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Pagkilala sa Pinakamahusay na Sinematograpiya at Disenyong Biswal ng 2015

Jema M. Pamintuan

Siyam na pelikula ang  nominado para sa Pinakamahusay sa Sinematograpiya at Disenyong Biswal ng taong 2015, at ang mga ito ay ang sumusunod na mga pelikula:

Sa Bambanti, ang distansya sa pagitan ng bayan at bukid ay nagtanghal rin ng agwat sa mga nagtutunggaliang uri; sa An Kubo sa Kawayanan, kinasangkapan ang mayamang topograpiya ng Kabikulan upang maghatid ng naratibo hinggil sa pananatili at paglisan, preserbasyon ng kulturang lokal at pakikisabay sa kultura ng labas; sa Halik sa Hangin, may ginhawang hatid ang mga lambingan sa pagitan ng mayayabong na puno ng Baguio, gayundin, may lunggating mababanaag mula sa inaagiw at madilim na tahanan ng multo. Nakapagitna ang sementeryo sa diyalogo ng aliw at lungkot na pinagdaanan ng pamilya sa Da Dog Show, at instrumental ang maliit na baryong pinagtanghalan ng byukon (byuti contest) upang maging lunsaran ng marhinalisasyon ng kaakuhan ng tauhan sa Miss Bulalacao. Ang galawgaw na kamera sa Salvage ay umangkop sa ritmo ng maaaksyon at walang kapagurang salaysay ng pangkat; at nasa krudong estilo at tekstura ng pelikulang Taklub nabigyang artikulasyon ang imahen ng unos at pananalantang nagdulot ng dalamhati sa lalawigan ng Tacloban. Sa salitan naman ng super 8mm at sepia, gayundin sa materyal na kultura ng dekada 80, masasalat ang personal at politikal na ligalig sa Mga Rebeldeng may Kaso.

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Gayumpaman, natatangi sa lahat ang pelikulang Balikbayan #1: Memories of Overdevelopment.

Ang nakaraan at kasalukuyang pinaksa ng naratibo ay malikhaing tinalunton ng iba’t ibang antas ng gaspang at kinis ng tekstura ng kamera na nagtanghal ng  pagpapatung-patong ng mga imahen.  at  nagbigay ng panibagong kulay sa mga nauna nang  nailuwal na eksena. Dinala tayo ng mga kamera mula sa mga pay-yaw ng Cordillera hanggang sa mga palasyo ng Europa, sa pamamagitan ng metikulosong pagdidisenyo ng produksyon, ng mga tagpuan, kasuotan, at materyal na kultura, na bagaman sa unang malas ay masasabing nagmula sa magkakaibang yugto ng kasaysayan, ay hindi pa rin pinaghiwalay ng agwat ng panahon at lunan. Ang interbensyon, tagisan, gayundin, pagbubuklod, ng luma at bagong teknolohiya ng pamemelikula ay nagtanghal ng magkakaiba ngunit magkakabigkis ring mga lente, na nag-anyaya sa mga manonood tungo sa nakawiwili at matalas na paggalugad sa pakahulugan ng mga misteryo at piraso ng ating pambansa at personal na kasaysayan. Tulad ng nililikha ng mosaic artist sa pelikula, naunawaan natin ang posibilidad ng pakikisanib ng mga anyo, padron, at larawan,  sa mga  salita at wika, sa mga salaysay ng nakaraan at kasalukuyan, sa mga, biswal na sining, oral at nakasulat na panitikan, upang bumuo ng isang ganap at malinaw na hulagway.

Para sa taong 2015, iginagawad ng Young Critics Circle Film Desk sa Balikbayan # 1: Memories of Overdevelopment, ang Pinakamahusay sa Sinematograpiya at Disenyong Biswal. Isang pangkat ng mga alagad ng sining ang nagkaroon ng kolaborasyon upang maihatid sa mga manonood ang sala-salabid at mayamang kuwento ng kasaysayang nakasandal sa iba’t ibang perspektiba: malugod na pagbati kina Boy Yniguez, Lee Briones Meilly, Abi Lara, Santos Bayucca, Kidlat de Guia, Kawayan de Guia, at Kidlat Tahimik para sa sinematograpiya; at para sa disenyong pamproduksyon, Kidlat Tahimik, at Katrin de Guia.

 
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Posted by on 26/09/2016 in Uncategorized

 

Pagkilala sa Pinakamahusay na Editing ng 2015

Skilty Labastilla

Pito ang nominado sa kategoryang pinakamahusay na editing ng 2015.

Ayon sa batayan ng YCC, ang naturang gawad ay tumutukoy sa “konpigurasyon ng mga ugnayan ng panahon at espasyo sa mga eksena sa isang pelikulang may kakayahang maglagom, makitunggali, bumuo at bumaklas ng mga pagkakaugnay, sa pamamagitan ng masalimuot na paggamit ng mise-en-scene at montage.”

Tila napakalaking hamon ang pagtabas ng isang pelikulang napaka-personal at napakaraming footage katulad ng Balikbayan #1, ang obra ni Kidlat Tahimik na sinimulan niyang buuin noong 1979 at hanggang ngayon ay maaaring ituring na work-in-progress pa rin. Ngunit matagamupay na nalampasan ang hamon na ito ng ng mga editor na sina Charlie Fugunt, Abi Lara, Chuck Gutierrez, Clang Sison, at Malaya Camporedondo, sa pamamagitan ng paggalang nila sa pananaw ni G. Tahimik at sa kanilang mapaglarong pagtagpi-tagpi ng mga imahen, mapaluma man o makabago.

Sa Da Dog Show, halos hindi mamamalayan ng manonood ang pagputol ng mga eksena: sumusunod lang tayo sa kung saan tayo dalhin ng kwento ng isang naghihikahos na pamilya na nagnanais mabuong muli. Tanda ito ng husay ng pagkakatahi ng mga eksena ni Kats Serraon.

Sa Halik sa Hangin, sinamantala ni Beng Bandong ang yaman ng Star Cinema at ang maraming kamera at artipisyal na ilaw nito sa pagpili ng pinakamaayos na mga anggulo at kuha ng pagganap ng mga aktor, disenyong pamproduksiyon, at ng setting mismo sa Baguio, at nagbunga ito ng isang mainstream na pelikulang kaaya-ayang panoorin.

Nagtagumpay si Benjamin Tolentino ng Pinakamahusay na Editing sa YCC noong nakaraang taon para sa Mariquina, at sa pelikulang An Kubo sa Kawayanan, pinamalas niya ulit ang kanyang husay sa pamamagitan ng matalinong pagtatagpi at pagtakda ng mahinahon, banayad ngunit hindi nakakabagot na ritmo sa kabukiran ng Bikol.

Sa Mga Rebeldeng May Kaso, dinala tayo nina Raymond Red at Erwin Toledo, mga editor ng pelikula, sa Dekada 80, kung saan umuusbong pa lang ang eksenang alternative cinema sa Pilipinas, sa kanilang maliksi at nakaka-engganyong paghabi ng isang kwento ng magbabarkada na nahalina sa kagalakan ng pamemelikula.

Natural ang pagkatuto ng editing ng isang dokumentarista: sa pagkalap pa lang nito ng mga datos, panayam, at imahen, natutukoy na niya ang gusto niyang ipakita sa manonood. Ngunit alam ng isang mahusay na editor na hindi kailangang palaging tuwid at madaling sundan ang isang dokumentaryo, at sa Shapes of Crimson, malikhaing pinapakita ni EJ Mijares ang araw-araw na pamumuhay ng isang aktibistang manunulat na si Boni Ilagan, at ang kanyang masinop na pagpili ng footage ang nagsilbi mismong screenplay ng kanyang dokumentaryo.

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Ang pelikulang Salvage ay binuo bilang isang found footage, na kunyari ang pinapanood nating pelikula ay tuloy-tuloy na kuha ng isang news crew na naging biktima ng salvage sa Mindanao at pinapanood natin ang laman ng kanilang naiwang camera. Dahil dito, kinailangang magmukha talagang hindi pinutol ang mga kuha, at para sa isang 90-minutong pelikula, hindi ito madaling i-edit, lalo pa kung eksperimental ang porma ng pelikula. Nagtagumpay si Lawrence Ang sa pagmanipula ng pelikula para magmistula itong isang bangungot na ayaw magpagising. Sa mabisang paggamit ng quick cuts at juxtaposition ng mga imaheng hindi inaasahan ng manonood, napatingkad ng editing ang pakiramdam na naroon mismo tayo sa gubat na naging hugpungan ng kababalaghan at karahasan.

Iginagawad ang pinakamahusay na editing kay G. Lawrence Ang para sa Salvage.

 
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Posted by on 25/09/2016 in Uncategorized

 

Pagkilala sa Pinakamahusay na Pagganap ng 2015

Emerald Flaviano

Tumutukoy ang gawad sa pagganap ng isang papel o karakter na nagsasangkot ng emosyon, damdamin, at karanasan sa mga panlipunang kondisyon ng personal at sa politikal na ekonomiya ng kaugalian at kilos, at kung paano nakatutulong ang mga ito sa pagsasakatauhan ng sarili. Ipinagkakaloob ang Pinakamahusay na Pagganap sa Gumanap, lalaki o babae, matanda o bata, sa isang pangunahin o pang-suportang papel, sa indibidwal o kolektibong pagganap.

Ang mga Nominado:

Walang kupas si Nora Aunor sa Taklub (Brillante Ma. Mendoza, 2015). Bilang ang naulilang si Bebeth, dinakila ni Aunor ang mga nasalanta ng bagyong Yolanda na patuloy pa ring nabubuhay—at tumutulong sa kapwang mabuhay—sa kabila at sa gitna ng pagkawasak ng kabuhayan at pamilya.

Magkaibang mga babae si Mercedes Cabral sa An Kubo sa Kawayanan (Alvin Yapan, 2015) at Da Dog Show (Ralston Jover, 2015), pero parehong ginampanan ni Cabral ang dalawang papel ng may ambag sa pagpapalalim ng danas ng pagkababae. Matimpi at self-possessed ang dalagang si Michelle na malaya sa kanyang pagkalas sa lipunan, habang walang pangingimi ang pagyakap ni Cabral sa papel ng dalagang musmos ang pag-iisip na si Celia.

Malalim ang pag-unawa ni Alessandra de Rossi kay Belyn, na mag-isang itinataguyod ang pamilya sa Bambanti (Zig Dulay, 2015). Ipinakita ni de Rossi ang laging alanganing kinalalagyan ng batang biyudang ina na umaasa at nakikisama sa mga kapamilya. Ang batang aktor na si Micko Laurente ang gumanap bilang anak ni Belyn na pinag-akusahang nagnakaw ng kanyang tiyahin.

Hindi lang isa na namang magandang mukha sa entertainment industry si Julia Montes, bagay na pinatutunayan ng kanyang pagganap bilang si Mia sa Halik sa Hangin (Emmanuel Palo, 2015). Maraming pinagdadaanan si Mia—pagkaulila sa ama, pakikisama sa bagong pamilya ng ina, unang pag-ibig—na siyang nagbigay naman ng pagkakataon kay Montes na maipakita ang lawak ng kanyang pag-unawa sa pag-arte.

Unang pagbida ni Ronwaldo Martin sa pelikula ang kanyang pagganap bilang Jaypee sa Ari: My Life with a King (Carlo Catu, 2015). Malaki ang naging papel ni Martin—na kanya rin namang nagampanan ng buong may kasanayan at matimping pagdamdam—bilang high school student na bumuo ng makabuluhang pakikipagkaibigan sa matandang makatang nakilala sa isang school event.

Epektibo naman ang ensemble cast ng Salvage (Sherad Anthony Sanchez, 2015) na sila Jessy Mendiola, JC de Vera, Joel Saracho, Barbie Capacio, at Karl Medina. Bilang TV production crew na sinisindak ng mga hindi maipaliwanag na mga kaganapan sa isang liblib na baryo, malaki ang ambag ng kanilang pagganap sa pagtimpla ng engkwentro ng mga manonood sa partikular na teknika ng pelikulang found footage.

Magkakasama namang itinaguyod ng ensemble cast ng Mga Rebeldeng May Kaso (Raymond Red, 2015) na sila Felix Roco, Epy Quizon, Nicco Manalo, Earl Ignacio, at Angela Cortez, ang kwento ng matapang at naging makasaysayan ng pagpupursigi ng mga short filmmakers para ipagpatuloy at ipagdiwang ang kanilang sining noong 1980s.

