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Monthly Archives: April 2017

YCC Film Desk to hold citations ceremony Thursday

The Young Critics Circle Film Desk will hand out awards for best achievement in Philippine cinema for 2016 on Thursday, April 27th, 3 pm, at the UP Vargas Museum, Diliman, Quezon City.

The awardees are:

Best Film: Women of the Weeping River, directed by Sheron Dayoc
Best Performance: Laila Ulao, Women of the Weeping River
Best Screenplay: Mrs., Ralston Jover
Best Editing: Women of the Weeping River, Carlo Francisco Manatad
Best Cinematography and Visual Design: Baboy Halas, Raphael Meting and Mark Limbaga (cinematography) and Joel Geolamen (production design)
Best Sound and Aural Orchestration: Ang Tulay ng San Sebastian, Jess Carlos (sound design) and Hiroko Nagai (musical score)
Best First Feature: 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten, directed by Petersen Vargas; and Malinak Ya Labi, directed by Jose Abdel Langit

 

The ceremony, which is open to the public, is supported by the UP Diliman Office for Initiatives in Culture and the Arts (OICA).

 
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Posted by on 26/04/2017 in Philippine Film

 

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Bridging Folklore and Reality

Lisa Ito

Positioned within the genre of horror film, Ang Tulay ng San Sebastian (Alvin Yapan, 2016) opens on an ominous note. The tale takes place, after all, on a Good Friday: that one day of the Lenten season when, in Philippine folk Catholicism, malevolent spirits are most manifest.

A nurse (Francis) and an ambulance driver (Bong), respectively played by Sandino Martin and Joem Bascon, are returning home to the province after bringing a patient to Manila for surgery. As darkness settles in during the ride, the tired and sleep-deprived pair amuse themselves by sharing versions of ghost stories,  superstitions and urban legends. Their idle exchanges drift between weary recollections and irreverent banter, drifting away from the whispered weight of their ward’s parting warning: take care.

Their journey comes to sudden stop before a rural bridge called San Sebastian, where a series of unfortunate events unfold in quick succession. As midnight approaches, the pair attempt to escape the vicinity, as their tales, one by one, spring to life and spiral out of control.

The film begins with a productive note of tension through the use of recurring motifs during the first half. Upon reaching the bridge, however, this cohesiveness disintegrates and is dispersed through a pastiche of malevolent tropes: apparitions solitary and processional, mendicant ghouls, killers of various persuasions, undead monsters, and encounters with the diabolic.

The technical execution of the story, similarly, spans a broad range of merits and demerits. The film, for instance, has been panned in the press for its incredulously awkward execution of CGI effects. On the other hand, it is also notable for its convincing employment of color grading to simulate the night scenes wherein the story unfolds.

Such visual unevenness is threaded through and overridden by its notable performances. Martin and Bascon effectively portray complementary roles as a duo, highlighting the psychological tension and dilemmas that fear draws out in the individual. The film’s seamless wielding of sound and music also preserves and prolongs the suspense established early on in the narrative. Fresh aural juxtapositions and counterpoints arise with elements such as the original musical score using the traditional Japanese koto, the mournful dirge of a local marching band, and ambient sounds by teeming presences beyond the bridge.

The work has much to offer beyond its surreal narrative and technical exploration. Ang Tulay ng San Sebastian and other similar productions underscore how, on a larger and longer scale of practice, the genre of Philippine horror film has traditionally appropriated influences from folklore and history, superstition and urban legend. This filmic fascination with the multo, aswang and other supernatural beings, for instance, can be seen throughout early cinematic productions—Ang Aswang (1933), the first talking picture produced in the Philippines, is one often cited pre-war example—to more current releases such as the Shake, Rattle and Roll franchise flourishing since the 1980s.

It is interesting that Yapan chooses the night of Good Friday as the opportune moment to reenact this tendency. The day marking Christ’s death, here, becomes a portal for the performative resurrection of folkloric figures. These residual and resistant presences, delegitimized during the phases of colonial assimilation and forced modernity, still lurk in the borders between city and province: in roadsides, rivers and forests untouched by light and infrastructural expansion.

On the other hand, it is also noted that the genre of horror is also fertile ground for the perpetuation and propagation of problematic dichotomies—between folklore and modernity, the old and the new, countryside and metropolis, superstition and reason, for instance. The YCC took note of this tendency before in the publication Sining ng Sineng Filipino (2009), noting the prevalence of such in films of the past decade:

“Nitong mga huling taon ay kapansin-pansin ang pagbibigay-tuon sa mga tinataguriang “modernong” kabataan na “nagbabakasyon” sa probinsiya upang sinasadya o di-sinasadyang harapin ang makaluma subalit konteporaneoung mundo ng mga aswang at maligno, ng mga espirito at totoong tao, ng hiwaga at mga lantad na realidad,..Sa mga sineng ito, ang kababalaghan ay idinidikit sa mga liblib na lugar, at ang mga lugar na ito ay mga lunan ng adventure o “happening” ng mga sinasabing makabagong kabataan. Mahalagang pag-aralan ang ginagawang makitid at simplistikong paghahati ng moderno at tradisyunal, ng luma at bago.”

Does the film Ang Tulay ng San Sebastian go the route of mirroring such binaries, in this tale of a rural bridge? Perhaps, but not entirely: for while it adapts the surface trappings of the genre, it also consciously introduces rogue elements to alter its configurations on a more structural level.

