Monthly Archives: March 2012

Statement of the YCC Film Desk on the disqualification of Emerson Reyes’s entry from the 8th Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival

We, members of the Film Desk of the Young Critics Circle (YCC), join the film community in condemning the recent disqualification of Emerson Reyes’s entry, MNL 143, from the 8th Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival.

The organizing committee of Cinemalaya, composed of competition chair Laurice Guillen-Feleo, festival director Nestor Jardin, and monitoring head Robbie Tan made the move following a dispute with Reyes over his insistence on casting Allan Paule and Joy Viado as his leads in a love story—these choices, the committee claimed, “were not suitable to the material” and allegedly ran afoul of its concern with “competence, suitability to the role, and greater audience acceptability”.

Given that Tan has stated in an interview that he believes Paule and Viado to be “very competent” actors, the decision he reached with his fellow committee members registers as idiosyncratic at best and disingenuous at worst: Surely persuasive performances would garner precisely the “acceptability” sought after?

The strength of the indignation against Cinemalaya that Reyes’s disqualification has caused would seem to indicate that a number of grievous problems have been festering, unaddressed and unresolved, long before the current conflict.

Run by The Cinemalaya Foundation, a non-stock, non-profit, private entity that professes to be “committed to the development and promotion of Philippine independent film”, the annual Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival supposedly aims to stimulate the creation of “works that boldly articulate and freely interpret the Filipino experience with fresh insight and artistic integrity”. The matter at hand serves to strain the credibility of such projection, illustrating as it does the sad fact that the deplorable, cynical practices of commercial cinema, exercised with an eye on the bottom line, are hardly exclusive to it, regardless of what the legion of evangelists of independent cinema would have us believe as gospel truth.

What this unfortunate incident points up is just how fraught the endeavor of “independent” filmmaking is: production outside the dominant studio system—the main, and sometimes the sole, marker of independence—does not mean production in a space of pure, absolute freedom where lofty artistic aspirations are realized. And certainly it does not mean production that is somehow exempt from being contained and disciplined by the complex matrix of funding organizations, competitions, festivals, and awards, the mechanisms of which can guarantee the makers of a film continuous, ever-increasing flows of prestige and largesse—provided, of course, that the film advances specific agendas, colludes with particular interests, or follows pernicious habits purveyed by reactionary quarters who have managed to cling to power.

In view of the foregoing, the inability of much independent cinema at present to proffer a plurality of viable visions for remaking both cinema and society may well be telling.

Lest the situation devolve into unproductive name-calling and hate-mongering, as it has already begun to in social media, the YCC is calling for thoughtful, informed, self-reflexive engagement with the issues so that the necessary and arduous process of change can begin to take place. Cinemalaya as an institution must find the will to hold itself to the highest standards of transparency, integrity, and accountability if it wishes to remain relevant, but it is not indispensable to filmmaking. Neither does the responsibility of transformation belong to it alone: rather, it belongs to all of us who care about cinema and wish to cultivate an environment where emergent filmic and critical practices can flourish with vigor.

Established in 1990, YCC is composed of members of academe who, through the years, have become attentive observers of Philippine cinema.  Coming from various disciplines, they bring an interdisciplinary approach to the analysis of film.  Current members are from the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University.

Members of the Film Desk include Eloisa May P. Hernandez (President), Tessa Maria Guazon (Vice President),  Romulo P. Baquiran Jr., Flaudette May V. Datuin, Noel D. Ferrer, Patrick D. Flores, Eulalio Guieb III, J. Pilapil Jacobo, Skilty Labastilla, Nonoy L. Lauzon, Eileen C. Legaspi-Ramirez, Gerard R. A. Lico, JPaul Manzanilla, Jema Pamintuan, Choy Pangilinan, Jerry C. Respeto, Jaime Oscar M. Salazar, Neil Martial R. Santillan, and Galileo S. Zafra.

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Posted by on 08 March 2012 in Philippine Film


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Love Bungles the Work Place

Unofficially Yours

Direction: Cathy Garcia-Molina

2012, Star Cinema

Tessa Maria Guazon

Fate would have it that in the space of three days I watched Vilma Santos as June (in Kampus, 1978), the firm believer of ‘free love’ caught between the attentions of two men, and Angel Locsin as the fierce Ces, setting the terms of an affair with a man she decidedly resists. Four decades apart, these representations of strong, independent women caught within obstacles premised on love remain appealing to viewers.  The conflicts faced by June and Ces are hinged on unconventional ideas about the conduct of heterosexual relationships. These women characters unequivocally distance themselves from the bind of traditional relationships and the expectations that burden it; June with sophisticated musing and Ces with stoic distance.

