Friday, August 02, 2013

Cinemalaya. Freeing the Mainstream from its Own Norms

Sana Dati from the Master Digital Storyteller. Jerrold Tarog is a master digital storyteller who establishes, builds up, reveals and closes with an impression. He presents a non-linear story in a structure in Sana Dati. The writer-director-musician-technical in one is a master of his craft choosing an appropriate cast, confident of his technique in staging and teasing to delivering a message to move the viewer.

All the elements in spite of the complexities are neatly woven together as cohesive. The character Dennis Ceasario portrayed by Paulo Avelino covered and uncovered a civil wedding and preparation mainly to "remember the bride." A man can identify and look up to Dennis’ character-intense, insightful, cool, confident, family driven, appealing and a loving brother. A woman (Lovi Poe) can easily fall for such a character. Line why he does what he does said by Dennis “gusto lang kita makilala” is a giveaway on how this story on closure ends when the credit rolled.

Quick Change jolted my sensibilities.  Subject on collagen injection on transsexuals is new to me. Syringe injected in the buttocks is tolerable but when done in the face made me squirm on my theater seat.  Practitioner has no medical training. At the early stage of the story, collagen put on form and curves.  As the plot develops, it was evolving as a new type of addiction, decay and eventually death. Practice when discontinued is taken over relatively easily by another enterprising transsexual. Quick Change, a Cinemalaya entry of Director Eduardo Roy, Jr. added another dimension to the medium. It did not entertain nor informed nor imitated life but jolted the senses with forthcoming realities. Sadly, this experience is already a reality and right now evolving in our midst but we are not aware of. Quick Change expanded further my liberal outlook.

Debosyon.  Obsession with icon and Catholic ritual challenged by myth, paganism and relationship. Narrated well (in poetry and music), technically supported most impactful for me are the devotees' grand procession and the language of Ina, Bicol and the authentic nature scene, the mountains.

Written in Bicolano which sets up the tone, it is engaging even to a native Tagalog. Someone with attachment to nature and a devotee can relate well with Debosyon by Alvin Yapan. When nature and prayers collide, heaven opens up.  Mythical!
I am a fan of Alvin not as a cinema goer yet but as a radio listener. As a guro, he story tells well his hurdles when he worked on his first film Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Paa. Tuned in at DZUP 1602 AM months ago, he with partner Alemberg Ang kept us glued on the radio listening to how the film was created. In that interview, it was acknowledged that the movie put Paulo and Rocco in the limelight. Alvin expressed wanting to work with them again but may not be possible already. Even that remote wish was granted with Debosyon.

Everyone is in transit.  The Cinemalaya movie of Hannah Espia explores the individual and collective lives of Filipinos working in Israel closely immersed with the Israeli’s culture.
Movie deep dives into the struggles, angst, insecurities and even some joys of hiding in a foreign land by a single father, separated mother, young child, daughter and a distant relative.

Transit moves because of the excellent acting of Ping Medina, Irma Aldawan, Marc Justine Alvarez as the young Joshua complemented by everyone else in the cast Israeli’s included. Each of the three projected big moments: father's pain of interrogation, mother's  disappointment with the daughter and son's fear of discovery. The Filipino actor’s proficiency in the use of the foreign language Hebrew adds to the fluidity and mystery of the technically well-crafted movie.

As Transit is a journey, it is paralleled with a dramatic Hebrew tale of a thin soldier continuing with his search for the rainbow after setbacks in the struggle. Soldier can choose to be swallowed or to search for the rainbow. Gladly, Moises plans to come back to Tel Aviv still searching for the rainbow rather than being swallowed after bringing home his deported 4 year old son Joshua.
Amor Y Muerte, Love and Death by Cesar Evangelista. When push comes to shove, your native
affiliation prevails. The snake eating the rat, casting, language, visualization, carnal scenes, storytelling, voice characterization effectively seeded to me the messages of obsession with colonialism, paganism, sex and ego. Be careful with colonizers. “They are not one of us!” is the natives’ battle cry. Amor y Muerte has a bold theme executed well.