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Ngunit natatangi sa lahat ng pagganap na mga ito ang kay Lou Veloso bilang Sergio sa Da Dog Show (Ralston Jover, 2015). Mistulang maliit lamang ang kahingian ng papel kay Veloso: sinusundan ng pelikula ang araw-araw na pagsisikap ni Sergio para tustusan ang pangangailangan ng kanyang pamilya sa pamamagitan ng mga dog show sa iilang pampublikong espasyo sa Maynila. Sa bandang dulo ng pelikula ipinapamalas ni Veloso ang punto ng lahat: ilang sandali lamang mababanaag ang maliit na ngiti ni Sergio sa pagitan ng kanyang dalawang anak lulan ng bus pa-Maynila, ngunit marapat at epektibo itong dramatic moment na nagtatapos sa buhay na pinaghaluang pait at tamis ng matanda.

Pagbati kay G. Veloso sa kanyang tagumpay.

 
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Posted by on 21/09/2016 in Uncategorized

 

A Doggone World

JPaul S. Manzanilla

Arresting in its simplicity, Ralston Jover’s Da Dog Show confounds as it mesmerizes, proving that an austerity in form can offer the richest of subjects.

We begin on the street with father, daughter, and son displaying the tricks that their dogs Habagat (also the term for “southwest monsoon”) and Bagwis (also a Tagalog word for “feather”) play. The audience observes that the show is nothing astounding, only a demonstration of the dogs’s literacy and submissiveness. This is what sustains the family, whose misery is palpable when we see them living in a mausoleum at the country’s biggest public cemetery.

It appears that the mother’s absence and her taking of the youngest child Eddie Boy are what wound them more gravely. The already-adult daughter Celia has no support in attending to her physical nature. Son Alvin forsakes the exam for the more-immediate need to earn when the father gets ill. In one scene, a blossoming attraction to a girl is suddenly postponed because he doesn’t have a phone. He later on procures one, to contact the girl and his mother, who later on calls but terminates the conversation upon hearing her husband. The ailing father fails to provide for the family’s upkeep. The mother becomes present only in her disappearance; by way of active repression, her husband executes an exorcism by declaring to the census-taker that she has long died. This state of injury they try to heal by taking Eddie Boy back from the custody of the mother’s relatives. Here, the confrontation of morality acting as maternal prerogative and law purportedly negotiating rights is at its subtlest. They were able to recover the beloved son, only to lose Habagat when the father attended to nature’s call.

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Mercedes Cabral as Celia in Da Dog Show (2015)

Magic develops in working out otherworldly possibilities that support—not falsifies—Celia’s conception of reality. Her nervous condition takes a stab at the fragility of sanity which they all maintain amidst scarcity and the mother’s phantom presence. Should one claim that poverty does not preclude one from securing respect? A flip side of the same idealist coin, this supposition essentially dehumanizes the poor more because their condition is denied—and more so, its causes—before valuing their struggles, which are only individualized, after all. Or that they are fated to be poor because they appear more human(e) when they are miserable? There is a light that never goes out.

Bereft of overdramatization, the screenplay strokes the very foundation of the viewer’s emotions. It does not cajole; it does not pander; it does not taunt. It makes us suspend our empathy lest we rob the family of their dignity. Lou Veloso is dazzling in a self-effacing performance.

We end on the bus on the streets and roads plying the long journey from a dark night in Southern Tagalog to Manila with the son recovered, but with the dog Habagat missing. They are returning to the troubled street and deathly space of their residence. Is the supplement that is the dog dispensable or necessary? Are they now whole or still incomplete? Will Habagat’s specter be banished or will it haunt them until forever?

 
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Posted by on 14/09/2016 in Uncategorized

 

Against Alteration

Jaime Oscar Salazar

Equipped with sewing skills honed from childhood, under the tutelage of her mother, and with a college education, Michelle could not have failed to grasp that the opportunities within her reach—opportunities to work, and, potentially, to prosper away from her hometown of Baao, Camarines Sur—if not necessarily abundant, are still greater than many of her fellow Bicolanos, and, indeed, of her fellow Filipinos: the Bicol region has historically counted among the poorest in the country, and the Philippines, as a whole, continues to be indigent, in spite of all the recent noise regarding the propitious shift in its economic fortunes. That she chooses not to capitalize on these advantages, instead choosing to eke out a living by now and again taking on commissions from her neighbors to make, mend or decorate articles of fabric, constitutes the unwieldy knot at the heart of An Kubo sa Kawayanan (The House by the Bamboo Grove). Directed by Alvin B. Yapan, the film traces the different pieces of intricately interlaced material that make up such knot, with a view to making a case for its tenability, while at the same time acknowledging its vulnerability—or least the possibility of its vulnerability—to becoming undone or to being cut.

Michelle (Mercedes Cabral)—who is renowned by her community for her mastery of needlework, notably the technique of calado or open-work embroidery, which has few other practitioners in the immediate vicinity—leads a solitary existence in the titular dwelling, a bahay kubo built by a river and some distance from the center of town, and sustains herself with basic supplies, eschewing banal conveniences. Early on, she evinces an intense attachment to her domicile, as well as the customary design of her life-ways, that is revealed to border on the uncanny, suggestive of either psychological disorder or supernatural intervention. From her opening monologue, she refers to her hut as though it were a sentient entity, capable of manifesting its will and exerting it upon her. In particular, when her personal belongings start to go missing and the house begins to betray structural flaws beyond the ability of the local carpenter to repair, she decides to interpret such as signs that her hut wishes her to depart.

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Mercedes Cabral as Michelle in An Kubo sa Kawayanan (Yapan, 2015)

The signs interweave, perhaps conveniently, with invitations from the people around her to seek a better life elsewhere. Her boyfriend Gary (Marc Felix), for instance, entreats her to come away with him from Baao, a locale that, to his mind, admits of too little variation for his liking, and to chase the lure of fresh horizons as migrant laborers. Filmmaker Larry (RK Bagatsing), who shows up at her doorstep in order to shoot a documentary on her art—by way of injecting vigor into his unsatisfactory career—implores her to accompany him to the metropolis, where she can showcase her talent before a broader public. Nonetheless, neither the wiles of the hut nor the appeals of the two men, succeed in persuading her to leave—at most, she is compelled to improvise, all throughout remaining resolute in her decision to stay put, suspicious of, if not outright hostile to, the prospect of altering where she is and what she does. When she cannot find her lone pair of scissors, she cuts thread with a bolo. Following the loss of her slippers, she walks around barefoot. When her bolo vanishes in turn, she offers up prayers to St. Anthony of Padua, requesting his aid in the restoration of the items that have disappeared. Gary and Larry are each stymied by her polite but firm willingness to carry on without the benefit of his presence—a willingness that, with regard to the latter, is reinforced by a nightmare of sexual assault.

To conceive of Michelle as belonging to a species of primitivist or Luddite would thus not be unjustified. And yet there would seem to be more to her position than the idealization of nature, the fetishization of the past and the opposition to the “new”. When moved to explain her refusal to quit her abode or to delocalize the production of her art, she invokes malasakit, the practice of empathy or solicitude that she considers crucial to ensuring the integrity of the domain that she has marked out for herself—and who but she should or could be expected to be equal to the task? It is here that her alertness to the contingent nature of home can be discerned: she understands that “home” is more than a physical edifice, that it pertains to a place of safety and familiarity whose boundaries are arbitrary, unavoidably pervious to the currents of modernity. Rather than let herself be swept up toward witless complicity in notions of progress and development, especially with reference to the global traffic of bodies and commodities in which the Philippine state has all too readily connived, Michelle insists on fashioning for herself a vantage from which to appraise the costs of such notions, and to negotiate the performance of her everyday life accordingly. If she displays a tendency to overinvest in her own agency to transcend the forces and structures of the prevailing social order, this is, to a certain degree, tempered by her realization, at the close of the film, that the world will—inexorably—move, carrying her along with it.

 
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Posted by on 13/09/2016 in Uncategorized

 

Welcome to the Jungle

Skilty C. Labastilla

One of the first scenes in Sherad Anthony Sanchez’s Salvage (2015) shows military men and village watchmen about to lift from a bamboo raft the body of a young man found on a lake in a rural barangay in Cagayan de Oro. The shot changes hues several times with each clicking sound and we soon realize that the camera is held by one of the characters, Neil (JC de Vera), who is still adjusting the color grading. By the time he is able to choose the right color grade, the body had been carried out of the raft. A woman who later turns out to be Melay (Jessy Mendiola), the producer of a Manila-based news team, instructs the men to repeat what they just did (meaning put the body back on the raft) because the camera did not capture it properly the first time. The men do as told. The camera then pans to the reporter, Bong (Joel Saracho), who begins his report by saying the body is another victim of a wave of killings in the area believed by villagers to be victims of a group of aswang.