At the outset, Unofficially Yours, a 2011 romantic comedy release (directed by Garcia-Molina) seemed to have succeeded in its light hearted summoning of the unconventional, but gradually failed in constructing a vigorous frame of values underlying such arrangements. Falling into the trap of characterization (weak at that), the film tentatively skimmed the contexts that give rise to these agreements and ultimately lost the potential inherent to romantic comedy to “negotiate and respond dynamically to [the] issues and preoccupations of its times”.[1]

In turns hilarious and sentimental, Unofficially Yours started with promise as lead characters Ces and Macky (John Lloyd Cruz) struggle with undeniable attraction. Pretty soon, the training in reportage for a daily began to include passionate rambles in bed – with ‘no-strings’ attached. Cruz’s antics were heart-warming and funny but wore off by the time the film reached its mid-hour stride. Locsin is Ces, a driven and ambitious journalist, beautiful, independent, very much her own woman.  Her sceptical attitude to love and romantic relationships is both her allure and armour. Macky’s male friends cajole him with the idea that an ambiguously decided relationship in this day and age is the best there could be. Macky, after all won’t be subject to the demands of a typical romantic attachment.

Macky is a dentist from a well-knit middle-class family exploring writing as a possible career. Ces on the other hand, is breadwinner to a near-dysfunctional family. Surrounded by sisters, Macky’s vulnerability is cushioned by his family’s assuring presence. Ces’s mother and brother, both jobless, rely on her to support the household. These backgrounds are crucial in establishing these characters’ personas, yet they are not fully mobilized to help ground Ces and Macky within their milieu.

Locsin fills out the character of Ces convincingly, in turns adept as the matter-of-fact, wryly humorous friend and co-worker, the nonchalant lover, the firm, ambitious journalist and a woman afraid of loss and pain. While Locsin consistently holds out the persona of Ces, Cruz disappointedly fails with Macky. If indeed, he is a man who has a poor sense of direction and makes the women in his life the compass of his ambitions, Cruz falls short in endowing this vacillation with depth. He is boyishly charming in his overtures and vulnerable in his disappointments, yet Macky Galvez the fledgling features writer, seems to lack the introspection that could have adequately fleshed out his sensitive nature.

Their arrangement seemed convenient until jealousy and the demands of Ces’s career entered the picture. Ces delays her application for Singapore, inwardly denying her growing affection for Macky who, from the start was hell bent to impress her. She ultimately confesses that this preference for the unconventional relationship is borne of fear. In the past, she risked all for love when she moved to Cebu with her then architect-boyfriend. Her dreams fell apart when she met an accident and was abandoned for an offer of an architectural practice in New York. From then on, she steeled herself from disappointment by shielding her heart from the lures of love.

While Vilma Santos’s June ponders her preference for ‘free love’ intelligently, weighs her dilemmas with pensive introspection, faces her hurdles with sarcasm and humour; Angel Locsin’s Ces is denied this chance, wallows instead in denial which became infuriatingly tiresome. This is not to blame Locsin’s abilities as an actor (adept at she is in portraying conflicted characters, torn in situations not of their making) but on the film’s failure to fully flesh out its characters. The film failed to grasp a deeper vein of feeling. Thus, when we find Ces and Macky in strained conversations grappling with their predicaments as individuals and lovers, why do they seem unconvincing, their loneliness and dilemmas so affected?

The office may not be the ideal setting to mix work and play (indeed, pleasure in this case) so blatantly. When Unofficially Yours made the work place the universe where romance runs its banal course, we fail to grasp the entirety of Ces’s and Macky’s worlds, depicted intermittently and with seeming hesitation. I will credit instead the interest in unconventional romantic partnerships boxed and tied with comedic strings, for the film’s success at the box-office. The final scenes when Cruz and Locsin sang to each other in a manner fit for a love team’s promotional duet in a weekend variety show sealed the film’s fate. Much like Ces, we waver between blossoming attraction and full-fledged commitment. Officially, however we choose neither and bemoan the end of what may have been a potentially instructive romcom venture.


Jermyn, Deborah. 2011. “Unlikely Heroines? ‘Women of a Certain Age’ and Romantic Comedy” in Cineaction 85: 26-33.

[1] Stacey Abbot and Deborah Jermyn. eds. 2009. Falling in Love Again: Romantic Comedy in Contemporary Cinema. IB Tauris, 3 cited in Jermyn, 2011: 26.


Posted by on 01 March 2012 in Film Review, Philippine Film