For one, that the characters are not clueless city slickers hieing off to some adventure in the unknown hinterlands, but are instead locals returning home to the province and finding themselves in an inescapable portal casts some sense of psychological ambiguity to their subject position. The transition from metropolis to provincial highway should be familiar territory to them but isn’t: instead, horror lies in how home and its intimate locality inexplicably slips further out of reach.

Secondly, much of the medley of supernatural characters they encounter are also derived from urban legends and true events: spectral remnants of real-tragedies for whom justice remains elusive to date. Mixed up with more ancient tales are newer apparitions stemming from the violent aftermaths of suicides, vehicular collisions, roadside hold-ups, massacres, rebellions and the like. The overall effect of such malevolent overload may also be the most redemptive quality of the film. For it underscores how beliefs from the distant past can intersect and interact with contemporary phenomenon such as vehicular collisions, crime, and militarization:  some primary vehicles for present-day horror, terror and loss for the people in Philippine society.

The on-site location of the film — a Spanish colonial-era stone bridge lying parallel to a modern concrete one in Tayabas, Quezon— furthermore makes material and metaphorical the realization of how past and present run parallel to each other. The dual structure serves as both setting and symbol for the necessity of pagtawid, the act of connecting and crossing such demarcated states. This act brings one to the final point. Here, the duo’s last desperate crossing ends on an ambiguous note, concluding the journey but subtly putting into question the dawning of day and the resurrection as the final destination of it all.

 
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Posted by on 25/04/2017 in Film Review

 

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Tropical Divine

J Pilapil Jacobo

The contest of wills that ensues between the high priestess Pinailog (Nora Aunor) and her heiress-apparent Dowokan (Barbie Forteza) portrayed in the Kinaray-a film Tuos revisits not only the tension between structure and agency, and the cleave between the archaic and the modern attending the former opposition, but also the irreciprocal terms of kinship that must nevertheless be resolved by female commiseration, precisely because the conditions of rift and the concord that must be agreed upon in spite of the poison are imbricated within the gender of the gift itself.

While the epic past is animated to enquire on the mythic origins of the kept maiden, Tuos only weaves Hiligaynon orature into national cinema to naturalize autochthonous practices of exception which turn women into objects of inalienable exchange so that a community may lay claim to the civility it seeks to establish as historic. The contemporary cannot learn anything from this method of rarification. While folklore must be read as that discursive formation desired by narratives of colonial capital to be obliterated, so that the parties underwriting the potlatch may finally turn to the spell of the fetish, the epic, in this case, is that mode of consciousness that seeks to achieve its own obsolescence. Why the repetition, if silence, and not resonance, is the future of the voice?

Tuos (2)

The paradox of this premise justifies however the visuality of the textile between orature and cinema, as Denise O’Hara and Roderick Cabrido’s Tuos probes into the dilemma of a lineage that may succumb to discontinuing the long duration of its primitive entelechy, through a montage of scenes which concatenate the precarity of the contract between humans and daemons instituted through the perpetual vestality of the “binukot.” If woman must be withheld to assure the polity the sacrosanct secret that protects its insular singularity deep within the montane tropics, then the pact with such archaism can only be defiled through the nubile body of the princess who refuses to be beautiful by opening herself up to ravage. The predisposition to this hymenal rupture is visually designed through diaphanous fabrics: veils, kerchiefs, skirts, nets, curtains finally metonymized through the image of an arachnid who has yet to complete her gossamer web. And yet this does not mean that vestality is superficial, if sheer vestments can make the secret available, particularly when a glance through the textile turns into the scopophiliac gaze; the film is telling us something about the permeable and the interstitial: what the scopic can traverse and how certain instances, albeit rapturous, persuade us to be opaque. Such predicament is cinematic.

Diaphany is that opportunity of concealment. And yet, the translucence affords one to see through, to look out into the world from this privileged anonymity. When Pinailog witnesses Dowokan surrendering her purity to Daupan, she becomes prone herself to the rumor of the sex that has been denied from her millennial ancestry. Her voyeurism articulates the axiom of the violence that befalls her body as the last of the virgins. The spirit of the gift does not dwell in an exception from corporeal experience per se; it distinguishes its reciprocity as disavowal of the carnal knowledge annunciated when the coitus becomes factitious as vision. The binukot must be hidden from sex because she must be distant from the plethora of its plaisances. Furthermore, she cannot be an aspect of such a spectacle; the genital act must remain private, redeemed from sibylline judgment. The sacred and the profane must from each other remain safe. The eye is the most diaphanous of organs; the contemplation of seduction must forever be obscured by the vestal subject. With pleasure threatening to be proximate, she must will all of her diaphanous access to the earthly sensorium to turn into a carapace. The shamaness is supreme potentate of her kin, because her erotic patience is most adamantine.

Nora Aunor portrays the resistivity to damage with so much fortitude, that the moment of her capture can only be devastating; such traumaturgy is less an aftermath than the epicenter of the defiance almost always held with grace by Barbie Forteza. There is antipodal tremor in this duel of acting, with Aunor’s quake choreographically staged in her avian dance to punctuate a wedding rite—a lesson on how dexterously solitude can find its path alongside the rites of romance—and Forteza’s fragility aggravated at her ineptitude to convey the songs of her folk, while her hands cannot wait to snap the strings of her lone lute.

