Hi everyone! Aside from Cinemalaya and Cinema One Originals, there are two newbie local festivals that will offer other possible venues for local cinema to be seen. The first one is the Sineng Pambansa: All Masters Edition which is hosted by the Film Development Council of the Philippines. This year, ten outputs from some of the most memorable names in the local filmmaking scene participated to be a part of this (hopefully) annual festival. SM Cinemas served as the venue partner of the FDCP this year, and each movie ticket is only for a hundred pesos. Anyway, I’ll be dividing my coverage into three parts (especially since three films are still in post-production status). Here are the first three films I’ve seen during the festival’s opening day.
Directors: Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes
cast: Cherie Gil, Chart Motus, Joshua Pineda, Chino Jalandoni
Set in the beautiful and photogenic lands of Negros Occidental, Sonata tells the story of an aging opera diva dealing with an breakdown caused by the slow losing of her voice. When the son of their family caretaker joins and spends his vacation there, an unlikely friendship develop between the two as they both continue their journey to self-discovery.
Sonata is a lovely way to start my Sineng Pambansa experience this year. It is a light-hearted drama that a lot of people can find themselves enjoying because of the film’s simple but heartfelt approach. It somehow reminded me of Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil’s Boses on how two opposites (an adult and a child) managed to help each other in discovering more about themselves and life in particular. However, you can replace the violin with opera here. It is within these heartfelt scenes that the movie find its best footing. With that said, I could have lived without that ending, as it veered away from what worked in the initial parts of the film. If anything though, it was already predictable given the lots of context clues scattered in the film up until that ending. Cherie Gil was marvelous in her take of Margo Channing meets Norma Desmond. The parts where she’s talking about all the previous operas she starred was a hoot. It could have been an easy way out for an actress of her caliber to phone it in, but she refused to take that route, and instead give a satisfying and effective performance. Also, Negros Occidental is so beautiful to look at. Gallaga and Reyes’ collaboration here was satisfying for the most part; it’s not a masterpiece per se, but it gives an effective and poignant take on what it has to offer.
Director: Mel Chionglo
Cast: Allen Dizon, Bangs Garcia, Victor Basa, Adrian Cabido
Going back to 1955, the movie captures pretty barrio lass Lauriana (Bangs Garcia), and how she left an impact to two of the closest men in her life: the soldier who treated her as his “wife”, and the child who used to teach her the English language.
In this film, director Mel Chionglo served too much in the film that resulted to an over of some sorts. First, the story felt disjointed and forced despite being overwhelmed with everything that’s happening in it (and I’m telling you there’s a looooot that’s happening in it). If some movies usually weaken because of abandoning minor plots, this film does the opposite and discussed all possible areas they possibly can. What resulted is a combo of messy plotting and a very uneven pacing. It seems to go back and forth into different perspectives without a smooth connection (well I guess Lauriana’s character) that actually works. This is disappointing since there are some parts in the film that can be focused longer to come up with a more interesting end result. Instead, it just went on and on and on during the last act showing no signs of stopping. Add the fact that the acting here is all over the place with mostly everyone’s acting motto is described in one word : histrionics. I guess the film’s lack of focus is the root of all these problems; otherwise, there would have been a different (and probably better?) product.
Director: Joel Lamangan
Cast: Jake Cuenca, Joem Bascon, Lovi Poe, Isabelle Daza
In the midst of the Martial Law years, two NPA rebels find not only sharing ideologies and beliefs, but feelings for each other. The film is told in a flashback approach as the daughter of one of them find more information about her father.
I wasn’t initially sold by the approach that Lamangan used in order to narrate the story, but the end product did not have any problem translating it to the viewers. After seeing a lot of Lamangan’s more recent features (from 2009’s Dukot up to Burgos from earlier this year), I am reminded that he probably fancies this niche too much lately, because I think the whole NPA stuff was just a background piece in this story. The focus of the film actually deviates more than what I expected. What I mean is that the love story between Ador and Cesar could have been set in a ranch and they’d be sheep herders (wink wink) and what you’d get is practically the same story. i saw that the film tried to go deeper than that to address the said concern (by leaving it to the present day scenes), but it just didn’t completely work out. With that said, there were commendable performances especially from the 1970s part with Joem’s Ennis and Jake’s Jack having no inhibitions with each other. And Lovi Poe is always a treat to watch. Issues aside, I think it’s a decent enough effort from Lamangan that you can see.
PS: Is it just me or the middle image of the film’s poster reminds you of the near end part of 2000’s Plata Quemada? Or for a more common reference, the bottom part of the poster of Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa.
Anyway, that’s it. Next batch hopefully by Saturday. I urge all of you to go watch and support the Sineng Pambansa Film Festival. The whole fest will run from September 11-17 in all SM cinemas nationwide for only 100 pesos!
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