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YCC names ‘Sa Palad ng Dantaong Kulang’ best film, Nadine Lustre best performer

The Film Desk of the Young Critics Circle voted the documentary Sa Palad ng Dantaong Kulang as the best film of 2018. This marks the first time in the Circle’s 29-year history that the top award has been given to a documentary. Jewel Maranan’s film asserts a certain slowness in the urban Manila as to critique its violent accelerations. The film also bagged the Best Achievement in Cinematography and Visual Design award for Maranan.

Sa Palad5

The award for Best Performance is given to Nadine Lustre, who plays an aspiring career woman in Never Not Love You, which also bagged Best Sound and Aural Orchestration for Jason Conanan, Kat Salinas and Mikko Quizon (sound design) and Len Calvo (original score).

Best Screenplay is awarded to Masla A Papanok, written by Gutierrez Mangansakan II.

Another documentary, Call Her Ganda, was named Best Achievement in Editing, for Victoria Chalk.

The award for Best First Feature is shared by three films: Mamang by Denise O’Hara, Mamu: And a Mother Too by Rod Singh, and Ang Pangarap Kong Holdap by Marius Talampas.

The critics group narrowed down the 132 films that were released in cinemas last year to 18 films and, after thorough deliberations, to a further shortlist of 10. Except for the Best First Feature category, nominations for the 6 major categories can only come from the shortlist.

The Young Critics Circle is composed of film critics and academics from the University of the Philippines Diliman, Ateneo de Manila University, University of Santo Tomas, University of the Philippines Mindanao, and Philippine High School for the Arts. Members who voted for the 2018 citations include Emerald Flaviano (chair), Aristotle Atienza, John Bengan, Christian Jil Benitez, Lisa Ito-Tapang, Skilty Labastilla, Tito Quiling Jr., and Christian Tablazon.

The awarding ceremony will be held in August 2019 at the UP Diliman Vargas Museum.

Below is the list of winners and nominees:

 

BEST FILM

Winner: Sa Palad ng Dantaong Kulang, directed and produced by Jewel Maranan

Nominees:

Call Her Ganda, directed by PJ Raval (Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala, Marty Syjuco, Lisa Valencia-Svensson, and PJ Raval, producers)

Kung Paano Hinihintay ang Dapithapon, directed by Carlo Enciso Catu (Roderick Cabrido and Omar Sortijas, producers)

Masla A Papanok, directed by Gutierrez Mangansakan II (Manet A. Dayrit and Ed Lejano, producers)

Oda sa Wala, directed by Dwein Baltazar (Bianca Balbuena, Iana Bernardez, and Kriz Gazmen, producers)

lustre

BEST PERFORMANCE

Winner: Nadine Lustre, Never Not Love You

Nominees:

Perla Bautista, Kung Paano Hinihintay ang Dapithapon

Trio performance (Perla Bautista, Menggie Cobarrubias, Dante Rivero), Kung Paano Hinihintay ang Dapithapon

Celeste Legaspi, Mamang

Ina Raymundo, Kuya Wes

Marietta Subong, Oda sa Wala

 

BEST SCREENPLAY

Winner: Masla A Papanok (Gutierrez Mangansakan II)

Nominees:

Call Her Ganda (Victoria Chalk and PJ Raval)

Kung Paano Hinihintay ang Dapithapon (John Carlo Pacala)

Kuya Wes (Denise O’Hara and Heber O’Hara)

Oda sa Wala (Dwein Baltazar)

 

BEST EDITING

Winner: Call Her Ganda (Victoria Chalk)

Nominees:

A Short History of a Few Bad Things (Maria Estela Paiso and Keith Deligero)

Kung Paano Siya Nawala (Lawrence Ang)

Never Not Love You (Benjamin Tolentino)

Sa Palad ng Dantaong Kulang (Lawrence Ang and Jewel Maranan)

 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY AND VISUAL DESIGN

Winner: Sa Palad ng Dantaong Kulang (cinematography: Jewel Maranan)

Nominees:

Kung Paano Hinihintay ang Dapithapon (cinematography: Neil Daza; production design: Marielle Hizon)

Kung Paano Siya Nawala (cinematography: Ike Avellana; production design: Christina Dy)

Kuya Wes (cinematography: Theo Lozada; production design: Ericson Navarro)

Masla A Papanok (cinematography: Willie Apa Jr., Arnel Barbarona, Bagane Fiola; production design: Paramata Endawan)

Never Not Love You (cinematography: Mycko David and Carlo Mauricio; production design: Ana Lou Sanchez)

Oda sa Wala (cinematography: Neil Daza; production design: Maolen Fadul)

 

BEST SOUND AND AURAL ORCHESTRATION

Winner: Never Not Love You (music: Len Calvo; sound design: Jason Conanan, Kat Salinas and Mikko Quizon)

Nominees:

A Short History of a Few Bad Things (music: Lav Diaz, Duke Caing, Young Kael, Maricel Sombrio, John Caing, Bombo Pluto Ova, Stevan Marvin Jamaar, Silhouette; sound design: Rico Mambo)

Masla A Papanok (music: Jem Talaroc; sound design: Willie Apa Jr.)