Only the defeat of Eros can repair the hymenal breach; Aunor vanquishes the demon with epic precision! When Forteza finally accedes to the shamanic succession, she understands the gift as a place where the anterior agent gains prescience and precedence. From here, Pinailog descends to the sea to die, as rivers cascade to belong to, where else, but the abyss; and Dowokan proceeds to live, as psyche watching herself think through the millennium, within the cinematheque.

What is the tropical divine but an ultimate contention with erotic duress?

 
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Posted by on 17/04/2017 in Philippine Film

 

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We Are Still Here

Emerald Flaviano

It’s the first week of classes in a public high school in Angeles City, Pampanga, sometime in the late 1990s and a boy, backpacked and solitary, stares at a group of his classmates horsing around. We follow his line of sight and so are party to the rowdy youngsters’ rude return to the boy’s indifferent gaze. Later, these very same teenagers get a tongue-lashing from the anti-“barriotic” English teacher while the boy, smirking, looks on. And so 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten’s hero, Felix Salonga (Khalil Ramos), is introduced. A world contained within himself, Felix has always been alone. He is the top student in his class because he really is smart, and not because he sucks up to the teacher (as his frumpy #2 and #3, Zarina and Girlie do). He has no friends, but is cool with it, having no use for the “unremarkable individuals in this forlorn school.”

His world is upset however, when the Snyder brothers transfer to his school. For the first time, something that is not Omegaboy interests the characteristically unengaged Felix. The sons of a US serviceman and a Filipina Fields Avenue hooker, Magnus (Ethan Salvador) and Maxim (Jameson Blake) are unlike anyone Felix has ever met: pale, handsome, English-speaking, and rich, they disturb the social structure of the small high school. Magnus inadvertently displaces the reigning alpha male of the class, Felix attracts the envious attention of girls eyeing Magnus, and teachers try to seduce either of the brothers. But for Felix, who becomes a regular in the Snyder household helping Magnus with his geometry, the reason is also economic. For the brothers, money is immaterial: Magnus pays Felix ten dollars per geometry lesson, while Maxim hands out dollars for dares. On the other hand, money has always been scarce in the Salonga household, but Felix thinks that the “pieces of green paper” he has been collecting in a tin can—proceeds from his tutoring—bring him closer to the same level as to the Snyder brothers.

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Magnus Snyder. (screengrab from 2 Cool 2 B 4gotten’s screener)

The brothers are both good-looking, but Felix gets particularly taken with the aptly-named Magnus, the gentler of the two. Magnus’ small kindnesses—a borrowed Walkman, mixtapes—and not-yet-outgrown love of Omegaboy endear him to Felix. Magnus is the golden-haired Florante, who Felix saves from a lions’ den of dull classmates and sexually predatory teachers, the misguided dream to go to the US, the malevolent Maxim. Yet it is Felix’s sharing of what is probably the single most significant—up until Magnus’ death that is—event in his young life that Felix affirms his love for his only and best friend. He takes Magnus to the place where his old house used to stand, now buried under the lahar, and recounts the day the Pinatubo erupted and his family’s narrow escape. “[T]here was nothing. It was like our house didn’t even exist at all. The lahar took everything,” Felix remembers while Magnus listens. Felix is surprised to receive Magnus’ “You’re pretty cool, Felix” and an awkward but heartfelt side-hug, but is grateful nevertheless. For it is not only Magnus’ concern that Felix gets, but a perfect understanding of himself: Felix might still be uncomfortable with being “gay,” constrained as he is by his youth and the conservative environment he grew up in, but he knows for certain that he loves (has) Magnus, and that is all that matters.

Yet for all Felix’s fascination with the Magnus, he cannot quite understand why leaving the Philippines for the US means so much for the Snyder brothers. “This shitty country,” “a horrible place for me and Magnus” are how they describe the only home that they have always known. 2 Cool does not quite tease out Magnus and Maxim’s isolation, but what little it does offer is enough to read on probabilities. Despite being born and growing up in Pampanga, the brothers don’t (can’t?) speak either Kapampangan or Tagalog, don’t have any friends, and are most unlikely to have known family other than their mother. They live in a bubble, expats confined in their “little America” (the former Clark Air Base), with its joyless copies of the typical American suburban home (“picturesque houses,” is how the starry-eyed Felix describes them). In a city full of families who have yet to recover from the eruption of the Pinatubo, the brothers in their porma, with their dollars and English, are alien. Felix’s clumsy lyricism—“The shiny shimmering Snyder brothers. The dual dukes of exquisiteness. The genetic miracles of interracial copulation.”—describing Magnus and Maxim, while funny, hints at the reverent distancing that the brothers have always had to endure. Their difference has always defined them first and marked them out, and in this isolation the brothers has always had only one another. But at the crucial moment, when it comes in an afternoon in the middle of Subic Bay’s choppy waters, Magnus jumps off their bobbing buoy to save their mother—the unsuspecting collateral damage of Maxim’s plan to get their chance at really belonging somewhere.

