Still celebrating the first decade of Cinemalaya Indepedent Film Festival this week, Tit for Tat continues its rundown of the 15 films participating this year both in New Breed and Director’s Showcase. We began with Part 1 yesterday which turned out to be a good batch of starting films which include Real Florido’s “1st Ko si 3rd“, Giancarlo Abrahan’s “Dagitab“, and Milo Sogueco’s “Mariquina“. Today, we add three more films (all part of the New Breed category) in the mix.
Director: Francis Xavier Pasion
Cast: Angeli Bayani, Karl Medina, RS Francisco,
Competition: New Breed
Based on a 2009 incident in Agusan del Sur about a 12-year old girl who was attacked by a crocodile the day after her birthday, Bwaya remained as truthful as possible in keeping the details of the incident intact. The film focused on the span of ta few days from victim Rowena’s birthday up until the searching and aftermath of the incident.
No doubt about it, the story is affecting and probably one of too good to pass up stories to tell especially in the big screen. It was a larger than life incident that left an impact to everyone who heard about it. That said, I’m really not entirely sold with some of the approach used in it. In Pasion’s previous Cinemalaya entry Jay, the use of a documentary/mockumentary treatment was fitting to know the characters deeper. In here though, I find the actual interviews to the real parents a bit odd and out of place. Every now and then, we’ll hear some commentary from the parents of Rowena and I felt that they were unnecessary, since the writing has already done an effective job in narrating the story. The parallelism of the water crocodiles to the land predators weren’t as effective as well with the use of a red herring that didn’t really work out. However, what faults I find in its approach were almost made up by the fantastic visual scenes in the film. Those wide aerial shots of the rivers and the boats are just breathtaking to see, and given the difficulties and circumstances of shooting there, it was really impressive. Angeli Bayani continues her streak of great performances; her portrayal of Divina is both heartbreaking and vulnerable. And her commitment to the role is really astounding as she shifts from calm and quiet to shout-y and big in a snap. Overall, Bwaya for the most part is moving, even if I obviously had some issues with it.
Director: Gino M. Santos
Cast: Elmo Magalona, Coleen Garcia, Sophie Albert, Kit Thompson, Slater Young
Competition: New Breed
As Miles’ (Elmo Magalona) attempt of suicide failed, we then follow the lives of four friends from the millennial generation in their adventures which also served as a commentary to what it;s like to be a part of Y generation.
Some parts comedic, some parts dramatic, but definitely cathartic, director Gino M. Santos clearly has a vision of what this film wants to achieve. His humor in dealing what is a sensitive topic for most, reminded me of a crossbreed between Alexander Payne in Election and Wes Anderson in Royal Tenenbaums, is one of the film’s strengths. While one can easily accuse him of having style over substance, I’ve felt that the energy he has shown in his first feature The Animals (a 2012 Cinemalaya entry in the New Breed too) is now more contained this time around, and it compliments the tone of the film. The social commentary isn’t preachy as well, nor is it totally alienating despite probably going inside the theater thinking that it will solely cater to the millennials. And hand it to his mostly newbie cast to deliver. He did it with Albie Casino, Patrick Sugui, and Dawn Jimenez (Dawn Balagot back then) in The Animals, and he does the same in his quartet of actors here. Kit Thompson was ever so playful as the high libido-ed Ping who jerks off his feelings literally and figuratively. Sophie Albert playing the most toned down of the four as someone who still has reservations about her virginity. Then there’s Coleen Garcia’s, who’ll probably give Emma Watson a run for her money in The Bling Ring, as Janna who says what you want to hear and moreso, what you don’t want to hear. Elmo Magalona’s Miles is the main character in it. At first, I was bothered with his narration, but then I think it suits his character. There’s a well directed car scene near the end that has the four characters in it, and what a great ensemble that was. There’s also an (intentional? unintentional?) Mean Girls homage in the film, and at that point, it’s as if I need another reason to love the film. Now after doing two features, Gino M. Santos gives an energetic boost to a mostly complacent field right now. If he somehow ends up representing this younger generation, I actually think that it is more than deserved.
Director: GB Sampedro
Cast: Alfred Vargas, Ricky Davao, Victor Neri, Anjo Yllana, Jason Abalos, Erik Santos
Competition: New Breed
Trying for some paradigm shift here by focusing it to the guys, S6parados tells the story of six (as if it isn’t obvious enough) men who all wants to be separated from something. Victor Neri is separating from his wife due to sexual incompatibility, Ricky Davao ends their 26 year marriage thinking it’s now time to unleash his inner self, Jason Abalos wants to start a new life away from his drug addicted live in partner, Anjo Yllana feels trapped to his marriage as his wife wants her to stop from being a seaman, Erik Santos is a battered husband to his over paranoid wife, and Alfred Vargas wants to free himself from his over religious wife.
At this point, I’m bound to have a clunker no? Incidentally, it happened in my sixth film for this year, S6parados, which gave a new meaning to the word overload. I’m pretty certain you got tired from reading the synopsis above because it’s too many stories, too little development. The thing with S6parados is that it is already outdated; there’s nothing about it that we have already seen before, probably even better versions of these stories. And one of the film’s faults is that it did not really present anything new for such “perspective.” Basically, it’s like throwing pies on a wall waiting which of them will stick. I guess I’ll give them some props for at least even attempting to do the simultaneous multi-linear storytelling (flawlessly pulled off by Transit last year), but then again, all of it just feels contrived and forced that you wouldn’t even bother. The ensemble is probably one of the few saving grace of this film (if you can even call it as such), and even then, you know there’s only too much they can do to save this. Just think of it as a failed spin-off to Desperate Housewives. Separate Husbands perhaps?
There you have it! The reviews of the next four films will be posted on Wednesday morning. Do not forget that you can also follow me on Twitter: @nikowl