As the 9th Cinemalaya closes tonight with the awards night ceremonies, I now post the last batch of reviews for this year’s filmfest. If you have been following this blog, you’ll know that I have posted eleven reviews already. Part 1 has Gil Portes’ Liars, Mikhail Red’s Rekorder, Carlo Obispo’s Purok 7, and Jeffrey Jeturian’s Ekstra, Part 2 has Adolf Alix’s Porno, Alvin Yapan’s Debosyon, and Leo Abaya’s Instant Mommy, while Part 3 consists of Jerrold Tarog’s Sana Dati, Christopher Ad Castillo’s The Diplomat Hotel, Joseph Israel Laban’s Nuwebe and Eduardo Roy Jr.’s Quick Change. Now I present the final piece of the puzzle with the last four movies of this year’s Cinemalaya entries:
Director: Jason Paul Laxamana
Cast: Alex Medina, Alma Concepcion, Joey Paras, Kiko Matos
Competition: New Breed
An internet scammer falls in love with a wealthy old maid while trying to swindle her using a fake Facebook profile.
The whole concept of Babagwa is probably one of the more relatable ones in this year’s batch. While one does not need to do fake profiles in order to relate to the film, it tackles the unveiling of one’s identity in this time of social media obsession. Laxamana’s screenplay is one that’s fresh and inspired. During the first two parts of the story, we were introduced on how this whole bogus scam works – we see the step by step process of how they pull off this shenanigan and how they successfully pulls off money from their targets. The last act is the weakest one though; by the time it started, everyone already has a hunch of what will happen and how it will end up. But two things make up for it: first, everyone still waits for the reveal despite knowing how it will end up. Second, Laxamana’s effective build up and depiction as Paras’ narrates while it shifts back and forth to Greg (Alex Medina) to support the narration. It’s a build up that can easily hit or miss, but in this case, it definitely worked. I’ve learned that this won the Audience Choice in the New Breed category, and I’m actually not surprised at all. The way the director held up the audience at the edge of their seats without going backwards is a feat of itself. We’re also treated to mighty fine performances of Alex Medina and Joey Paras, as they are probably frontrunners for awards on Sunday night.
Director: Hannah Espia
Cast: Irma Adlawan, Ping Medina, Jasmine Curtis Smith, Mercedes Cabral, Marc Justine Alavarez
Competition: New Breed
The film begins and ends in an airport during a father and son’s transit flight from Tel Aviv to Manila.
One of the best things about Transit is how it connects its characters and stories seamlessly. I like the approach director Hannah Espia used in order to present to us the five characters in the movie. She clearly knows how to intricately weave all these similar and shared events from different points of view and how each and every one of them is affected by it. That same approach works perfectly well in the context of her storytelling, and it’s one that I will appreciate the most here. With that said, the movie also boasts of technical and acting achievements. The cinematography here is gorgeous, and even in small scenes like the one of Yael in the playground is very much inspired. The ensemble is also really commendable. All characters feel very natural from their speaking manners up to their interactions with each other. Irma Adlawan portrayal of a mother is one that can make you see your own mother too. Jasmine Curtis’ has these raw acting chops that were well showcased here. It’s one that surprised you with her depth. But the heart of the movie probably lies with the four year old kid, Joshua. And he exudes this innocence that will certainly leave an impression on you. By effectively combining both the emotional tug and effective presentation of the story, there’s no doubt that Hannah Espia’s debut feature is one of the year’s best films.
Director: Emmanuel Palo
Cast: Eula Valdez, Rocky Salumbides, Daxx Martin, Shamaine Buencamino
Competition: New Breed
David F weaves three stories that look into the lineage of African-Americans in the Philippines –from American soldiers in the Fil-Am war to the “Amboys” in the former Clark Airfield.
The premise of David F somewhat reminds me of Stephen Daldry’s The Hours. While that may really be arguable, the Af-Am connection is probably the Mrs. Dalloway counterpart. On the first part, we travel back to see a David Fagel being captured by two Filipinos and is on his way to become beheaded when his Filipino partner suddenly appears to free him. The next part is during the Japanese occupation when a deaf woman carries the child of a Filipino soldier. The last one is during the present time when a comedy act performer wants to find his father who is named David Fagel and is being helped by a volunteer to trace the steps in doing so. The thing with David F. is that it seemed that the three stories are somewhat disjointed and tends up to either overwhelm or underwhelm the audience, depending on how you enjoy each segment. While there are some strong aspects in each of the three stories, the whole is not the sum of its parts here. You can see some good storytelling in each part but it wasn’t totally fleshed out to leave a mark to its viewers. With that said, the director’s attempt is appreciated and the film has believable production design especially during the two earlier parts. I was actually invested the most in the third one, but it did not leave enough room for me to cling on to the story and the whole movie just felt half baked.
AMOR Y MUERTE
Director: Cesar Evangelista
Cast: Althea Vega, Markki Stroem, Ama Quiambao, Adrian Sebastian
Competition: Director’s Showcase
An erotic 16th Century period drama, the film examines the initial encounter between the indios and their colonizers and their conflicting views on love, passion, religion, and sexuality.
The trailer of the film suggests that it will be some sort of a no holds barred level of eroticism in the context of the 16th Century. On one hand, they actually did portray that, as it showed the different views of the characters in the film, and how they conflicted with thoughts on the said aspects. But the approach it did will make the viewers feel like “That’s it?” once the credits roll. Probably because it left viewers conflicting whether it’s a tongue in cheek or a serious approach. That’s how I see it. Others expecting it’s a serious film will probably remember the tongue in cheek ones while those who find it light will look for the depth of what the movie wants to offer. However, the redeeming factor of the film is its technical achievements. The music adds more interest, and some shots were memorable, albeit way too overdone. Althea Vega is really good here, capturing the conflicting character of her natural feelings with the adjustments that she has to undergo now. It is a very physical role and she showed no signs of inhibition at all. All in all, I’d say that Amor Y Muerte’s strength lies in Vega’s performance and its technical achievements than what it wants to say in its story.
There you have it. Whew, finally it’s over! The awards night will happen tonight over at the CCP as they hand out the best of the best (really? LOL) from this year’s batch of films. Good luck to everybody!
You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl