Friday, February 19, 2010

Hospital Boat (2009, Arnel Mardoquio)

Cinema Rehiyon 2010 is an annual event highlighting films from the other Philippines. Filipino filmmakers have mostly replaced progressive singers such as Patatag, Inang Laya, and Joey Ayala in bringing out social issues to the open. Armed with digital video cameras and do-it-yourself ethos, local filmmakers churned out films that arouse social action and change through their depiction of the real conditions in their localities. Some of the films exhibited the past few days at Cultural Center of the Philippines were wonderful regional gems such as Wanted: Border, and Anacbanua. Event organizers Dr. Miguel Rapatan and Teddy Co did an excellent job selecting notable works of veteran and budding regional filmmakers such as Erik Matti and Christopher Gozum.

Arnel Mardoquio is a promising filmmaker/peace advocate from Mindanao. His films deal with the elusiveness of peace in the southern Philippine island. Hunghong Sa Yuta (2008) focuses on a deaf-mute boy’s dream of a world without war. It tells the story of lumads, Muslims, and Christians living together peacefully in a small community called Hinyok. It is a well-intentioned though overrated peace advocacy film. The clunky theatrical elements detract viewers from the message it wants to impart. The film somehow managed to nab a handful of nominations from the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino. The Urian award given to music scorer Popong Landero is well deserved, though.

On the other hand, Hospital Boat is one of the best films of 2009. Rarely seen after its world premiere at the Cinemalaya Cinco festival, the film is currently on a campus tour. Initially projected to be three hours long, it was edited down to 125 minutes in order to accommodate screening requests by school officials. Even in its shortened form, the film is already a potent and powerful movie. Music scoring and direction are top-notch.

One of the few films to directly deal with the evils of political warlordism, it chillingly prefigures the Maguindanao massacre of November 2009. A viewer during the Cinema Rehiyon 2010 screening of the film was surprised to learn that the movie was finished long before the massacre. The film depicts a fictional set of southern islands plagued by violence. The main purveyor of dark deeds is Muktar, half-brother of a Muslim congresswoman. He operates a gun-running business, trains child warriors for his private army, and holes up in a palatial fortress. Every one who disobeys him or gets in his way ends up being killed, mostly at his hands. He accepts dirty jobs for influential people.

A politician, wishing to earn the approval of the Americans, approaches Muktar. He wants the latter to convince a Muslim girl impregnated by an American soldier to go abroad. This scene alludes to the Nicole-Smith rape case. Another real-life event alluded in the film is the Ces Drilon kidnapping case. The violent acts are not only against women. Violence in this film is encompassing, ranging from senseless killings of people to violence against Earth. Conditions in Mindanao have been so dire and bloody that even religious people are left with no choice but to take up arms and do things they would not normally do.

Hospital Boat showed several possible paths to achieving peace and prosperity. It highlights the importance of education in improving the lot of people. The teenaged shaman returns to school. Another topic discussed is the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain. This is a thorny issue as it needs the amendment of the constitution to fully implement it. Mindanao also needs service-oriented leaders and dedicated workers. The title of the film refers to a boat commissioned by a tireless rural health worker Dr. Sittie. The appearance of the boat at the end of the film suggests that there is still hope for peace, healing and development in Mindanao.

I’m eagerly anticipating Mardoquio’s third feature-length film, Sheika, which is an entry to the Cinemalaya 2010 competition. If Mardoquio continues to get better in his craft, then Sheika will probably end up as most-awarded film. Other Cinemalaya finalists include Mindanaoan filmmakers, Sheron Dayoc and Gutierrez Mangansakan II. Exciting and refreshing stories await viewers at the Cinemalaya 2010.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah I saw the movie when I was about to buy generic viagra but the movie seemed to be very good, I didn't see it yet but thanks for remembering me.