delivered the goods.

Hollywood Talkies (Óscar Pérez and Mia de Ribot, 2011) I have never seen a documentary this weak. It's a reminder that if you don't have enough data, don't do it yet. To make up, it used some old photos of its subjects that are flashed on screen for about 20 to 30 seconds each, combined with a scary mood music and a narration that seemed like a reading from a Googled information. In between are some odd videos of the beach, old buildings and streets. It has no interviews, no details on the period, just random stories from an interesting, bygone era.

Cortos Vascos: Amar (Isabel Herguera), Flock (Asier Altuna), Daisy Cutter (Enrique Garcia and Ruben Salazar), Exhibition 19 (Alaitz Arenzena and Maria Ibarretze), The Great Race (Kote Camacho), Everything’s Alright (Miguel Angel Jimenez), A Crappy Boyfriend (Borja Cobeaga), Mouths of Sand (Angel Aldarondo) and The Award (Leon Simiani) All in all, it’s an interesting mix of short films. Memorable scenes include the meet up of the chirping crowd in “Flock”, the running kid in the animated “Daisy Cutter”, the arguing couple in “The Award” (with this one, I was thinking of the Buencaminos) and the irresistible metaphor in “A Crappy Boyfriend”. But my favorite has to be “The Great Race” which is in B&W. I wasn’t so sure what the statement it is trying to convey (could be the passion for betting) but the unmanned horse race got me.

Dos Hermanos (Daniel Burman, 2010) This is my favorite among the films that I saw from the lot. It’s about siblings Marcos and Susana in their 60’s who have no choice but to reconcile their differences after their mother died. It’s actually a comedy but very restrained. It’s also very accessible in terms of character study. The personalities in focus are very interesting. One is very loud and outspoken while the other is exact opposite. The use of Argentina and Uruguay as neighboring countries is a good metaphor for this brother-sister movie; they look close but not always entirely.

5 Metros Cuadrados (Max Lemcke, 2011) This is very similar to what our very own Joel Lamangan could do if given a chance. It’s a take on oppression as seen from the point-of-view of a middleclass couple who spent what they have and bought a home from a problematic construction company. The last few sequences are very much similar to Brocka’s “Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim” only more melodramatic and less subtle. It could be a statement on Spain’s recent economic woes and in that aspect, the film is very relevant.

Madrid, 1987 (David Trueba, 2011) Among the bunch of entries, this one is probably the most polarizing. For around 104 minutes, the movie injects claustrophobia through a conversation between a young and beautiful student and an old journalist both trapped in a bathroom somewhere in Madrid. It’s actually an interesting proposition considering the age gap and what could have been the opposing views, no matter how twisted, of the two characters. Along the way, I got bored and lost track of the essence of it. Maybe there are some points there that could only be truly appreciated if I were a local.

La Chispa de la Vida (Álex de la Iglesia, 2011) This dark comedy is very easy to like. Salma Hayek stars as the wife of Roberto who once became famous for an ad slogan for Coke. While visiting a hotel with sentimental value, which is now turned into a city museum, Roberto falls in scaffolding and finds his head trapped in an iron bar. The accident turns into frenzy as media covers the whole incident and network bosses haggle for exclusivity. I actually enjoyed the premise. It’s just that everything is so obvious and most of the actors, Salma Hayek included, took it in a very loud approach.

Pa Negre (Agustí Villaronga, 2010) This coming of age tale in a post-war era in a Catalan countryside tells the story of Andreu (impressively acted by Francesc Colomer) as he struggles to unmask the real killers of a murder of a father and a son whose bodies he himself has discovered. I saw somewhere that this film is an adaptation of a powerful novel and this is pretty much evident most of the time. The last scene with Andreu in an attempt to sum up what he has become as a person after the war has a dark, lingering effect.

80 Egunean (José María Goenaga and Jon Garaño, 2010) The look and feel of this film about two 70-year old women who had an affair, despite of one of them having a husband, in span of 80 days (thus the title) is very similar to the texture of our roster of indie films. I can imagine the likes of Jeffrey Jeturian doing a similar form of aesthetics. It’s essentially a small film with very minimal characters but the emotions are quite powerfully restrained. Thanks to its actors. I also find it insightful. Given the contemporary backdrop, the take on homosexuality is still traditionally verbalized without the conceit of berating it or worse, bragging about it.

18 Comidas (Jorge Coira, 2010) I capped the festival with a feel-good indie film about food. It is set in a city known for good cooking with a series of short stories that displays how a meal serves as a sounding board to some people. There’s this small time actor who waits for her date from breakfast to dinner. There’s a bored housewife who invites her musician ex-boyfriend for lunch. A gay couple’s meal for a visiting brother suddenly turns awry. A young woman tries to end an affair with a married guy over dinner. A sister follows her luck on music after working to a family-owned restaurant for some years already. And then there’s an old couple who does nothing much in life than eat together in a small apartment.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Ang Pinakamataas na Paglipad na Maaaring Maabot ng Isang Ibon

The King of the Birds
Produksyon: Tanghalang Ateneo
Direksyon: Ron Capinding
Mandudula: Jean-Claude Carrier at Peter Brook (halaw mula sa tula ni Farid ud-Din Attar)
Mga Nagsiganap: Domie Espejo, atbp.