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Magnus and Maxim Snyder, alone together. (screengrab from 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten‘s screener)

Petersen Vargas’ debut feature 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten (2016) expands on his previous work on gay sexual awakening with his short film Lisyun Qng Geografia and benefits from Jason Paul Laxamana’s continuing engagement with issues of race in a post-US bases Pampanga. Laxamana’s script paints a painstaking picture of high school and its—now ridiculously pointless—rituals: the sing-song greetings, the gratifying and shaming top 3s, bottom 3s, and ruler smacks. But this nostalgic return is made more effective by Felix’s awkwardly affected English for his journal project, an accurate reminder of youthful fumblings for one’s own voice.

 
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Posted by on 17/04/2017 in Film Review

 

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Muling Pagkabuhay

Aristotle J. Atienza

Paparada ang pulang multicab sa isang walang lamang kalye sa Cebu, at unti-unti ay magiging karinderyang dadalawin ng mga nakakakilala rito. Karaniwan na marahil ang ganitong panahon sa lugar pero mararamdaman sa mga kumakain na naiibang araw itong masasaksihan. Mamamatyagan nila ang babaeng naghihiwa ng breaded porkchop, si Iyay (Jaclyn Jose), nang walang pagdadalamhating sasambiting “patay na si Hesus,” ang matagal na niyang hiwalay na asawa, at ama sa tatlong malalaki nang anak.

Sa pelikulang Patay na si Hesus (Victor Villanueva, 2016), mamarkahan ang kamatayan bilang panahon sa kasaysayan ng buhay ng isang pamilya. At bagama’t pananda sa pagsisimula ng mga suliraning  haharapin ng pelikula, aabangan sa palabas, hudyat ng panibagong kabanata, hindi ito naging memoryalisasyon, malungkot na pag-alaala sa nakaraan, pagbabaliktanaw sa naging buhay, kundi pagpapaalala sa kasalukuyang hinaharap kapiling ang matagal nang nawala. Sa madaling salita, ang tatahakin ng pelikula sa pagkamatay ng dating bana at ama ay hindi ang nakaraang tiwalag sa kasalukuyan kundi ang hinaharap ay ang kasalukuyang patuloy na sinusundan ng anino ng nakaraan. Tataluntunin ang pagtugon sa kamatayan ng kapamilya sa mga posibilidad ng katatawanan na maingat na binalangkas sa panulat nina Fatrick Tabada at Moira Lang subalit ipopook hindi sa pamilyar na tahanan, itong kinalakhang lunan ng melodramang domestiko, kundi sa iba’t ibang lawak ng katauhan at kapuluan sa labas ng tahanan na makakaengkuwentro at makakahalubilo habang binabagtas ang mga lansangan patungong Negros sa pagdalaw sa burol ni Hesus. Kasabay natin sa biyahe nila sa baha-bahagi ng Kabisayaang hindi madalas masaksihan ang mapaglarong musika ni Francis Veyra na naghahatid ng kasariwaang nagmamapa sa nilalakbay na kasaysayan at kapaligiran.

Sakay ng kanilang munting sasakyan ang pamilya, kasama maging si Hudas (Sadie), ang alagang shih tzu. Para ngang may outing lang, sabi ng anak, lalo na’t maraming pinamiling hinanda si Iyay para sa lamay ni Hesus. Pero sa daan tulad ng aasahan, hindi magiging magaan ang paglalakbay papuntang Dumaguete dahil binibitbit ang mga bagaheng dinadala na bago pa man lisanin ang tahanan. Sa panahong patay na si Hesus sasambulat ang lahat ng krus na pinapasan. Makatatanggap ng balita si Iyay na nanganganib na mawala ang puwesto ng karinderya. Nang sunduin nila si Lucy (Angelina Kanapi), ang kapatid niyang madre, na sasamang makikipaglibing ay tila nakalaya ito sa Monastery of the Holy Eucharist na kaniyang pinanggalingan. Masasaksihan ni Jude/Judith Marie (Chai Fonacier) ang pambababae ng nobya na halos ibigay na ang lahat, pati ang pag-aaral kay Mia (Precious Miel Espinoza), ang batang anak ng kinakasamang babae. Walang kinukuhang trabaho dahil umaasang ipapasa ang board exam na dalawang beses nang kinuha, nabuntis ni Jay (Melde Montañez) ang nobya. Sa huli, hahanapin nila ang mawawalang si Bert/Hubert (Paul Vincent Viado), ang panganay na anak na may Down syndrome, na piping saksi sa mga kabaliwan ng kaniyang pamilya, tatakasan niyang lahat ito at mauuna nang tutungong mag-isa sa Dumaguete karga-karga si Hudas. Binubuhay ng matitingkad na pagganap, may kani-kaniyang suliraning binibitbit ang bawat isa pero ang sapilitang pagsasama-sama nila sa sasakyan at sa daan ay tatawid sa mga espasyong masasangkutan ng lahat, ang pamilya, at ang pamilyang umaandar sa kahabaan ng mga ugnayang kapuluan. Problema ng lahat ang problema ng isa.

