Archive for the ‘cinemalaya 2013 reviews’ Tag

9th Cinemalaya Film Festival Review: Part 4   4 comments

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:

BABAGWA
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.

Rating: 3.5/5

TRANSIT
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.

Rating: 4.5/5

DAVID F
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.

Rating: 2.5/5

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.

Rating: 2.5/5

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

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9th Cinemalaya Film Festival Review: Part 3   6 comments

Okay guys, here’s part three of the my coverage of the 9th Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival. For those who missed the previous ones, Part 1 consists of 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. Here’s four movies from this year’s batch:

SANA DATI
Director: Jerrold Tarog
Cast: Lovi Poe, Paulo Avelino, Benjamin Alves, TJ Trinidad
Competition: Director’s Showcase

The film is a love story about a woman whose wedding is thrown away when a mysterious person arrives and reminds her of the man she really loves.

As the conclusion to his Camera Trilogy, director Jerrold Tarog intimately showcases how love can make a person strong yet vulnerable, how some instances push us to move forward despite wanting to be stagnant, and ultimately teaches us to let go. I’m captivated with how the story unfolds – one does not need a personal experience to feel Andrea’s (Lovi Poe) jitters on her wedding day, but you can clearly identify what she’s going through. It’s difficult to move to another stage of your life when you still attach yourself to the previous one and it’s even more difficult to unlatch yourself from it because you do not know where and how to begin. When Dennis (Paulo Avelino) enters the picture and made his presence be known to her, it makes her confront the lingering feelings that she still has. Probably my favourite scene is when Andrea was on the rails and just closed her eyes and probably gives her the peace of mind she wanted even just for a few moments. Aside from the strong writing and directing, the film benefits from having a great ensemble of actors. Lovi Poe is definitely one of the best actresses of her generation and this is just another addition to her list of memorable performances. Paulo Avelino resembles the “mysterious” person effectively – his curiosity leads you to think what his intentions really are. Both Benjamin Alves and TJ Trinidad were effective too, as well as the whole ensemble of actors who played as family members and friends in the movie. Tarog mentioned that he tried to pitch the movie several times since he conceptualized it seven years ago, and that this was the only time when he felt it was ready. And he surely knows what he is doing. Oh, and plus points for the Up Dharma Down song in the end.

Rating: 5/5

THE DIPLOMAT HOTEL
Director: Christopher Ad Castillo
Cast: Gretchen Barretto, Art Acuna, Mon Confiado, Nico Antonio
Competition: New Breed

Victoria Lansang (Gretchen Barretto) is a popular news reporter who has been requested to mediate a hostage crisis. And in front of a national television audience, something horribly goes wrong.

I really do not know what to make of The Diplomat Hotel. I must admit that it’s one of the more exciting films I have for this year, since the hotel itself is a popular horror destination which is known for its ghosts and other spiritual sightings. I acknowledge that the film wants to go on a different direction – it’s more of a psychological thriller and the ghosts that you probably expect to see are not literal ghosts but the ones people have within. I guess that made the film flat for me. When you have a prominent ghost location, it sets the mood for something that will build up the tension and fear; instead, all those fears came from the characters themselves and it leaves no attachment to the viewers. I can’t pinpoint what is wrong with the film (since I don’t think that WRONG is even the correct word to use for this), but I feel that it was a missed opportunity to highlight something better. The characters weren’t fleshed out interestingly, and as they scare themselves to death already, you won’t care a bit. If anything though, you can see that they tried – the Baguio shots were crisp, the “tour” inside the hotel was also good, and the ensemble is living up for their roles. Mon Confiado’s physically transformed look and Art Acuna were always dependable. As for Gretchen Barretto, you know she’s clearly trying and while certain deliveries still caught me off guard and resulted to some laughs, I see the effort. I guess that’s how I’ll sum the movie: the end result was bleh, but I acknowledge the effort.

Rating: 1.5/5

QUICK CHANGE
Director: Eduardo Roy Jr.
Cast: Mimi Juarenza, Jun-Jun Quintana, Miggs Cuaderno, Francine Garcia
Competition: New Breed

Life of Dorina, a middle-aged transsexual looking for his niche amidst the complexities of the world he is in. This is a story of suffering, acceptance, and hope.

Quick Change is one of the lesser known entries in this year’s filmfest: it does not have big stars in its cast, it does not have the most audience friendly story; however, it’s also one of this year’s biggest surprises. The film follows the life of Dorina, as he offers cheaper collagen injections to transsexuals and young women who want to have bigger breasts or more noticeable cheekbones. He’s particularly known in their community because of that business. Alongside his young nephew whom he calls Kuya, this is how Dorina lives his daily life. Oh, and he has a boyfriend who’s cheating on him with another transsexual. I like how Dorina’s personal predicament is ironic with what he’s doing for a living. Think of how Dr. Gregory House is someone who cures for a living but can’t cure his own. It’s also an interesting look on how this whole business works: who are the usual customers, what are their motives in doing so, and what are its implications to all of them. There is a scene in the near end where we see someone who looks like a frozen mannequin already due to countless injections but then goes on saying “Iturok niyo lang ng iturok, kahit ano. Basta gusto ko ang feeling ng karayom sa mukha ko” and that leads you to an idea that somewhere along the way, it will catch up to all of them. Dorina is a well written complex character supported with a fearless award worthy performance by Mimi Juarenza. It is safe (no pun intended) to say that it is this year’s “little film that could.”

Rating: 4/5

NUWEBE
Director: Joseph Israel Laban
Cast: Barbara Miguel, Jake Cuenca, Nadine Samonte, Anita Linda
Competition: New Breed

Inspired by the actual story of one of the youngest mothers in Philippine history, the film charts the story of Krista, who at the tender age of nine got pregnant from the sexual abuse of her own father.

Nuwebe benefits from having a really interesting premise and something that can speak volumes about an issue in our country considering that it was inspired from an actual story. With that said, it’s really hard to identify your place as a viewer while watching the film. I think the biggest problem of the movie is its writing. It was a big letdown from the film’s intriguing story. The dialogue was cringe worthy, and I know that I’m supposed to feel for Krista, but she left me confused and apathetic. She’s spewing lines to her mother like “Ano ako? tanga?” and “Ayoko ipalaglag ang anak ko.”, and while I give the director the benefit of the doubt that the “real” Krista did say that, it’s just too awkward to be believable. Her character was portrayed as an intelligent person in her class (as she’s the only one reciting – about the sperm and pollens of all topics), yet she admits to her mother that she did not know it was a bad thing that she and her father made a baby. By the near end, I just ended up not caring for any of the characters, Krista included. The premise has really some potential, but I don’t think it was smoothly fleshed out to totally work.

Rating: 1.5/5

Eleven down, four left to review. Last batch consisting of Hannah Espia’s Transit, Jason Paul Laxamana’s Babagwa, Emmanuel Palo’s David F, and Ces Evangelista’s Amor Y Muerte will be posted on Saturday morning.

You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl