The ultimate grotesquerie

By Nonoy L. Lauzon

Elections in the Philippines as depicted in the movies are a grand affair. Big crowd scenes of miting de avance are regulatory. Parades, marches and sequences of candidates for elective office on the campaign trail are perfunctory. The plot may center on an assassination or even a massacre – the better to allow for a smorgasbord of cinematic genres enough to arouse audience interest and thereby drive the film to make a killing at the box office.

Jhong Hilario as Lando

Jhong Hilario as Lando

While Chito Roño’s Badil is a motion picture about Philippine elections, it does away in so many ways with the stereotypes of such a movie. Here the main character is not the politico running for a public post. The audience encounters him only with his face on mounted posters and similar campaign paraphernalia. Instead of the politico, the film foregrounds a protagonist principally tasked to ensure votes for his candidate in methods and mechanism unique to the country.

That there has to be such a person speaks volumes about Philippine electoral politics. Roño with his extensive filmography of slick and high-concept melodramas and big-budget adventure flicks has tackled the bizarre, the absurd and the surreal. It is no different in Badil as the director compels viewers to look at one country’s political system as the ultimate grotesquerie.

The rambunctious democracy that is often attributed to the Philippines assumes in the film a level of gritty manifestation. On this account, the film becomes Roño’s boldest, most vocal and most critical of the established socio-political order in the land of his birth. Yet it is not wanting in prescriptive program of action and platform for radical change. The film gets to tread on philosophical-thought territory finding an apt metaphor for proper conduct of revolutions akin to the concoction of a cup of cappuccino.

With the crucial run-up to national elections in a municipality that serves as microcosm for the entire archipelago as the locus of its narrative, the film consists of all-too banal and familiar scenes of people and situations that at the same time spell the very horrors the country’s populace contend with as they partake of the political exercise said to be among the greatest national passions of the Filipinos.

Precisely because the film elicits a powerful and profound message at its core, production values while toned down render the film forceful and effective. Cinematic elements in the film are orchestrated in such a manner that the attention or focus of viewers is directed at the development of the plot and the plight of the characters. This is unadulterated cinema – without empty fanfare, bereft of the trappings of cheap thrills, devoid of gimmickry. #

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Posted by on 25/11/2014 in Film Review



Here lies horror

By Nonoy L. Lauzon

Transgressing norms, mores, and the mindset of conventional society may be deemed the mark of a good film. When a film – that is a huge hit among vast viewing audiences – resorts to such transgression, one knows that it must be doubly good. This is the case for the horror feature Pagpag that by all means subscribes to the requisites of the genre only to subvert one’s expectations of the limits of popular cinema.

Promo still from the movie

Promo still from the movie

What begins as a cautionary tale for the young that shun superstitious beliefs graduates to a far more foreboding treatise that poses a challenge to a way of life and view of the world on which much of social conventions to this day are founded.

In Pagpag, the real source of shock and the horror experience lies not in its elements as a slasher pic but in the very premise by which the diabolical in the film is evoked and unleashed. What drives humans to enact a pact with the Devil can after all be as seemingly innocuous as one’s heterosexual desire to perpetuate the human species and preserve one’s obsession with the nuclear family.

The film ridiculously appears to dramatize the sordid story of a couple compelled to go through lengths just to fulfill their dream of a complete social unit in the strict heterosexist sense. But it is on this account that the film departs from the usual path trodden by flicks of similar vein. It dares to be an allegory of a society that privileges the heterosexual paradigm and marginalizes what for it are all other deviant sexualities. In plain language, the film boldly posits that it is the heterosexual paradigm – and not its opposites and all else that runs counter or contrary to such — that can actually wreak much havoc for human and humane society.