Sa unang tingin at sa isang napakababaw na layer, puwedeng ikumpara ang mga aktor na naka-costume bilang ibon (kuwago, kalapati, lawin, atbp.) sa mga aktor na naka-costume ng pusa sa "Cats". Tungkol din kasi ito sa isang pulutong ng mga hayop na nag-uusap at nagkukwentuhan. Ito nga lang sa “The King of the Birds”, may masidhing nais itong ipaalala sa atin bilang tao. Ang lahat ay nag-ugat sa pagnanasang makita ng mga ibon ang isang hari (Simourgh). Nagbunsod na mithiin ang ganitong pangangailangan nang mawala ang kanilang lider. Sa pangunguna ni Hoopoe (Domie Espejo), lumipad ang dula sa isang mabigat na paglalakbay ng mga ibon.

Sa punto ng pagsasateksto ng synopsis, hindi pa rin kakakitaan ng insight ang dula. Nagkaroon lang ng igting nang inumpisahan ito sa pamamagitan ng dasal ng isang paring Katoliko, ng isang imam, isang katutubo, isang Buddhist at iba pa. Tungkol ito sa faith, isang ispiritwal na paglalakbay na ang dulo ay walang ibang kinahinatnan kung hindi ang sarili at sarili pa rin. Gamit ang sufism (na ayon sa wikipedia ay “defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimention of Islam”) mula sa isang mahabang tula na isinulat noong 12th century pa, isinahalintulad ang flight ng mga ibon sa isang pagsubok. Sa ibang mas kampanteng pananaw, maaari itong tawaging isang pagpapanday sa bakal upang maging mabuting espada o pagkiskis sa magaspang na bato upang maging diyamante.

Hindi naging madali ang paglipad ng mga ibon sa disyerto at pitong burol (sa isang eksena ay bumalik ang paring Katoliko at iba pa upang idulog bilang monologo ang mga pagsubok na kinakaharap ng simbahan ngayon). Sa daan, marami ang nais nang bumitiw at bumalik sa kanilang sari-sariling pugad ng kumpiyansa at kaginhawahan. Ang bawat ibon ay may makasariling rason upang huminto, isang tahasang pagdedeklara ng dula na walang sinisinong relihiyon at lahi ang materyal. Hindi lahat ay nakaabot maging sa gitna ng biyahe. May ilang napagod na at ang ilan ay kumapit sa mga pangakong hindi nila pisikal na mapanghahawakan. Hindi ba’t ito mismo ang pinakabukal na punla ng ating ispirituwalismo? Kamukha ng core ng libro (at pelikulang) “Life of Pi”, sinasabi lang na ang faith (hindi religion, na ayon sa isa pang pelikula naman noon ni Harrison Ford ay maghahati sa atin, hindi magbubuklod) ay malilitis lamang sa oras ng kawalan ng lakas at pag-asa, sa hangganan ng pagkalasing o sa dulo ng pisi. Walang kasiguraduhan na ang pananampalataya kailanman ay matatagpuan sa bahay-dasalan o sa kung ano pa mang bagay. Sabi nga ng isang ibon, “I see nothing and yet I see everything.”

Maliban sa mortal na katawan (para sa mga ibon, ang kanilang mga pakpak), kinakailangan ding saliwan ang paglalakbay ng mga ilang aral na pag-uusbungan ng second wind. Sa daloy ng dula, may ilang maiiksing kuwento ang ipinapakita upang manatili sa focus ang mga ibon. Hindi ko alam kung may direkta itong pagpapatungkol sa mga kuwento sa, halimbawa, Bibliya o Koran, na madalas na ginagamit bilang giya sa buhay. Kung ano pa man, ang gusto yatang pagtibayin ng dula ay ang angkop na pagsasabuhay ng isang faith na pinagbuklod ng pisikalidad at karampatang binhi ng salita o teksto.

Hindi ko na sasabihin kung natagpuan ng mga ibon ang kanilang hari. Hindi na ito masyadong mahalaga sa ngayon. Sa umpisa ng dula, ipinabahagi ang ilang papel na dilaw sa mga manonood. Hiniling na isulat dito ang mga bagay na makakapagpigil sa atin upang kagiliwang makita ang hari at ang kawalan ng pagkakataon na makakabalik pa. Hindi ako nabigyan nito pero kung sakali, isusulat ko siguro ang aking pamilya. May munting agam-agam sa akin kung ano ang partikular na sagot ng ilang kabataan sa audience. Siguro ay kasintahan, comfort ng sariling silid, internet, sasakyan at kung anu-ano pang luho o bisyo. Katulad ng mga ibon, may mga bagay talagang magpapabigat sa ating paglipad at ito, bilang isang mortal, ay hindi maiiwasang pasanin.

Matagal ko sigurong makakalimutan ang eksena sa dulo tungkol sa pagharap sa liwanag. Kinilabutan ako, isang bagay na bihirang bihira kong maramdaman sa isang sermon sa simbahan. Para akong pinasadahan ng neuralyzer sa “Men in Black” at nakalimutan ko ang kinang ng direksyon ni Ron Capinding dito at ang ensemble acting o ng mga magarang costume at make-up o kung gaano kapayak ang production design ni Gigi de Jonghe. Naalala ko ang consequence ng pagsugod ng gamugamo sa apoy sa kuwento ni Rizal. Maaari natin itong ikasunog nang tuluyan o maaari rin namang ikawala lang ng pakpak upang mapilitang harapin ang kapalaran. “Enter”, ‘yan ang nag-iisang clue na ibinigay ng hari (na ang pangalang Simourgh ay katunog ng “see more”). Kamukha yata ito ng pagsambit ng “Siya nawa” o “Amen” sa bawat dulo ng dasal. Isa itong pagseselyo ng pagsuko sa isang higher being at pagluhod sa pag-iisang dibdib ng sariling katawan at isa pang “sarili” sa loob nito.
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