Oda sa Wala (music: Richard Gonzales; sound design: Immanuel Verona)

 

BEST FIRST FEATURE

Winners:

Mamang (Denise O’Hara)

Mamu; And a Mother Too (Rod Singh)

Ang Pangarap Kong Holdap (Marius Talampas)

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Posted by on 17 March 2019 in Philippine Film

 

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Statement of the Film Desk of the Young Critics Circle on the 2018 Order of National Artists

We, the members of the Film Desk of the Young Critics Circle (YCC), denounce once more the exclusion of Nora Aunor (Nora Cabaltera Villamayor) from the roster of artists inducted into the Order of National Artists (ONA) this year, and reiterate our call for the artistic community to rethink and reform the ONA.

In 2014, Aunor passed all levels of screening in the legally constituted process, presided over by the pertinent state cultural institutions, earning her a place in the shortlist of individuals recommended for conferral with the rank and honor of National Artist by the president. She was denied the accolade, however, on grounds that were, at best, spurious: Benigno S. Aquino III alleged that Aunor had been convicted and punished in connection with a drug case, a claim that was as self-righteous as it was misbegotten—which is to say, completely. Along with other concerned parties, we condemned the lack of rigor in thought and awareness of responsibility that underpinned Aquino’s decision.

Owing to her inclusion in the previous shortlist, Aunor was automatically entered into this year’s shortlist, giving rise to the hope that past caprice would be corrected. Like before, her name was dropped; unlike before, the president has deigned to provide no explanation so far. During the formal ceremonies to confer the ONA and other cultural awards, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, as is his wont, spent much of his time railing disjointedly against human rights advocates and other critics of the increasingly defective democracy that he helms.

The day after, his spokesperson Salvador Panelo addressed the omission of Aunor with remarks clad in condescension and incoherence. Aunor was “still young”, he said, and would become National Artist “in God’s perfect time”. Panelo added that her non-proclamation as National Artist was meant to “spare [her] from the emotional and psychological torment coming from the barrage of mixed reactions the award will bring”.

If Aunor has been “spared” any “torment”, it is that which is bound up with the prospect that her celebrated body of work will be instrumentalized—and therefore drained of its vitality—by the present dispensation in order to obscure or detract from the various forms of violence that it has inflicted upon the country.

Nora Aunor at the 69th Venice International Film Festival in 2012. Courtesy of Carvin de Leon (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License).

Nora Aunor at the 69th Venice International Film Festival in 2012. Courtesy of Carvin de Leon (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License).

Choosing National Artists entails the involvement of artists, cultural workers, and government representatives in a lengthy, multi-tiered process that, whatever its flaws, aims to produce a consensus on the basis of judgments that are as sound as its participants can muster. That the consensus around Aunor has now been dismissed twice over through the exercise of presidential prerogative, premised on reasons poorly conceived and ill-articulated, can only register as sheer waste, as wanton abuse, no matter how ostensibly legal. Aunor herself has said, “Bakit pa nila ako isinali rito kung hindi naman pala ako karapat-dapat?”

The assaults that continue to be visited against the integrity and meaningfulness of the ONA compel us to ask what measures can be taken in order to safeguard it from political whim and interference, to ensure that all who take part in the process, from the initial nominators to the president, act in good faith and are made fully accountable for their decisions. We suggest, as a beginning, that the confidentiality veiling the selection process from the scrutiny of the Filipino people, on whose behalf the ONA is bestowed, be revisited: does it bolster independent assessment or facilitate unscrupulous manipulation?

More importantly, considering that the ONA—or indeed any other prize—should not be taken as the definitive measure of an artist’s achievement, it bears asking: What are the reasons that this award persists, nearly five decades after its invention by a self-styled patroness of the arts? What is meant by “achievement”, anyway, and for whom and against whom is it invoked? How are artists, academics, scholars, critics, and cultural workers—we are no exception—complicit in and culpable for the corruption and dysfunction that seem to be inextricable from this highest of honors awarded by the state to artists?