Much people have been reared on the notion that procreation is the essence of human existence without being prodded to realize that this too can be the wellspring for unspeakable evil. How many crimes, acts of injustice, dastardly deeds of oppression and exploitation in the world have been committed in the name of the family ideal — of securing a future for one’s children’s children, of being a good husband to his dutiful wife, of being a loving father providing for his brood? The film in its own way claims that it must all be crap as it is precisely the foundation of the dangerous ideology that very well sows the seeds of stark horror. #

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Posted by on 25/11/2014 in Film Review


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YCC Statement on the 2014 Order of National Artists


The Film Desk of the Young Critics Circle (YCC) condemns the exclusion of Nora Aunor (Nora Cabaltera Villamayor) by President Benigno S. “Noynoy” Aquino III from the roster of NationalArtists proclaimed this year.

Aunor was nominated as National Artist for Film and duly passed all levels of screening in the legally constituted process presided over by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), acting jointly as the Order of National Artists (ONA) Secretariat. Her nomination, and her subsequent inclusion in the final list drawn up by the CCP and the NCCA, was made in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the Philippine film industry and to Philippine culture and arts in general. Her powerful portrayals of various roles over the past several decades of her career have received wide acclaim both at home and abroad, including from our own organization, which has cited her for Best Performance five times.

We are outraged that, in the wake of a stringent process of selection by our state cultural institutions, the President of the Republic nevertheless elected not to bestow upon Aunor the rank and honor of National Artist because Aunor, he claimed, had been convicted and punished in a drug case, referring specifically to her being taken into custody for alleged possession of metamphetamine hydrochloride in California in 2005. This supposedly made her unworthy to be a role model for Filipinos, and would send the wrong message about the use of illegal substances.

We argue that his reasoning is utterly destitute, premised as it is on a misapprehension of the circumstances of Aunor’s arrest, as has been pointed out by Claire Navarro Espina, Aunor’s lawyer in the United States. Moreover, it can only have a chilling effect upon anyone who has ever struggled with drug abuse, a widespread problem in this country, especially among the young—can there be no hope for rehabilitation and redemption?

We believe that issues pertaining to morality are contentious at best and must not be applied to the recognition of a National Artist. What matters most is the artist’s superior development of her craft, which should be recognized by her peers primarily, and by the Filipino people ultimately. Such consideration has been met by the disqualified nominee.

As a critics’ group that advocates dynamic interactions between artist, artwork, and audience, we think that the state plays a crucial role in the development of artistry, and the appreciation thereof, in the country. With its wide institutional reach and public funding, it significantly influences not only the creation and dissemination of works of art, but also the examination and celebration of these and their makers. The state must be mindful that it performs its role in the name of the Filipino people.

”At the end of the day,” as President Aquino always concludes his interviews, the matter at hand bodes ill for the Filipino people. The same thing happened in 2009: it will be remembered that then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whom the incumbent chief executive despises and professes to be in contrast to, chose not to proclaim renowned composer and music scholar Ramon Santos as National Artist, despite the fact that Santos had garnered the highest score from the ONA Secretariat–a act of caprice that the Supreme Court unfortunately saw fit to uphold in 2013. We are extremely concerned that the selection of such esteemed individuals as the National Artists has once more been subjected to an exercise of presidential prerogative that, however legal, does not demonstrate the least bit of rigor in thought or awareness of responsibility, and join the artistic community in the call to rethink and reform the ONA.

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Posted by on 10/07/2014 in Philippine Film


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YCC Awards Rites Postponed

ycc+logoThe awarding ceremony of the Young Critics Circle for the best in Philippine cinema for 2013 has been postponed indefinitely as a result of the shift of the academic calendar of the University of the Philippines. YCC awards rites are financially supported by UP’s Office of Initiatives for Culture and the Arts (OICA).

We will announce the new date of the ceremony as soon as the date is finalized.


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Posted by on 30/04/2014 in Philippine Film



‘Porno’ named Young Critics Circle’s Best Film of 2013

Porno, Adolfo Alix Jr.’s triptych film of individuals linked through pornography, wins big at the Young Critics Circle’s 24th Annual Citations, bagging five of the six main awards, including Best Film and Best Performance for Carlo Aquino who tied with Jhong Hilario for Badil.

Porno2Porno also took the prizes for Best Screenplay and Best Sound and Aural Orchestration, and tied with Frasco Mortiz’s Pagpag for Best Editing.

