Thursday, October 1, 2009

Lola (2009, Brillante Mendoza)

Right after winning the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival 2009, Brillante Mendoza went home and started work on this film for 10 straight days. He wanted to capture the rainy season and the floods in Malabon. The movie ended up being a 'surprise' entry at the 66th Venice International Film Festival, where it received good reviews from critics.

Lola is a daunting, demanding, but ultimately rewarding film. If Mendoza kept you on the edge of your seat with the suspense-chiller Kinatay; then this time around, Mendoza will make you teary-eyed throughout the heavy drama movie.

The mood is drab, funereal, and quite depressing really. The heartbreaking plight of the elderly, prisoners, and impoverished people is too much to take. Think in terms of the gloomy aftermath of tropical storm Ondoy. The worst flooding in the Philippines since 1967 resulted in the deaths of hundreds and displacement of thousands of families. But, amidst all the dreariness, the extraordinary resilience of the Filipinos shines through. Bayanihan spirit will help our countrymen get through this crisis.

Lola highlights that type of resiliency and indefatigable spirit inherent in Filipinos. The Mendoza film features two grandmothers who’ve probably encountered and weathered all types of crisis and troubles. The two senior citizens are linked together by a homicide-robbery case. Lola Josefa ‘Sepa’ Quimpo (Anita Linda) lost her grandson in the incident. Lola Purificacion Burgos’ grandson Mateo is the suspect in the killing.

Adversity brings out the best in Filipinos. The elders (brilliantly acted by veteran actresses Linda and Rustica Carpio) will do anything for their family members. Lola Sepa mortgages her pension card in order to raise money for the funeral service. On the other hand, Lola Puring pawns television, and mortgages her property to amass funds for a possible amicable settlement. However, extreme crisis also brings out the worst in the Filipino. Lola Puring resorts to shortchanging buyers of vegetables to raise precious money.

The funeral procession on the inundated streets of Malabon is destined to be an iconic Mendoza moment. We see Lola Sepa, family members, loved ones, friends, and neighbors riding in a half-dozen bancas as they serenely go to the cemetery. No one is crying. It is as if their tear ducts have all dried up.

There is also a beautiful, night-time shot of a shimmering, gleaming flooded street that bodes hope and redemption. The ending shows the two grandmothers, along with loved ones, coming out of the Hall of Justice. They have overcome the latest problems that life has thrown at them. Drawing strength from family members, they are ready once more to wade through life’s joys and sorrows.

Lola will open the 11th Cinemanila International Film Festival, which runs October 15-25, 2009 at the Market! Market! Cinemas in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. Opening night is by invitation only. Check the Cinemanila website for more information

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