These and other questions all of us must challenge ourselves with again and again if we are serious about overhauling not only the ONA but also the broader infrastructure for arts and culture in which the ONA is but one part.

 
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Posted by on 29 October 2018 in Philippine Film

 

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Medusae (2017): Deep End of the Ocean

Nonoy L. Lauzon

 

What does it take to be a good mother? What does it take to be a good filmmaker? Pam Miras’ Medusae processes an interrogation of such circumstantial essentials with the emotionally wrenching tale of a single mom who loses her son in an island she is filming for its cases of disappearances of firstborns that persist to be more than mere rural-legend stuff.

The son is an albino with a name that embarrasses him as it refers to the place where his parents first met each other. He also happens to sleepwalk, has a recurrent enigmatic dream and professes to have never wanted to be born. The lady filmmaker may not have wanted the pregnancy either but otherwise decided just the same to keep the baby who would grow up to be a problem child she nonetheless deeply loves and cares so much for. The island is peopled by folks who may or may not be resigned to their shared fate of their respective eldest of the brood taken away from their families. The medusae of the film’s title may be construed in the symbolic invocation of aquatic organisms and the nature of their reproduction as such is ultimately tied up with the very statement at the crux of the film on laws of conservation and the indestructibility of living matters and all life forms.

medusae

There is value in this parable of the sea as it recasts ways of discerning human action, frailty and limits against the vastness of a universe never to be fully knowable. Myths must exist, cults must emerge, and rites and rituals must be practiced and performed in order for the communities of the living to survive and satisfy the wants that bind humans.

It then becomes the duty of a good mother to come to terms with the flaws that define her relations with her child and it is time for filmmakers to come to the epiphany that it is not always for noble and lofty goals that they peer into private lives to make their films.

 
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Posted by on 15 August 2018 in Philippine Film

 

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YCC picks Baconaua best film of 2017

The Film Desk of the Young Critics Circle voted Baconaua as the best film of 2017. Joseph Israel Laban’s film interweaves the mythic with the contemporary exploration of violence and loss in a coastal community of Marinduque. The film also bagged the Best Achievement in Cinematography and Visual Design award, for TM Malones and Marielle Hizon.

Baconaua

The award for Best Performance is given to Anthony Falcon, who plays a transwoman revisiting her past in Mga Gabing Kasinghaba ng Hair Ko.

Best Screenplay is The Chanters, written by John Paul Bedia and Andrian Legaspi from a story by Ana Puod and James Robin Mayo.

Nervous Translation claimed two awards: Best Achievement in Editing, for Shireen Seño and John Torres; and Best Achievement in Sound and Aural Orchestration, for the original score of Itos Ledesma and the sound design of Mikko Quizon.

The award for Best First Feature is shared by three films: Kiko Boksingero by Thop Nazareno, Si Chedeng at si Apple by Rae Red and Fatrick Tabada, and The Chanters by James Robin Mayo.

The critics group narrowed down the around 150 films that were released in cinemas last year to 20 films and, after thorough deliberations, to a further shortlist of 7. Except for the Best First Feature category, nominations for the 6 major categories can only come from the shortlist.

The Young Critics Circle is composed of film critics and academics from the University of the Philippines Diliman and Ateneo de Manila University. Members who voted for the 2017 citations include Lisa Ito-Tapang (chair), Aristotle Atienza, Christian Benitez, Emerald Flaviano, J. Pilapil Jacobo, Skilty Labastilla, Noy Lauzon, and Jaime Oscar Salazar.

The awarding ceremony is tentatively scheduled on August 30, 2018 at the UP Diliman Vargas Museum.

Below is the list of winners and nominees:

 

BEST FILM

Winner: Baconaua, directed by Joseph Israel Laban (Nicole Runi, Sara Santiago, Ferdinand Lapuz, Derick Cabrido, producers)

Nominees:

Kiko Boksingero, directed by Thop Nazareno (Ferdinand Lapuz and James Robin Mayo, producers)

Medusae, directed by Pamela Miras (Tonee Acejo, Lawrence S. Ang, Heintje Fernandez, Jenny Fernandez-Ang, Jason Tan, producers)

Mga Gabing Kasinghaba ng Hair Ko, directed by Gerardo Calagui (Manuel Marinay, Mabel P. Villarica-Madamba, Joy Mendoza Rojas, Bianca Balbuena, Bradley Liew, Neil Maristela, Jose Ferdinand Roxas II, producers)