Mel Chionglo’s Lauriana is named Best Cinematography and Visual Design.

Porno was one of the entries to the 2013 Cinemalaya Film Festival but, due to its mature content, was only exhibited in the Cultural Center of the Philippines, unlike the rest of the entries that were screened in select commercial theaters.

Alix has now won three Best Film awards from YCC, previously winning in 2009 for Adela and in 2012 for Haruo. He has also previously won for his production design in Kalayaan (2012).

Both Aquino and Hilario have been previously nominated for Best Performance by the academe-based group: Aquino for Minsan May Isang Puso (1999) and Baler (2008), and Hilario for Muro-Ami (1999).

Having previously narrowed down the year’s cinematic output to a long list of 22 films, the group last night further reduced it to a shortlist of 13, and, after more than six hours of intense deliberations, arrived at record-number nominations in most categories: Film (8), Performance (15), Screenplay (8), and Cinematography and Visual Design (11). The critics group does not confer any nomination to a film that does not qualify for the shortlist.

To encourage the growth of emerging filmmakers, YCC decided to introduce a new special category – Best First Features, to be given to the three most outstanding feature films of debuting filmmakers. This year, the recipients are Angustia (Kristian Sendon Cordero), Puti (Mike Alcazaren), and Ang Turkey Man Ay Pabo Rin (Randolph Longjas).

The awards ceremony is set on the third week of March, with the specific date and venue to be announced soon.

Below is the list of nominees for all categories:



Winner: Porno, directed by Adolfo Alix Jr. (Cinemalaya Foundation, Phoenix Features, Deus Lux Mea Films, Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum, CMB Film Services, Inc.; Arleen Cuevas, producer)


Mga Anino ng Kahapon, directed by Alvin Yapan (VYAC Productions; Alemberg Ang, producer)

Babagwa, directed by Jason Paul Laxamana (Cinemalaya Foundation, Quantum Films, Kamaru Productions; Josabeth Alonso, executive producer; Ferdinand Lapuz, producer; Chad Angelic Cabigon, associate producer)

Badil, directed by Chito Roño (Film Development Council of the Philippines; Rafaela May Ocampo, executive producer; Han Salazar, producer)

Dukit, directed by Armando Lao (Centerstage Productions, Betis Galleria; Armando Lao, producer; Brillante Mendoza and Florentina Canasa Layug, executive producers; Sonny Dobles and City Heights Hotel, associate producers)

Ang Kwento ni Mabuti, directed by Mes de Guzman (CineFilipino, PLDT-Smart Foundation, Studio 5, Unitel Entertainment, Cinelarga, SampayBakod Productions; Rhea Operaña de Guzman, producer)

Pagpag, directed by Frasco Santos Mortiz (Star Cinema, Regal Films; Charo Santos-Concio, Malou Santos, Lily Monteverde, and Roselle Monteverde, executive producers; Enrico Santos and Marizel Samson-Martinez, supervising producers)

Quick Change, directed by Eduardo Roy Jr. (Cinemalaya Foundation, Found Films; Almond Derla, executive producer; Ferdinand Lapuz, producer)



Winners: Carlo Aquino, Porno and Jhong Hilario, Badil


Angel Aquino, Porno

Nora Aunor, Ang Kwento ni Mabuti

Adrian Cabido, Lauriana

Carlo Cruz, Mga Anino ng Kahapon

Allen Dizon, Lauriana

Ensemble cast of Porno

Cherie Gil, Sonata

Dick Israel, Badil

Alex Vincent Medina, Babagwa

Daniel Padilla, Pagpag

Joey Paras, Babagwa

Sue Prado, Ang Kwento ni Mabuti

TJ Trinidad, Mga Anino ng Kahapon



Winner: Porno, Ralston Jover


Mga Anino ng Kahapon, Alvin Yapan

Babagwa, Jason Paul Laxamana

Badil, Rodolfo Vera

Debosyon, Alvin Yapan

Dukit, Armando Lao and Mary Honeylyn Joy Alipio

Ang Kwento ni Mabuti, Mes de Guzman

Quick Change, Eduardo Roy Jr.