The news crew, which includes make-up artist Barbie (Barbie Capacio) and van driver Manny (Karl Medina), proceeds deeper into the jungles of Cagayan de Oro to investigate the killings. They soon learn that the military is out to get them, and the rest of the film shows footage of the crew running away from the armed men.

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Jessy Mendiola (foreground) as Melay in Salvage (2015)

As with most of Sanchez’s previous films, Salvage does not rely on plot to sustain viewers’ interest, rather, it engages by evoking a sense of mystery and increasing dread as it refuses to stop at pointing the finger at the military as the sole source of the protagonists’ turmoil. The jungle itself is portrayed as a twisted funhouse where random children stare blankly at the protagonists or sometimes attack them in their sleep, where hail suddenly descends on the group, where a python makes love to a clearly aroused local woman by the river, and where some power possesses the body of the cameraman.  It is by the second half, when the crew find themselves trapped and desperate for a way out, that the film shifts from being a frustrating, headache-inducing, Blair Witch copycat into something transcendental, approaching the warped fever dream of a Weerasethakul or even a Lynch.

Even then, Sanchez (who also wrote the screenplay) keeps the proceedings in the Philippine context, continuing his preoccupation, fascination almost, with the militarization of the Mindanao hinterlands that began as early as Huling Balyan ng Buhi (2006), his debut feature, and continued until 2012’s Jungle Love. His jungles may be full of mysterious elements but they are also sites of infantry brigade camps far from the military center of Manila and thus have established their own norms, which may or may not include killing people just for fun (the term “salvage” as used in the film refers to the Pinoy slang for a summary execution, and viewers are made to understand that the serial killings are in fact perpetrated by the military).

But where fellow Mindanawon filmmaker Arnel Mardoquio portrays the fraught military-civilian relations in Mindanao in neorealistic terms, Sanchez conveys his commentaries in a fantastic mode and finds ways to play with digital video’s visual and aural possibilities. Salvage, for instance, is packaged as a found footage, and Sanchez and crew exert effort in manipulating the video to include glitches and sound scratches that heighten the intended mood in viewers. The last twenty breathtaking minutes, in particular, offer a masterclass in shoestring suspense filmmaking by ingenious use of camera angles and lighting, sound and film editing, and no-holds-barred acting.

With all its virtues, the film is ultimately hampered by unsympathetic characterization: it’s certainly hard to empathize with loud, annoying people as they are being chased and dragged and beaten to a pulp. If Sanchez was going for schadenfreude in wanting to punish ignorant Tagalog media people venturing into dangerous territory, he got his wish, but sadly at the expense of creating fully formed characters that viewers can relate with and root for.

Despite its shortcomings, it’s hard not to be taken by the inventiveness and cleverness of Salvage and I, for one, will eagerly await Sanchez’s next mindfuck.

 
 

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Nostalgia Deferred

Lisa Ito

Raymond Red’s contribution to the Cinema One Originals of 2015, Mga Rebeldeng May Kaso is not only a novel throwback project but also an exploration into the self-reflexive potential of nostalgia.

The work opens with the riotous closing night of an independent film festival in Manila, staged amidst the political ambivalence of EDSA 1 in 1986. It revolves around the banter and last-minute errands of young film-makers Rem (Felix Roco), Pat (Nicco Manalo), and Sid (Earl Ignacio), all driven by Deo (Epi Quizon), the festival director and their mentor in the nascent local movement for a new cinema. This unfolding story is punctuated by the pursuit of things and people—Rem’s unfinished film, handouts to be rushed to the printer’s office, punk rockers to be conscripted as ushers—that reenact the particularities of the time and contrast it with the present.

An amalgam of actual events, cameos and characters, the film ventures beyond the novelty of recollections both fictive and actual in its unravelling of utopian aspirations, revealing a growing sense of anxiety with what has been and what will be. The poles of political skepticism and optimism at the changing times articulated by Pat and Sid, for instance, run parallel to the personal frustration—but also unerring faith—of both Mara (Angela Cortez) and Deo in Rem, a rising star among his peers.

The film’s narrative conspicuously draws parallelisms between revolutions of the historical and cultural kind, teasing out intersections between the country’s political and cinematic history. In juxtaposing documentation of the EDSA 1 revolt and his memories of Mara both in sepia and in Super 8mm film, Rem becomes a central figure where periods of personal and political turmoil intersect. The film routinely shifts away from detached documentation and adopts Rem’s point of view and stream of consciousness.

