Wednesday, September 9, 2009

In Da Red Korner (2006, Dado Lumibao)

The late critic Alexis Tioseco wished that more Filipinos get to see the following underrated films, In Da Red Korner, and Ray Defante Gibraltar's When Timawa Meets Delgado. These influential movies are indeed little gems of independent cinema. Both films feature innovative approaches to storytelling and tackle major obsessions by Filipinos.

In Da Red Korner deals with boxing, while When Timawa Meets Delgado is a hilarious mockumentary on nursing. It had been a long time since I saw the latter film, so I’ll just focus on the boxing film, which sometimes crop up on Cinema One.

Lumibao's movie chronicles the travails of female lightweight boxer Rhodora 'Doring' Villamor (Meryll Soriano). It is three days before the finals of the National Open Amateur Boxing Championship and she is still struggling to reach the ideal weight of 60 kilos. She forgoes having meals and does extra hours of practice in order to shed some pounds. The early part of the film showcases the training camp for boxers. We see the spartan conditions of the boxers’ quarters. We see the rugged mountains with grazing goats.

After conquering her weight problem, Doring encounters another formidable foe, dysmenorrhea. She prepared for the arrival of this foe by stocking up on essential things. However, a drug addict stole her toiletries and medical kit. She spends the eve of the championship searching for sanitary napkins and pain killers. This middle segment of the film features an influential tracking shot done at night. Doring was out in the rain desperately looking for the precious napkins. She scours the dark streets in search for open retail stores. Dark tracking scenes such as these became common in later films such as Tribu and Engkwentro.

The last part of the film focuses on the day of the boxing championship. Director Lumibao presents a realistic portrait of happenings at a boxing event. The casual and humorous annotations by the ringside broadcaster are mostly spot-on. We see a singer botch up the ending of the national anthem. We see female boxers engage in some bits of wrestling atop the ring.

In Da Red Korner is one of the pioneering ‘real-time’ films of 2006, along with Kubrador and Manoro. All three films have different subjects and directors but they are alike in most aspects. They all feature female protagonists. They employ a 3-day period as time frame. Then, there are the tracking shots showing the places that the leads tread on. Even their endings are the same. Things end up badly for the three leads.

If you're wondering why those films are all alike, then wonder no more. All of them have the creative mark of Armando Lao, probably the best scriptwriter working in the country right now. He started tinkering with the real-time mode in 2004 and perfected it in 2006. That year saw 'real-time' films barge into local film consciousness via film festivals such as Cinemalaya and Cinemanila. Those films prepared the audience to accept future films with innovative and experimental approaches to storytelling.

Yearning to watch some real-time films? Catch the Brillante Mendoza masterpieces, Manoro and Tirador at UP Videotheque, with screenings until Saturday (September 12). Check out also the Sindie Film Festival, which is currently running at Robinsons Galleria. Tribu and Engkwentro will be shown there.

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