Winners: Pagpag, Jerrold Tarog and Porno, Aleks Castañeda


Badil, Carlo Francisco Manatad

Dukit, Diego Marx Dobles



Winner: Lauriana, Nap Jamir (cinematography) and Edgar Martin Littaua (production design)


Mga Anino ng Kahapon, Dexter dela Peña and Jan Tristan Pandy (cinematography), Whammy Alcazaren (production design), Frances Grace Mortel and Rita Vargas (art direction), and Phyllis Grae Grande (set decoration)

Badil, Neil Daza (cinematography), Jayvee Taduran (production design), and Donald Camon (art direction)

Debosyon, Dexter dela Peña (cinematography), Dennis Corteza and Paolo Rey Mendoza Piaña (production design), Roy Dominguiano and Pat Noveno (art direction), and Omar Aguilar (visual effects)

Dukit, Triztan Garcia, Bruno Tiotuico, Jeffrey Icawat, and Diego Dobles (cinematography), Leo Abaya and Olga Marquez (production design)

The Guerilla Is a Poet, Kiri Dalena (cinematography) and Sari Dalena (production design)

Ang Kwento ni Mabuti, Albert Banzon (cinematography), Cesar Hernando and Mes de Guzman (production design)

Pagpag, David Diaz-Abaya (cinematography), Luis Custodio IV (production design), and Daren Francis Raña (visual effects)

Porno, Albert Banzon (cinematography), Adolfo Alix Jr. (production design), and Bobet Lopez (art direction)

Quick Change, Dan Villegas (cinematography) and Harley Alcasid (production design)

Sonata, Mark Gary (cinematography), Emilio Montelibano Jr. (production design), and Richard Francia (visual effects)



Winner: Porno, Albert Michael Idioma (sound design) and Ari Trofeo (sound)


Babagwa, Lucien Letaba and Joseph Lansang (music) and Addiss Tabong (sound design)

Badil, Carmina Cuya (music) and Addiss Tabong (sound design)

Debosyon, Teresa Barrozo and Jireh Pasano (music), Ray Andrew San Miguel and Andrew Millalos (sound design)

Dukit, Armando Lao (music and sound design)

Pagpag, Francis Concio (music) and Arnel Labayo (sound design)



Winners: Angustia (Kristian Sendon Cordero), Puti (Mike Alcazaren), and Ang Turkey Man Ay Pabo Rin (Randolph Longjas)


Aside from the 12 films nominated in the main categories, one other film, Arnel Mardoquio’s Riddles of My Homecoming, is included in the shortlist.

The YCC members who took part in the selection process and in the deliberations are Skilty Labastilla (Chair), Aristotle Atienza, Patrick Flores, Tessa Maria Guazon, Lisa Ito, J. Pilapil Jacobo, Nonoy Lauzon, JPaul Manzanilla, Jema Pamintuan, and Jaime Oscar Salazar.


Posted by on 08/02/2014 in Philippine Film


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YCC and UP Art Studies to screen ‘Qiyamah’

The UP Diliman Department of Art Studies, through the Art Studies Foundation, and the Young Critics Circle present Gutierrez Mangansakan’s award-winning film Qiyamah on February 3, 2014 at the UP Diliman Cine Adarna, 3 and 6 PM.

The film chronicles the many signs that presage the apocalypse. Set in a remote Qiyamah stillvillage in the Philippine South, residents of a farming community confront the specter of doom and the seeming end of the world as foretold in the Koran. They struggle with fear and doubt and are forced to confront a complex web of moral choices: tainted pasts, fraught family ties and the sudden arrival of an evil stranger in the village. As tragedy unfolds with menacing slowness, they rediscover the bonds that kept them together. Upon the shattering glare of world’s end, they realize they are linked by mortality, dreams, absolution and nature’s inescapable revenge. Qiyamah foregrounds unwavering faith with inevitable demise in stark visual poetry and a well composed film narrative, a suitable piece for deep reflection on the precarious state of humanity in our time.