When I saw the photos of Spanish Friar, Kuya Manzano, he is not as tall and powerful as he was projected in the movie, Adrian Sebastian as Apitong is dashing and not as native and Althea Vega as Amor is not as innocent but maybe a hottie.  I was made to believe that Markkie Stroem is Spanish but in truth is Fil-Nowegian. Amor transformed them well!
Nueve as a Movie lifted from a Docu. A digital movie interpretation of a true story inspired from an audio-visual documentary aired on local non-prime network. Facts were researched from real life interview of the victim and members of the family. A mother at 9, raped by her own father whose mother was raped too by the same man. The story in itself, a taboo is shocking defying all social norms. Docu aired on TV is provocative and informative eliciting strong reaction on senselessness. The movie, shot indie style allowing cinematic and AV capture has not come close to the reactions on the docu and the idea.

Are some elements wanting? Am I too exposed to the story? Is the material so sensitive the interest of the victim, an underage was protected? Or is it my bias? I’ve seen the documentary on GMA News TV, deeply moved by the courage of the girl on how she is coping and empathized with pain she has been going through via narration, interview and intimate video coverage. The movie, despite the reenactment by big stars, cinematic attributes and the projection of the rural site as picture perfect cannot truly come close to the agony when one has come that close to the real protagonist even just on TV. Nueve is a creation of Director Joseph Israel Laban, an award winning documentarist.

Ekstra. They wrote in Twitter "Ekstraordinary ang lead players citing Vilma Santos, Cherry Gil, Pilar
Grabbed from Ekstra Foto
Pilapil and the big stars" in bit roles  I retweeted and wrote "Ekstrahusay sina Marlon Rivera as Direck, Vincent de Jesus as the Assistant Director and Ruby as the Line Producer." I pay tribute to the three as truly, they are the extras in Jeffrey Jeturian's film where the leads are performed by known celebrities. Because of their sterling performances portraying the roles of Director, Production Manager and Line Producer, it diverts my attention to these professionals as the unsung heroes of cinema production.  Direk, PM and LP bear the pressure of deadline, quality output and acceptability to the production’s stakeholders who may not share the same points-of-view. Along with the Ekstras, they are the ones we owe our tribute to.

Purok 7 written and directed by Carlo Obispo pictures the simple joy of a rural farm living-toiling the soil, drawing water from a pump, walking in the woods, interacting with other purok-mates and appreciating the social core unit of a family, sister and brother without a mother and an absentee father. The company of a sister (Diana portrayed by Krystle Valentino) and Julian (Miggs Cuarderno) is more than enough joy.  Basic shelter in a hut in an isolated farmland is provided for with staple food in abundance and a sense of belonging to a community. Even done daily, it was not humdrum for the two. Diana and Julian who are separated from their OSW mother, a victim of drug carrier penalty and a father who attached himself to someone else have been surviving on their own.
Purok 7 captures in motion and in sound the enjoyment in doing farm chores: picking mangoes, fishing for frogs, taking a shower, preparing and eating their meals, reaping appreciation, falling for a city boy and watching town plaza dancing. Rural living is periodically going to the feria for the customized and mobile carnival rides and attractions.

Their enjoyment of simple life is set however against a backdrop of a grim reality of mother to be executed in a foreign land, father to father another child from a strange townmate and an apathetic government.
Diana and Julian will survive because Purok with the members of the community molded them well, independent, resilient, family-centered, sensitive and above all, human.

Film as a medium for social commentary. That is what Rekorder recorded well. From the point of
view of a 21 year old filmmaker comfortable with the digital medium, Rekorder, a film by Mikhail Red makes a social commentary on what is wrong with the city and how day-in day-out it is slowly decaying. Rekorder offers no concrete solution as Maven appropriately put to life by Ronnie Quizon, eventually became weaker emotionally, morally and physically.  Hope is implied through the use of the medium itself when the digital medium in outdated and evolving form is used to report and to reveal perpetrators.

To make a sound commentary, one must have personally experienced disillusionment. To document it for broadcast, one must be proficient with the new medium. Without a doubt, Mikhail has both as he delivered a strong message. -Chito R.

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