Thursday, December 30, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
**** If you can only watch one film this festival season, then watch this awesome film. The suave animation is light years away from that of Dayo and Urduja. There are lots of cool character designs including a yoyo-wielding boy and his heroic father. The story is interesting enough for kids and adults. The voice talents are mostly good with the exception of Aga Muhlach. ****
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Monday, December 27, 2010
Their comedy film nabbed nine awards including the Best Picture award. It also won awards for Best Actress (delas Alas), Best Director (Wenn Deramas), Best Screenplay (Mel del Rosario), Best Story (Mel del Rosario), Best Supporting Actress (Eugene Domingo), Best Musical Score (Jesse Lasaten), Best Child Performer (Xyriel Manabat) and the Gender Sensitive Award.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Is it David Villa of the World Cup 2010 winning team Spain? No. Is it exciting-to-watch Argentinian player Lionel Messi? No.
The answer is Paulino Alcantara. The early 20th-century footballer scored a phenomenal 357 goals in 357 matches! He is one of the legendary players of the venerable club. And, he is a Filipino.
Flashforward to the 21st century. The sport of football is no longer on the radar of most Filipinos. Despite cable television bringing live broadcasts of World Cup 2010 matches to local viewers, football did not make a huge dent in the consciousness of the Filipino people. It seldom dominates headlines and front page stories in our basketball-crazy country. So it is quite surprising and gladdening to read news, and see television coverage, of the Phl football team's entry into the semifinal round of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2010.
On the night the film Happyland had its world premiere at Cinemanila 2010 in Robinsons Movieworld Galleria, a spunky football team from the Philippines pulled a stunning 2-0 win over the defending champion team from Vietnam. Phil Younghusband, who had a cameo role in the film, scored the second goal for the defense-oriented Azkals. The extraordinary good news is a perfect assist to the advocacy of non-profit organization Futkal Inc and filmmaker Jim Libiran.
Futkal is an acronym for Futbol sa Kalye (Football on the Streets). The group passionately teaches children the game of football in an alternative way. It takes away the notion that football should be played only on soccer fields. It is definitely not a game only for rich kids. Anybody can play football in an abandoned street, open space, or vacant lot.
Jim Libiran returns once more to the streets of Tondo in Manila for his second film. Just like his debut film Tribu, he focuses on a group of young people. These impoverished young boys are no longer rappers but futkaleros or street footballers. A Spanish missionary priest named Fr. Jose manages the group and zealously preaches the gospel that football is the sport for Filipinos. He always tell the amazing exploits of footballer Paulino Alcantara in Europe to prove his point.
Shunning the edgy story, dark milieu, and raw violence of Tribu, Libiran molds a more mainstream film for his target audience: the youth. His new film deals with the problems of a varied set of young characters such as a neighborhood basketball idol, a fleet-footed snatcher, a pedicab driver, and a pair of solvent-sniffing friends. The straight-forward story traces how this odd group of resilient misfits rise to redemption. The best parts of the film are the football match segments. They give valuable insights on how the futkaleros play the game and how they behave. Their unorthodox playing style may not be the beautiful game played by the Germans or the Brazilians but it produces good results for the team. In March 2010, a Tondo futkalero was part of the Phl team that won a trophy at the Street Child World Cup in South Africa.
Happyland may not be a beautifully slick film, marred by still-to-be-refined blurry shots, but it gets an A for advocacy. Libiran plans to show the film to schools and youth clubs all over the country. The film screenings will hopefully result in more kids getting out from a drug and crime-filled life and getting into the wonderful world of football. Local teams winning tournament matches are mere bonuses.
Monday, December 6, 2010
These body fluids, this defilement, this shit are what life withstands…
Any crime, because it draws attention to the fragility of the law, is abject, but premeditated crime, cunning murder, hypocritical revenge are even more so because they heighten the display of such fragility.
-- Julia Kristeva, An Essay on Abjection
This is not another masterpiece by Khavn dela Cruz. This is not guerilla digital filmmaking at its finest. This is not the stuff of cinema: Certainly not about the high-jinks of the juvenile and the poor; the foisting upon audiences of the taboo and the abject; no, there is no subversive import lying just beneath the surface. No, this is not a film by Khavn dela Cruz. This is not his 28th film. This is not Mondomanila Filmfest Motherfuckers.
Frivolity aside, Mondomanila represents one of Khavn’s best films to date. Here is a flower of evil plucked from the fertile dung of the margins, blooming among the dregs of society; here is a work of uncompromising and unwavering vision, a film that was almost stillborn, but now here in our midst, jumping out at us like a jack-in-the-box, thumbing its nose at us who cower behind blinders. In a word, be prepared for a frightful but rollicking ride through a no-man’s land that we, the coddled, hold our breaths against and turn away from.