A conversation between the trio during the most quotidian of activities—snacking on fishballs purchased from a sidewalk vendor—demonstrates how their usage of words simultaneously applies to either realm of political and cultural dissidence: there is, for instance, lots of lighthearted talk of the movement, revolution, underground, alternative, change. The film situates EDSA 1 as a structural backdrop, mirroring changes within the film industry during 1980s, which witnessed the emergence of independent short and alternative film-making as a counter-cultural current to the dominance of commercial cinema.

Caught in its climax and staying afloat in the aftermath, the characters all grapple with the same question as citizens and artists: what happens next, after the revolt? The anxiety and apprehension over the immediate present and the protracted future becomes the means by which the past is retold.

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independent at 80s (larawang kuha mula sa http://www.interaksyon.com)

As an ensemble, the film’s characters may be appreciated as not only biographical composites of personalities still active in the industry but also as archetypal or even allegorical figures. As underscored in the postscript, Red’s four upstart radicals eventually end up pursuing various strategies to defeat the proverbial monster of a system: representing different faces and phases of the struggle whenever it is encountered. One later on successfully integrates into the mainstream. Others persist in the periphery or find parallel worlds of practice. Another ends up as historical arbiter and scholar, chronicling this dialectical process of critique and change.

As a cinematic expression of the period, the film indeed pleases and surprises with its material presentations of the past. Red collaborates with Diwa de Leon (Sound) and Pablo Biglang-awa (VFX) to sensorially emphasize the technological and social trappings, if not the zeitgeist, of the 1980s. The camera often pans over to what are now rare sights—from vintage film posters, toys, cameras, period interiors and facades, handpainted billboards, and cars coasting along a traffic-free EDSA—to inserting grainy but vivid vignettes of the unfolding revolt. Cinematography, color grading, and composition combine to subtly draw out contrasts between the politically symbolic hues of red and yellow throughout the film. Sound effects— from the now-archaic sounding ring of the dial-up telephone riddled with party lines to the mechanical whirr of film reels in motion—transport one to an era before the post-millennium proliferation of smartphones and the internet; when analog, and not digital, technology was the cutting edge standard.

It is in these small details and stories embedded within the film that one finds traces and iterations of the material conditions that made the movement for alternative cinema possible in the 1980s: the proliferation of lighter and less expensive filming equipment and stock, institutional support for emergent cinema, and the rising participation of young filmmakers and audiences, for instance.

But one must also move beyond these material iterations and question where this journey to the past leads to. As a period film project, Mga Rebeldeng May Kaso can be compared to other coming-of-age films set during the slightly more politically ambivalent 1980s. Its emerging rebels lean closer, for instance, to the awakening youth of science high school students in Pisay (Auraeus Solito, 2007) rather than the revolutionaries portrayed in historical and quasi-historical productions of the past years, such as Heneral Luna (Jerrold Tarog, 2015). Both trajectories of dissident history, however, have to jointly contend with the ambiguous aftermaths of unfinished revolutions: by revisiting the journey and asking questions that resonate into the present.

Scholar and artist Svetlana Boym once observed that “nostalgia, like globalization, exists in the plural” and draws up a typological distinction between what she termed as restorative and reflective trajectories of nostalgia. Restorative nostalgia, she writes, positions itself as truth and tradition and as a “transhistorical reconstruction of the lost home”, in the same way that collective histories serve to integrate one into the narrative of the whole. On the other hand, reflective nostalgia casts the former’s veneer of the past as absolute truth into doubt and continually defers the ambivalent process of homecoming, reminiscent of Roland Barthes’ conceptual differentiation between the closed work and open text.

Mga Rebeldeng May Kaso can be interpreted as an iteration of the latter tendency: as an expression of reflective nostalgia that restages the past as an unfinished present. It evokes a sense of yearning for the heyday of revolt, when boundaries between what should be done were clearer, more defined. But it also revisits and interrogates the directions of that period by consciously positioning itself within Rem’s point of view: looking at events through the eyes, and lenses, of a character embodying the sense of fidelity to one’s vision of liberating practice

The film begins with Rem waking up from a dream and closes with approximately the same scene: a loop that represents the dissolution between reel and real. In the end, the many rude awakenings and unexpected closures in Mga Rebeldeng May Kaso serves less as a way of deferring to nostalgia, but rather, as an acknowledgment of nostalgia deferred.

 
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Posted by on 13/09/2016 in Uncategorized