Waring walang tuwirang kaugnayan sa nasirang asawa at ama ang mga pinagdadaanang suliranin ng isa’t isa. Pero ang mga rebelasyon sa paglalakbay na masinop na dinisenyo sa pelikula ay mga bakas na naiwan sa mismong pagkawala ni Hesus noon pa man. Naging paalala ito ng mga kinahinatnan ng inaakalang paglusaw ng tradisyonal na pamilya. Wala kasi si Hesus kaya nangyayari ang lahat ng ito sa kanila. Bibitbitin ni Iyay na marahil ay kasalanan niya kung ano ngayon ang tinatamasa. Kung hindi lang siya nagmatigas, sabi niya. Na maaaring hindi nga ito naging ganito kung tinanggap niya ang pagmamakaawang magkabalikan na sila ng babaerong asawa. Pero hindi ito ang nangyari at matagal nang wala na si Hesus sa piling nila. Noon pa man napagluksaan na nila ang ama, at nakabangon-bangon na sila sa pagtataguyod nang mag-isa ni Iyay. Mahalaga ito lalo na sa bago nang pamilya ng dating asawa na bago pa lamang ang pagkawala, kay Linda (Olive Nieto). Mag-uusap ang babae sa babae, ina sa ina, makakayang lampasan din ang takot sa panahong patay na ang bana. At sino pa nga ba ang makasisigurong makababangon muli kahit wala ang lalaki kundi si Iyay na pinasasariwa at pinasisigla ng katimpiang nakasanayan kay Jaclyn Jose.

Pormalidad na lang marahil kay Iyay ang kamatayan ni Hesus na nagmamarka sa kasaysayan ng hindi napansing “tagumpay” sa pakikipagsapalaran sa matagal nang hiwalay na asawa at ama.  Ipinapaalala ang nagawa at nakayanan sa kaniyang pagkawala. Hindi na nakapagtataka kung bakit hindi madaling iyakan ang pagkamatay niya samantalang tila kay dali-dali namang magpakawala ng luha sa pagkawala ng nobya, halimbawa. Kung bakit maaaring piliing hindi na lamang sumama sa burol at kung bakit hindi dapat tumangging hindi pumunta sa kabila ng lahat ng nangyari sa kanila. Demonyo man iyon, tatay pa rin nila iyon, sabi nga ni Iyay. Aabot sa kasukdulan ang kasidhian ng damdamin sa mga ugnayang nalilikha at nabubuo sa mismong araw ng libing ni Hesus habang mabagal na umuusad ang karo ng patay na sinusundan ng mga nagmamahal sa nawalang buhay, papalahaw sa pag-iyak sina Iyay, Hubert, Jude, at Jay sa nasagasaang alagang shih tzu. Sa ganitong kalagayan, tiyak na ang paggunita sa makasaysayang paninimbang sapagkat mamarkahan sa panahon ng kamatayan ni Hudas.  Pabalik ng Cebu, may panibagong kabanata silang lalakbayin. Ano ngayon ang haharaping hinaharap nila? Ano ang mga bubuuin at bubunuin nina Bert, Jude, at Jay? May ipinapaalala ang pelikula: nasa krisis (lagi) ang pamilya.

Sa panahong patay na si Hesus, nagiging posible ang mga kababalaghang nararanasan ng mag-anak. Napalilitaw pang lalo sa pagpapatibay sa katatagan ng pamilyang matagal nang sumuway sa kasaysayang nararapat nitong tahakin. Pero bagama’t nakalalaya ay matatagpuang sinusubaybayan pa rin ng aninong hulmado ng mga gawain ng simbahan. Sa pelikulang Patay na si Hesus, posible pa rin ang pamilya, may buhay pa rin ito, muling nabubuhay ito, sa labas ng mga inaasahang katuparan ng mga sinagradong batas ng institusyong lagi’t laging mapagmasid, mapanimbang, at mapagparusa. Madilim at mapanganib kung tutuusin, subalit tila, parang, mukhang hindi lalo na’t isinasariwa sa mga kaparaanan ng katatawanang binisaya.

 
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Posted by on 17/04/2017 in Film Review

 

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Palit-Piso, Palit-Ulo

Jema M. Pamintuan

Detalyadong inilahad ng pelikulang Ma’ Rosa ni Brillante Ma. Mendoza ang iba’t ibang bersiyon at antas ng pangangapital, na umiiral sa isang ekonomiyang batbat ng iregularidad at katiwalian. Nagsimula ang lahat sa isang transaksyon sa grocery. Kasama ni Rosa (Jaclyn Jose) ang anak niyang si Erwin (Jomari Angeles) na namili ng mga komoditing ibebenta niya nang tingian sa kaniyang sari-sari store. Kulang ng dalawampu’t limang sentimos ang sukli sa kaniya ng kahera, subalit hindi ito pinalampas ni Rosa. Malinaw ang pagpapakilala ng pelikula sa karakter ni Rosa; matalas at mautak pagdating sa kuwentahan, kaya bagaman nakiusap ang kahera ay hindi muna nagpatalo si Rosa. At saka lamang niya kinuha ang iniabot na ilang pirasong kendi ng kahera kapalit ng hindi naisukling barya. Ibinadya ng eksena ang iinugang tesis ng pelikula hinggil sa dalumat at istratehiyang kaakibat ng mga kalakal, palitan, at kontratang nagpapaandar sa komunidad ni Rosa.