The Chanters, directed by James Robin Mayo (Cai Cena, Thop Nazareno, Ferdinand Lapuz, producers)

Falcon

Anthony Falcon as Amanda in Mga Gabing Kasinghaba ng Hair Ko

BEST PERFORMANCE

Winner: Anthony Falcon, Mga Gabing Kasinghaba ng Hair Ko

Nominees:

Jana Agoncillo, Nervous Translation

Noel Comia, Jr., Kiko Boksingero

Mon Confiado, Mga Gabing Kasinghaba ng Hair Ko

Desiree del Valle, Medusae

Duo performance (Noel Comia, Jr. and Yayo Aguila), Kiko Boksingero

Elora Españo, Baconaua

Jally Nae Gilbaliga, The Chanters

Lead cast ensemble (Matt Daclan, Anthony Falcon, Rocky Salumbides), Mga Gabing Kasinghaba ng Hair Ko

Carl Palaganas, Medusae

 

BEST SCREENPLAY

Winner: The Chanters (screenplay: John Paul Bedia and Andrian Legaspi)

Nominees:

Baconaua (Joseph Israel Laban and Denise O’Hara)

Kiko Boksingero (Emmanuel Espejo Jr., Ash Malanum, Denise O’Hara, Heber O’Hara, and Thop Nazareno)

Medusae (Pam Miras)

Mga Gabing Kasinghaba ng Hair Ko (Mark Duane Angos)

 

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN EDITING

Winner: Nervous Translation (Shireen Seno and John Torres)

Nominees:

God BLISS Our Home (Lawrence Ang)

Medusae (Lawrence Ang)

Mga Gabing Kasinghaba ng Hair Ko (Bradley Liew)

 

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY AND VISUAL DESIGN

Winner: Baconaua (cinematography: TM Malones; production design: Marielle Hizon)

Nominees:

Kiko Boksingero (cinematography: Marvin Reyes; production design: Ericson Navarro)

Medusae (cinematography: Albert Banzon; production design: Aped Santos; visual effects: Vladimer Castañeto)

Nervous Translation (cinematography: Albert Banzon, Jippy Pascua, Dennise Victoria; production design: Leeroy New)

The Chanters (cinematography: Jav Velasco; production design: Carmela Danao)

 

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND AND AURAL ORCHESTRATION

Winner: Nervous Translation (music: Itos Ledesma; sound design: Mikko Quizon)

Nominees:

Baconaua (music: Jema Pamintuan; sound: Monoxide Works, Bryan Dumaguina, JR Miano)

The Chanters (music: Erwin Fajardo; sound design: Immanuel Verona)

 

BEST FIRST FEATURE

Winners:

Kiko Boksingero (Thop Nazareno)

Si Chedeng at si Apple (Rae Red and Fatrick Tabada)

The Chanters (James Robin Mayo)

 

 
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Posted by on 16 June 2018 in Philippine Film

 

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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 April 2017 in Philippine Film

 

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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 April 2017 in Philippine Film

 

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The Exacting Forest and the Forgivable Man in Bagane Fiola’s Baboy Halas (2016)

The Exacting Forest and the Forgivable Man in Bagane Fiola’s Baboy Halas (2016)[i]

Emerald Flaviano

Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers.

Baboy Halas: Wailings in the Forest (2016), Bagane Fiola’s second film, is the narratively spare imagination of a life in an unsullied earth. Centering on the story of Mampog the boar hunter, the film attempts to find out how a life that relies so much on the natural world is possible.

A landscape of the leafy and befogged heights of the mountains of Davao backdrops the film’s title card. To the urban audience, the forest is fearsome and threatening even in its flattened form. The forest in profile—a landscape—immediately introduces the engulfing Other of Mampog and the rest of the Matigsalug people. Inside the seemingly impenetrable thicket, the forest is revealed in its claustrophobic glory. Raphael Meting and Mark Limbaga’s camera cuts its own path in the forest, following Mampog’s hunts through dense foliage, and the thick undergrowth beneath which hide treacherously slippery rocks. The skillful handling of the camera imagines an ordered world and makes us believe that Mampog’s purposeful meandering through a thick, claustrophobic forest can be followed through a navigable, albeit alien, space.