Qiyamah is YCC’s Best Film in 2012. It also won Best Editing and Best Sound and Aural Orchestration.

Mangansakan will be present for Q and A after each screening.

Tickets are available at P100. For ticket reservations, you may call 927 0581 or 981 8500 local 2115. You may also procure tickets at the venue itself.


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Posted by on 29/01/2014 in Philippine Film



Framer Framed Framing: Critique of “Porno” (Second of Two Parts)

Porno’s prelude takes us to a room in a motel where a closed-circuit television peeps into a couple engaging in the rigors of sadomasochistic practice. The role play draws an awful turn when a murder occurs off-screen and the murderer refuses to pull her gaze away from ours.  The blood in her hands is almost black in infrared light.

This scene serves as the zero degree of the pornographeme.

Such is the advance guard for a cinema whose diaphane between the erotic and death itself has become by turns porous and rigid.

Then, the ultraviolet in another motel scene provides us with the languorous milieu that entitles voluptuary non pareil Rosanna Roces to minister to the needs of a client (Yul Servo), who is paranoid about voyeurs in the adjacent room. After going through the motions of a rather awkward sex, they try to exchange post-coital pleasantries syncopated by existential meanderings until they have nothing left to say and we can no longer ignore the television frame above them whose depiction of ecstacies is infinite. Yul Servo, we discover, has failed to deliver death to an archbishop. When Rosanna leaves,the operative tasked to bring Yul back to jail kills him.

One less hitman to terminate this terminologist.


The vignette that proceeds brings the video of the coitus between Rosanna and Yul to the studio where voice talents like Aleks (Carlo Aquino) would substitute mournful sentences with euphoric vocal pyrotechniques. His director (Allan Paule) complains that his talent’s skills are limited to monotones; Carlo, it seems, can only be distracted. The mis-en-abîme tells us that a certain social script is attempting to write the pornographeme off the speech acts of sex by supplementing sounds which although are culled from a sensual syllabary are not allowed to make sense as ejaculatory passages. Words should not interrupt moans. They get in the way of the sex.

Pornophoneme is hazardous to pornographeme.

Aleks compensates his lack of energy at the studio in the social network. His chatbox is riddled with the signs of a consciousness both allured and alluring: jokes and puns drown the oohs and the aahs. Conversations extend to telephone calls of unlimited expense. His room is lit under the cool tinge of a lurid green. And it is this dark room of desire that makes up for the privations of an “excitable speech.” His desktop is a frame of the “society of the spectacle” where the self regains whatever aspect of it has been rendered as effete in the public sphere.  This savvy is undercut when Aleks witnesses before the screen the suicide of a jilted lover. As soon as Aleks leaves the dark room, he suffers a seizure.

Carlo Aquino offers a most attuned performance in his adult career by tackling a premier pornographer. His face possesses a vacancy of possibilities.The way he gives absolute licence to pleasure in a span of a third of minute sums up the totality of pain a body must deal with at various cusps of desire desiring itself and its alternate affects, including that irreducible life between enervation and rage.

And Carlo Aquino as Aleks is punctured by Angel Aquino as Alex.

Years after the seizure, he becomes the queen of Club Mwah, which runs the most fantabulous drag show in all of queer Manila. Alex keeps an Australian lover, and on the eve of the latter’s trip to Sydney, they watch the video of Rosanna and Yul that Aleks had dubbed at the studio.  Alex and the Australian dismiss the monotone. And then, we only see the hard core of movements  in the bedroom shot through a soft lens.

Aleks is father to a son. The mother calls up Alex from abroad, telling her the son wants to see Aleks on skype on the former’s birthday. That proxy self has long gone, so only Alex can show up

Could this be a scandal of the pornographeme?

One night, after missing out on an exotic  finale, Alex finds herself running toward a hall of mirrors: her face framed by her own, her tears wholeheartedly her own.

Angel Aquino is riveting as a trans-woman.

And Porno’s critical pornography is peerless.


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