Sa pagsakay nina Rosa sa taxi ay dadalhin ng kamera ang manonood sa kahabaan ng mga kalye ng kalunsurang babaybayin ng sasakyan. Mahusay ang kamera ni Odyssey Flores na nagdala sa esensya at kabuluhan ng sinematograpiya sa isa pang natatanging antas ng representasyon at elaborasyon, sa naratibong tinatalastas ng iba’t ibang hulagway. Sa halip na ipakita ang mga barung-barong na nakahanay sa mga kalyeng dinaraanan, nagtuon ang kamera sa tila walang katapusan at sala-salabid na electric wiring na natatanaw sa labas ng bintana ng taxi, at sapat na ang kapal, dami, pagkabuhul-buhol at sikip ng magkakadikit na wiring na ito para ilarawan ang masisikip ding mga daan at kabahayan ng makikitid na eskinita ng Maynila, kung saan naroon ang tahanan ni Rosa. Dito mabibigyang kabatiran ang matrix ng masalimuot na mga ugnayang bumubuo sa ekonomiya at industriyang underground na kinasasangkutan ni Rosa. At dahil underground, malaki ang posibilidad ng kawalan ng istabilisasyon nito.

Sa kabuuan ng pelikula ay isinalaysay ng kamera at tunog ang samu’t saring paraan at pinagkukunan ng kabuhayan ng maralitang urban na espasyo, rehistrado man o hindi ang mga negosyong ito. Mula sa mga munting sari-sari store, rentahan ng internet sa mababang halaga (pisonet), pagbenta ng mga pagkain sa kalye, tulad ng betamax, isaw, fishball, hanggang sa iba pang paraan ng pagkita ng salapi—sugal gamit ang mga baraha, paluwagan, at pautang (5-6). Pinaarkila ng panganay na anak ni Rosa na si Jackson (Felix Roco) ang kanilang karaoke machine. Masigla ang komunidad, umangkas pa ang maiingay na usapan ng mga residente, kantahan mula sa karaoke machine, sa gitna ng mga bulyaw at utos ni Rosa sa asawang si Nestor (Julio Diaz) at mga anak.

Matutuklasang sa likod ng inosenteng sari-sari store ni Rosa ay dumodoble kara rin ito bilang bentahan ng ipinagbabawal na droga. Gaya ng mga kendi at merchandise na ibinebenta nang tingian, ay ganoon din ang mga droga na inilalagay sa maliliit na sisidlang plastik at ibinebenta sa ilang mga kontak ni Rosa. Mabisang naiparating ng pelikula ang taktika nina Rosa sa pangalawa nilang negosyo. Walang formalidad, walang business permit, subalit may sariling sistema at kalakaran sa pagpapatakbo nito. Dito ay may mga “ID” at “passcode” na alam at sinusunod ng mga nagbebenta/kliyente para masigurong tama ang kinakausap o kontak. Isinilid ni Nestor sa pakete ng sigarilyo ang maliit na plastik na may lamang droga (mga iilang gramo lamang ito) at iniabot sa bumibili nito pagkatapos sambitin ang “passcode.” May listahan din ng mga pangalan ng kontak si Rosa na nakasulat sa isang notebook at nakatago sa isa sa mga eskaparate ng kaniyang tindahan.

Nagsagawa ng raid ang mga pulis, at hinuli sina Rosa at Nestor. Isinakay ng mga pulis sina Rosa at Nestor sa maliit na dyip. Dadalhin naman ng kamera ang manonood palayo sa tahanan, palayo sa komunidad ni Rosa. Wala na ang mga pamilyar na tunog, amoy, usok mula sa mga ibinebentang pagkain sa kalye. Ikukuwento ngayon ng kamerang nakafokus sa mukha ni Rosa kung paanong nagbago na ang disposisyon nito, malayo sa madiskarteng Rosa sa grocery. Sa mga tahimik na eksena tulad nito lumilitaw ang natatanging pagtatanghal ng aktres na si Jaclyn Jose. Umid na ang Rosa na kani-kanina lamang ay matalim ang dilang nagbibilin sa mga anak. Mula sa dyip ay matatanaw ang isang pamilyang nagtutulungan sa pagbuhat at pagsasaayos ng mga bote ng softdrinks, at ang iba’t ibang suson ng pangungusap ng mukha ni Rosa. Sa ilang segundong iyon na pagkakatitig ni Rosa sa pamilya animo’y mababanaagan kung paanong mas ibig na lang sana niya harapin ang pagod sa pagsasaayos at pagsasalansan ng mga ibebenta, at pag-imbentaryo sa mga ito. Pagkat alam niya kung paano ito gawin, at alam niyang matatapos din ito, kaysa harapin itong kawalang katiyakan ng kanilang pagkaaresto.

Mainam kung paano isinasangkot ng kamera ang manonood, halimbawa sa eksenang animo’y nakasunod lamang ito sa tila walang katapusang paglalakad ng mga naaresto papasok sa presinto. Nilampasan nila ang presinto, pasikip nang pasikip ang mga pasilyong dinaraanan nina Rosa, ibang-iba na sa pamilyar na mga eskinita ng kaniyang komunidad, ang komunidad kung saan alam ni Rosa kung paano tutugon, at kung paano hindi malalamangan. Pero sa tagóng kuwarto kung saan sila dinala ng mga pulis, tantyado at kalkulado ang kaniyang mga galaw at salita. Mapahahalagahan ang mga diyalogo at pagtatanghal ng mga aktor at aktres sa mga eksenang ito, na damang-dama ang tensyon sa interogasyon ng mga pulis sa mga naaresto, at pagbabantulot ng mga naaresto sa pagtugon sa mga tanong, nangingibabaw ang buong pag-iingat sa bawat bibitiwang salita.