WITF_Still 4Mampog hunting. (Still photo credits to Origane Films)

This ordering mirrors the Matigsalug people’s attempts to negotiate with their wild home: ancient forest dwellers are appeased and cajoled, a hooting owl is considered a bad omen, and a white pig is a disturbance in the order of things. For the forest is the only source of Mampog’s family’s sustenance. Wild pigs are hunted, freshwater fish and toads are trapped in streams, and wild crops are foraged, but in no other way will the natural world be bent to human needs and desires. Everything is appealed to the forest dwellers, animals (the dog Bugtong, the hooting alimokon (wild pigeon)), and inanimate substances (the fire). In the most remarked upon scene of Baboy Halas, Mampog lights a small fire to warm a cold night inside a cave, keeping his end of a “dialogue” with the Cave Dweller. As the audience is glued to the hunter’s struggle for fire, we are also reminded how negligible human existence is in the riot of life in the forest: “It is much to ask, but do keep us alive,” Mampog pleads to the cold blackness of the cave.

WITF_Still 10Mampog trying to light a fire. (Still photo credits to Origane Films)

This smallness is somewhat amplified in Baboy Halas’ unidimensional characters: there is nothing much that we know about how Mampog thinks about their way of life, or how his wives think about the family’s constant struggle for food. Mampog’s younger wife looks off into the distance, apparently deep in thought about the nightmare explaining the cause of her husband’s recently disturbed behavior, but these thoughts are up for anyone to guess. This denial of revelation can be read, on the one hand, as signifying an ethical decision to maintain a respectful distance between filmmaker and subjects. On the other hand, it also asks us to connect with Mampog on a different level. Clearly, Mampog and his people do not struggle with the forest to live, but they negotiate in a reciprocal relationship. Mampog’s transformation into a boar can be read, among other things, as settling scores—the hunter pays for his hunt by becoming the hunted. This need for equilibrium is echoed in the formal laws of the Matigsalug, as revealed by the settling of dispute between two communities. Brass gongs and horses are exchanged over civil discourse, tobacco, and brew.

To an outsider, Baboy Halas feels like a documentary exposition of the everyday life of the Matigsalug. Isolating the Matigsalug from the urban lowlands, the film conceives of a people who live peacefully in an unsullied earth, with no modern clothes and tools, reliant entirely on what the forest provides. Yet this isolation can be anything but literally real. Baboy Halas is set in Sitio Maharlika, Barangay Baganihan, Marilog District in Davao City.[ii] Baganihan is known for its cold climate, and is a familiar haunt for Davaoeños seeking to escape the heat and bustle of the city. This imagined isolation in Baboy Halas gathers special significance, a year after reports of harassment and killing of Lumads in Mindanao broke national news in August to October 2015. Mampog and his family live undisturbed in forests where the Matigsalug have been living for generations, belying the systematic and concerted efforts of the state and mining capital to terrorize communities for their ancestral lands. But Fiola chooses not to foreground this and instead presents the Matigsalug as a community in its own, not necessarily almost always defined by their subjection; in an interview with Davao Today he reveals that the film’s narrative was largely drawn from the stories the Matigsalug told him.[iii] Though these stories are largely about privation and want, the Matigsalug are nevertheless active agents in their lives—in their negotiation with an indifferent natural world, in settling community disputes, in choosing to stay in the mountains and refuse the allure of the plains. The Matigsalug themselves act out their stories, and the uneven performances—some were indifferent, while some were engaged (as with the expansive Du)—assert each nonprofessional actor’s own understanding of his/her participation in a film representing their way of life.

WITF_Still 9Du wooing another man’s wife. (Still photo credits to Origane Films)

In a sense, the white domesticated pig that Mampog shoots down stands for the tamable life that the lowlands offer. Feeding a family would hypothetically be easier as opportunities to work for a living in the bayan are far more reliable than the fruits of a hunt. Faced with a choice, Mampog does what he has always done and “kills” the white pig, desperate for meat for his family. He consequently loses his grip on reality: the white pig (if there ever really was one) is still alive and well, but visible only to him; the white pig transforms into a mysterious white figure (a forest dweller?); and he cuts down men who had eaten the pig roasted. Mampog has fallen out of favor with the forest, which then denies him meaning. Only his metamorphosis will reconcile—indeed, literally reincorporate—Mampog again with the forest.


[i] A previous version of this review was edited for factual accuracy.

[ii] Capistrano, Zea Io Ming C. “‘Baboy Halas’: Davao’s indie film heads to Netherlands film fest.” http://davaotoday.com/main/culture-2/entertainment/baboy-halas-davaos-indie-film-heads-to-netherlands-film-fest/. 8 January 2017.

[iii] Capistrano 8 January 2017.

 
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Posted by on 16 April 2017 in Film Review, Philippine Film

 

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