At the rotten core of Mondomanila are teenage layabout Tony and his juvenile posse, Paranoid X, pleasure-seeking delinquents without a future but never to be taken for pushovers. Here in their neighborhood of slums and garbage dumps, they are kings, and the cameras observe them in very close proximity, rendering them through hallucinatory filters, washed-out colors, split screens and strange lighting. These Bunuelian olvidados exhibit few inhibitions: young, brash and compliant, they mouth their syntax of obscenities and perform outrageous acts that straddle the lines of morality. They sing and rap, some of them break-dance, some hold small jobs, some don’t, but what makes them gravitate together, what defines them, are common misery and drug-induced fantasies.
Much of their adolescent fantasies, predictably, revolve around sex. Among them is a compulsive masturbator, who uncontrollably does his thing even in the group’s presence. Another literally engages in bestiality: easing himself on a live, squawking goose, just before he chops off its head. Lumped together, their sexual obsession is even worse: they peep on fornicating midgets and lesbian twins. Meanwhile, menace lurks in the background: Whiteboy, a Caucasian pedophile, makes no bones about his perverse ideology and submits the young kids of the neighborhood to “sexual slavery.” Soon his deviancy hits very close to home.
Figuratively, and all but literally, one gets buried neck-deep in Mondomanila’s proverbial bodily fluids. The immoral. The criminal. Few taboos remain unscathed here. Combining the abrasive aspects of his recent films namely Squatterpangk and The Family that Eats Soil, Khavn transvaluates Julia Kristeva’s notions of the abject and turns it from a source of horror to something darkly humorous. Instead of horrifying us and making our skin crawl, Khavn numbs and etherizes our sensibilities into a catharsis: blood, piss, excrement, bestiality, sodomy, and mutilation are here in plentiful doses that erode our guards. At some point we start to laugh; we wallow and luxuriate in it. Numbed and etherized in the abject, Khavn paves the way for his film’s subversive end.Cunning murder, hypocritical revenge, to borrow Kristeva’s words, this is what the film deems its logical coda. Guile, cunning, hypocrisy are exactly the words that befit the crime, subsequently a composite of several crimes. The fact that the crime is compounded raises the acts to the level of the abject, many times over. We laugh nervously and must do a double-take, as the so-called heroes dance and sing for joy after the fact: We realize our rank complicity, our blurring concepts of right and wrong. We argue curiously: But doesn't the crime -- done as it is at the expense of someone draped with neo-colonial trappings -- translate to a symbolic act of patriotism? And how to explicate the aggravating actions after the crime? Reparations? Somehow it is so morally wrong; somehow it is so viscerally right.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
A truck. A homicidal, ten-ton truck. To see Adolf Alix’s Chassis is to step figuratively into the path of such an oncoming, runaway vehicle. For good measure, the same truck will back up on your convulsing body just to make sure it does the job. Alix’s latest film is just that, unforgiving. Unforgiving; it spares nobody. Not the film’s diegetic characters who must endure the grinding forces of poverty and harsh circumstance. Not the viewing audience, no matter how prepared it believes it is for a film like Chassis.
But don’t get me wrong. The same uncompromising virtues are what makes Chassis an ultimately commendable film. And I’m beginning to like it for the same reasons that may ultimately discourage a wider patronage. As with any genuine art, after all, common sensibilities are meant to be shocked and scandalized. It’s often ahead of its time. This is not to say, though, that Chassis is a work of such ground-breaking originality. One will recoil from this realization: that it’s a pauperized version of Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman.
I say “pauperized” for several reasons. One, Chassis is a literal pauperization, the story is transplanted to an impoverished scenario. Unlike the domesticated Jeanne Dielman, the heroine of Chassis is a woman without a home. Nora inhabits no living space of her own, but a parking lot in a harbor compound, where the underside of her chosen cargo truck serves as her roof. Like a hermit cab without a shell, she must look constantly for a home to live under. She must lug her few belongings – a cardboard mat, a few clothes, a few cooking utensils – from one chassis to another, at the mercy of the trucks’ brisk schedules. Two, what Akerman takes a monumental 201 minutes to dramatize and make a statement, Alix accomplishes in a dense and intense 73 minutes, a veritable slice of life.
Chassis, like Akerman’s film, however, is about self-sacrifice, an entrapment in helpless circumstance, and what happens when one’s reason for it ceases to exist. In Chassis, Nora is a woman trapped in a cycle of poverty and prostitution. She resigns herself to selling herself very cheaply in order to support a hand-to-mouth existence for herself, her lover and her young, uncomprehending daughter.
Her daughter represents the last consolation, a final lifeline, for whom she can sustain her state of indignity. She will put her through school on any pain. She will promise her what she can only grant through acts that degrade her in the eyes of everybody. Her smile is reserved just for her child. Never for anyone else, not for her lover, not for the truck drivers who use her like so much latrine, not her demi-monde kind in this compound, not for the Mormon missionary who tries to evangelize her.
Everything about Chassis is grim and dreary. Depicted in ominous tones of black-and-white, it seems forever set in a twilight hour. One never knows whether it’s lightening or darkening. All one senses is its sepulchral nature. The gargantuan specters of cargo ships and maritime industry, meanwhile, tower in the distance, as though never to stop for the negligible fates of humanity. But what stays with us, more crucially, is the film’s chiaroscuro portrait of a woman with nowhere to go: Nora, with her funereal mask of a face, her sleep-walking steps, her lifeless stance – the shorthand of wretched resignation.
While the last drastic gesture of Jeanne Dielman is born out of a long, cumulative process of prostitution and thankless domesticity, we can pinpoint the last straw that produces Nora’s act of rebellion. With Nora’s raison d’etre intact, however, it is foreseeable that she could go on and on indefinitely as a martyrized woman. Whether, like Jeanne Dielman, Chassis will become a feminist favorite, however, remains to be seen. Viewers have been reportedly put off by its unrelieved bleakness and hopelessness, remarking how utterly different Alix has turned out to be since the days of Donsol and Kadin. But that’s beside the point. To repress the reality depicted in Chassis just to humor our squeamish bourgeois sensibilities is just wrong; wronger when we do nothing from the comfort of our armchairs.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
One-take full-length feature film? Can Zuasola really pull it off?
Ang Damgo ni Eleuteria exceeded all my expectations. The phenomenal film is a knockout combination of adept filmmaking and caustic portrait of a Filipina mail-order bride and her debt-ridden family. Imagine mixing some of the colorful female characters of Noli Me Tangere, the craziness and wittiness of a Joey Gosiengfiao comedy, the savvy skills of a real-time method filmmaker, and the competence of a Cebu-based crew and actors, and you've got yourself a potent brew of pure indie film goodness. It is so good that as the end credits roll on you cannot wait to watch it all over again. It is simply the must-see Pinoy indie film of 2010.
The film begins with a mother searching for her daughter, Eleuteria. Along with her husband and her other daughter, they scour the area for traces of the lanky teenager. The latter is seen trying to drown herself in a creek.
Eleuteria is a mail-order bride who, until the last minute, dillydallies with her decision to go to Germany. She has a local boyfriend. This fact, along with the thought of being ruthlessly shoved into marrying an elderly foreigner named Hans Kirschbaum, makes Eleuteria hesitant to go abroad. Ironically, these two factors become crucial decision changers in the end.
The spine-less boyfriend desperately coaxes her to elope but eventually surrenders because of strong opposition by the parents, relatives, and friends of Eleuteria. Another spine-less male figure is her fisherman father. The latter objects to his daughter's impending marriage but doesn't want to impose his will on the matter.
When she decided to drown herself, Eleuteria tries to call attention to the fact that she does not want to go away. Locked in a psychological battle, she just doesn't want to give in to the whims of her mother. However, constant nagging by her mother made her decide to accept her elder's wish. The belated decision is not so much a daughterly obedience but more of a rebellious, contemptuous act against her mother and the spineless male figures in her life. In a chance meeting with a childhood friend, she says she will never set foot again in their small hometown.
But, just like migratory birds frequenting it, they do come back to Olango Island, Cebu. Cousin Merle, recently separated from her German husband, comes home for good. With her savings, she is able to build a three-storey house. She is the one guiding Eleuteria every step of the way.
The film captures the long, eventful journey of Eleuteria from a creek to the boat terminal in a masterfully orchestrated one take. The ensemble acting is so natural and realistic that the local residents don't mind the shooting happening in their midst. The actors are just like members of a regular family out to send off one of their family member. Even the crazy guy seems to be not out of place. Most barrios in the Philippines have their share of loonies. In this film, the barrio has craziness as its theme for a fiesta. Aside from the crazy guy, there are other interesting characters in the film such as the scene-stealing father and the Paris, Italy-based (!?!) recruiter. Their interaction with one another produces loud guffaws from the audience. The witty screenplay is based on a novel by Maria Victoria Beltran.
Zuasola deserves all the hoopla (and awards) for his film. On the other hand, Somes' film Ishmael didn't live up to expectations. Its best scene shows a fallen alien unsheating his blades on his arms and whooping up hordes of Decepticons. Oops, I think that is from the film Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. See, I can barely remember good things about Ishmael. Somes loses his magic touch with his second film. I hope Zuasola doesn't succumb to the so-called sophomore jinx.