Ipinairal sa kuwartong ito ang mga kritikal na transaksyong mahalagang pinagpasyahan nina Rosa. Sa puntong ito ng pelikula, masinsin pang pinalawig ang kabuluhan ng ekonomiyang kanilang kinabibilangan. Tinugaygay ang higit pang desperadong mga pamamaraan upang makalikom ng pera, tulad ng pagbebenta at pagsangla ng mga gamit, pagdistrungka sa ritmo ng paluwagan, paglalako ng katawan, ekstorsyon, at blackmail. Hindi na lamang ito palitan ng mga produkto at pera, kundi, presyo ng katahimikan, presyo ng salita at pangalan. Maayos na nabigyang-artikulasyon ng mga eksena ang kaselanan ng negosasyon, na katulad ng hanapbuhay ni Rosa at ilang kapitbahay, ay iregular din, at hindi opisyal na nakatala. Ang ikinaiba rito, ay iisang panig lamang ang may kapangyarihang magpasya at magdikta ng mga kondisyon at katumbas ng pagpapalaya sa mga naaresto. Kinakatawan ng kuwartong ito, ng under-the-table na set-up ng mga pulis ang isang arena na di tiyak, at mabilis na nagbabago. Ni hindi rin pormal na nakalista sa police log ang pangalan nina Rosa at Nestor nang tanungin ito ng kanilang mga anak na dumalaw sa presinto. Walang nagtatala ng statement, walang mga pormal na prosesong sinusunod sa interogasyon. Ang karupukan ng ilegal na industriya ay sinalungguhitan pa ng balatkayo ng mga pulis, na bagaman nakauniporme at nasa ilalim ng islogan ng PNP na “We Serve and Protect,” ay tulad din ng tindahan ni Rosa, na may pagkukunwari, sa konteksto nito, pumapangalawang mga berdugo, at sila palang may malaking partisipasyon sa mga nagpapaandar sa kabuuang makinarya ng krimeng mapagkukunan nila ng salapi.

Dahil sa iregularidad ng kalakarang ito, mataas ang posibilidad ng paglabag sa mga kasunduan, kaya tulad ng anumang ekonomikong palitan, mahalaga ang isang antas ng garantiya at tiwala sa mga kasangkot sa kalakalan. Dahil walang anumang batas at tuntunin na nakatala sa mga notebook, sa panig nina Rosa at ng mga pulis, lilikha sila ngayon din ng kontrata. Ito ang kalakarang susundin nila; magbabanggit ng pangalan ng nagbebenta ng ilegal na droga sina Rosa, kapalit ng kanilang paglaya. At may istratehiya ang mga pulis para makuha ito mula kina Rosa. Dumating ang punto sa eksena na nagbibiruan na ang mga pulis, inaamo ang mga naaresto, para magkaroon sila ng maayos na pagkakasunduan. Ang mababagsik na mga tanong, ang pahapyaw na pagsambit ng “may karapatan kayong manahimik” sa unang bahagi ng interogasyon, ay nauwi sa mas kasuwal na usapan at aregluhan, at tuluyan nang naisiwalat ang impormalidad ng opisina/kuwarto. Naging umpukan na ito, inilabas ng houseboy nila ang videoke. Bumili ng lechon manok at beer gamit ang perang puwersado nilang kinuha kay Jomar (Kristoffer King), ang itinurong dealer nina Rosa.  Gayunman, dahil nga kumbaga’y lista sa tubig lamang ang kasunduan, hindi pa pala makalalaya sina Rosa. Kailangan muna nilang magbigay ng dagdag pang limampung libong piso, at dito, walang opsyon kung hindi ang sumunod, pagkat walang mararating ang husay sa kuwentahan at argumentasyon ni Rosa.

Mariin ang komentaryo ng pelikula rito, na kung tutuusi’y higit pang may sistema, at higit pang sistematiko ang inakalang magulong komunidad ni Rosa. Silang maliliit at maralitang nagkukumahog para sa kanilang buhay at kabuhayan ay pawang mga kasangkapan, mga kapital, at puhunan ng linsad na makapangyarihang pumipiga ng kapakinabangan mula sa mga katawang ito. Sa pagkakahuli kay Jomar, nagpadala ito ng text upang ipaalam sa isang Major Jasmin ang pagkakadakip sa kaniya, na ikinagalit (at posibleng labis na ikinatakot) ng mga pulis. Hindi ang mga pangalang gaya ng Major Jasmin ang nakalista sa notebook ng mga tulad ni Rosa, kaya kapag nagkagipitan, laging ang nasa itaas na istratum ang nakikinabang, may seguridad, at ligtas. Napag-alaman ni Jackson na ang kaibigang si Bongbong (Timothy Mabalot) ang nagbigay ng impormasyon sa mga pulis kaya naaresto ang kaniyang mga magulang, at ito ay upang mailabas ni Bongbong sa kulungan ang kapatid. Na ginawa rin nina Rosa at Nestor kay Jomar. Siklo na lamang ang patuloy na pagsusustina sa mga nasa itaas ng mga gaya nina Bongbong, Rosa, at Jomar. At hangga’t may makukuha sa mga ito, walang katapusan ang mga blackmail, ang mga banta at pakiusap, at mga paglabag sa impormal na kasunduan. Sa pamamagitan ng matagumpay na pagtatahi ng naratibo, editing, tunog at musika, sinematograpiya, at mahusay na mga pagtatanghal, malinaw at malalim ang talab ng pelikula sa pagsesemento ng kritisismo nito sa volatility na kumakatawan sa temperamento ng isang uri ng ekonomiyang nakasandal sa maligalig na sistema.

 
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Posted by on 17/04/2017 in Film Review

 

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Musings on the Mundane

Jaime Oscar M. Salazar

The appellation “Mrs.” is referred to as a courtesy title, but the woman who bears it, however willingly or happily, submits to the effacement of her birth name and the subordination of her personhood to her marital (and, sometimes, parental) status—a highly ritualized and widely socially accepted process that deserves greater scrutiny as to the degree of respect or consideration that it actually affords to the said woman. Mrs. (2016), directed by Adolfo Alix, Jr., engages the issues with which this form of address is fraught and resonates by way of exploring a complex set relationships—sororal, adversarial, filial, mentorial, and platonic—between women in the course of a relatively spare drama.

Chief among these relationships is that between a pensioner recently recovered from a bout of hospitalization, Virgie (Elizabeth Oropesa), and her resident caretaker, Delia (Lotlot De Leon). The house that they inhabit, overly large for two people and a gaggle of dogs and cats, shows many signs of wear and tear, in connection not only with its age but also with its being built over an active fault line—running along the walls are cracks attesting to structural damage.

In spite of the dilapidation that surrounds her, Virgie intends to continue living there, keeping faith with the memory of her father, who had bequeathed the house to her, and clinging to the belief that her son, Sonny Boy (Sebastian Castro), a communist guerilla who disappeared years ago, will surface one day soon. Her determination, if not obduracy, to remain draws her into intermittent bouts of antagonism with her relatives. Her younger sister, Glenda (Daria Ramirez), the legatee of the land on which the house stands, is eager to sell off her inheritance in order to mitigate the consequences of her spendthrift ways, not least among them the large debt to Virgie that she has racked up over several years. Virgie’s daughters, Marina (Rosanna Roces) and Jenny (Angelina Kanapi), believe that she would be better off staying elsewhere.

Image result for mrs adolfo alix

Delia, who for two decades has helped Virgie around the house and kept her company, is, in her own way, as unwavering as Virgie. When Delia discloses her plan to marry her lover at the forthcoming mass wedding ceremony sponsored by the local government—following the acknowledgement, prompted by Virgie, that she is three months pregnant—she is quick to provide assurance that she aims to stay in Virgie’s service. In the face of Virgie’s reluctance at this proposition, rooted in the notion that a wife ought to defer to her husband, Delia wears Virgie down with persistent pleading.

Oropesa turns in a fine performance as Virgie, displaying a formidability that is leavened with tenderness; whenever she is alone in the frame, which is often, she proves more than capable of compelling attention with countenance and gesture. De Leon, who initially essays her role as a kind of comic foil to Virgie, with an almost bovine naïveté, succeeds in making of Delia a figure of tragedy, heartrending and horrifying.

What is particularly striking about Mrs. is its penchant for meandering in and around a range of interiors—of houses, of restaurants, of a barangay hall—and dwelling at length on the mundane actions and interactions that its characters perform there. These mundanities point to well-established, and, at times, tedious routines in which men are, for the most part, spectral presences with varying degrees of influence. Virgie and Glenda rehearse longstanding resentments arising from Glenda’s waywardness, financial and otherwise, and Virgie’s stubbornness. Virgie and Marina squabble, over the telephone and in person, about Marina’s seeming deficiency of discernment in her choices: of partner, the layabout Benjo (Arvic Tan); of religion, by joining a cult; and even of how best to treat the ailing Justin, the “imported” cat that is beloved by Josel, Marina’s young daughter. Jenny, who resides in Vancouver, Canada, with her husband and two children, tries to coax her mother to join her permanently, as an immigrant, during one of their video chats. Virgie visits her friend Agnes (Anita Linda), an elderly activist who has also lost family members to state-sanctioned violence, to check on Agnes’s health and to exchange news. Virgie and Delia carry out household chores—for instance, watering the plants, sweeping the yard, looking after the pets, and preparing meals.

Even as Mrs. runs the risk of narrative unwieldiness, the film insists on the immersive moment, rather than the propulsive event, and this is what constitutes its achievement. With its sustained, painstaking focus on how its characters go about the dailiness of their existence—the use of lingering close-up shots to highlight the smallest flickers of thought and feeling is notable in this regard—the film renders anew the feminist slogan, “The personal is political.” It challenges viewers to reevaluate the intertwined concepts of “domesticity” and “femininity”, and their associated tensions and contradictions, as they play out, are negotiated with, or are resisted in the fluid, contentious realm of quotidian lived experience. How do institutions like marriage reinforce and perpetuate prevailing relations of power, especially in terms of gender and class? How does state repression manifest itself within and affect the private sphere, and how can this sphere be re-imagined as an arena for broader struggles? How can women establish networks of support between one another that circumvent, slip past, or subvert—however limitedly and fleetingly—the social mechanisms that seek to surveil and control their bodies, their homes, and their lives?

 
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Posted by on 17/04/2017 in Film Review

 

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