Tuesday, October 21, 2014

QCinema International Film Festival 2014 Schedule


Nice slate of films for the 75th founding anniversary of Quezon City! There are also several free screenings to boot. 

Now, I hope organizers follow their sked with a few deviations. It is a hassle going to the mall and finding out that the film you will view has been rescheduled or, worse, will not be shown.

Alienasyon and Lilet Never Happened are way up there on my watch list.

Friday, October 17, 2014

K'na The Dreamweaver (Ida Anita del Mundo, Cinemalaya 2014)


'Mara Lopez does a new trick in this film,' says my brother-in-law. I racked up my brains trying to find something new in Mara's performance. My brother-in-law relents and says that Mara kept her clothes on throughout the film. Ah, yes, I remember those enchanting clothes.

The intricately designed t'nalak attires stole the thunder from the actors. The bloody red color of the woven fabrics complement the verdant surroundings of the lake-side community. The striking costume patterns are products of dreams by the predecessors of K'na (Mara Lopez). The young lady is the latest one given the responsibility of manufacturing designs.
She is a dreamweaver and a peacemaker, too. She makes a huge sacrifice in order to bind two tribes together once more.

K'na The Dreamweaver is a lavish visual feast of colorful traditional costumes and picturesque settings in South Cotabato. It is a grand showcase of the culture and way of life of the T'boli people. There is music in the air as maidens walk by because of jangling brass bells on their waists. The whole village was constructed the traditional way. There was nary a nail used in building the huts.

A beautiful, symbolic scene shows a heartbroken K'na riding a boat towards the village of the Northern tribe. The chasm has been breached by her flood of tears. There's another scene of K'na seemingly submerged from her overflowing tears as her lover looks on.

The stories of star-crossed lovers and warring tribes are staples of local adventure films. The film K'na needs to have a unique image or plot line that will make it doubly memorable or even better, into the annals of Cinemalaya greats. As the film nears the end, I was betting on the lover's show of affection for K'na. He faithfully ties red yarns on tree branches to show her love for the lady.

I was expecting a dazzling display of fiery strands hanging from trees at the end of the film. Years have passed since K'na went home. The excited audience hold their breath as a wide-eyed K'na scans the trees. Then, the camera cuts to the trees.


Ehrrr, is that it? It was a big letdown. The red streaks barely made an impact. Oh well, I still have those clothes and the grandeur of Lake Sebu to remember.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Dementia (Percival Intalan, 2014)


Mara (Nora Aunor) is suffering from dementia. Her caring cousin Elaine (Bing Loyzaga) convinces her to return to their home province of Batanes. Maybe the months-long vacation will help in bringing back memories. It seems to be a good suggestion as we see Mara guiding her kin to her home. There's no hesitation at all with the route she takes. The pathways are as familiar to her as an old glove or first love.

From the outside, the stone house seems to be small. But, it is surprisingly humongous and well-kept. Roaming through the house, Mara stirs up her worst memories. The restless ghost of the past torments her. That's the problem with reliving memories, some ought to be forgotten forever.

The audience experiences the horrors of Mara's imagination. From the boat ride up to the cliff side scene, it had been a dark journey into the deep recesses of Mara's mind. The cinematography brightens up a few notches after the Mulholland Drive-tinged plot ends with a freefall dive. The muted colors clear up as the plot's final jigsaw puzzle piece is unveiled.

I will remember Dementia not for the plot twist but for the wondrous performances of Bing Loyzaga and Jasmine Curtis-Smith. Nora Aunor gives her usual stellar performance but her younger co-stars exceed themselves. I especially remember the look of annoyance on the face of Rachel (Jasmine Curtis-Smith) as she hops on to the tricycle of a distant male kin.

Bing Loyzaga is so good as the cousin of Mara. She doesn't need to raise her eyebrows or raise her voice to be noticed. She just fits to a tee her role of an altruistic kin. There's something simple with her actions that make her so effective. I also loved her in another horror film, Celso Ad Castillo's Bahay Ng Lagim. Now, that house is something I will return to in a flash.


Friday, October 03, 2014

Hari Ng Tondo (Carlos Siguion-Reyna, Cinemalaya 2014)


Hari Ng Tondo is among a trio of popular Cinemalaya films, including Hustisya and The Janitor, which probed and dealt with the dirt and grime of the crime-infested city of Manila.

An important dramatic scene shows a dejected grandfather, Ricardo Vilena (Robert Arevalo), buckling down from the weight of his grief. He cannot believe the genial Tondo district he grew up in has turned into a grimy, violence-laden area. He stands up and faces the problems head on.

Vilena joins hands with neighbors to clean their surroundings. The remaining problem, violence, is not something he and his toughened grandchildren and neighbors cannot handle at all. They huddle together and brace up for hooligans and trouble-makers.

Director Carlos Siguion-Reyna grew up in Tondo and must have shared the sentiments of Vilena about the faded luster of Manila and broken promises of local leaders. His comeback film, Hari Ng Tondo, chastises past local kings, Dirty Hari and others, for the sorry state of the capital. The film challenges current Hari ng Tondo (Erap Estrada) to live up to the excellent leadership of Arsenio Lacson. The filmmakers seem hopeful in Estrada's capability to turn things around.

The film suggests that Manila is worth living in despite the obvious blight, horrendous traffic, and monstrous floods. A couple of rich kids ditched their cozy, comfy homes to live in with their grandfather, Ricardo Vilena, in the notorious Tondo district. They see how garbage bins are raided for recyclable food. They scamper away from fights sprouting like mushrooms in nearly every street corner. But, amidst all the poverty and gang riots they learn about love and community bonding. 


Soulful music, emanating from the heart of the compound, cleanses and soothes the hearts of everyone who hears it. A bit of that music, loads of courageous art, and lots of caring hearts will play a big role in restoring the grandeur and allure of Manila.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Bwaya (Francis Xavier Pasion, Cinemalaya 2014 Best Picture Winner)


The deceptively sleek, powerful film Bwaya highlights a more fearsome predator than the 20-foot-long saltwater crocodile Lolong. Heart-wrenching story deals with a fatal crocodile attack on a girl at a marshland in Agusan del Sur. 

Director Francis Xavier Pasion returns with the caustic bite of his award-winning Cinemalaya film Jay. He sets the cross-hairs once again on slimy media people and, uumm, exploitative filmmakers. This time around, the family of the victim runs afoul of people who filches a huge sum of contributed money. The amount is miniscule when compared to the pork barrel funds stashed away by lawmakers but it is a significant bonanza to a destitute family.

Angeli Bayani gives a dazzling performance as the poor mother of the dead girl. A memorable poignant segment shows the mother failing to identify, and unable to get hold of her daughter's art drawing. She is illiterate hence her failure to decipher the names on the drawings. There is bitter laughter when her request to take home the drawing is shot down by a student.

The mother, obviously reeling from trauma, attempts to continue her daughter's school project which is a requirement for graduation. The school project, a paper-beaded curtain, ironically resembles a massive crocodile's sharp, angled bony plates. When the curtain sways with the wind, it looks like a crocodile bobbing in and out of the water.

The film's visual flourishes continue with shots of slender boats making their way through the narrow water paths. The main leads, Bayani and Karl Medina, make it seem so easy to traverse the marshland.

Bwaya brilliantly likens the plight of the grieving mother to the quandary of endangered crocodiles. All of them suffer because their respective territories are being encroached upon. The aquatic reptiles have seen their habitats diminish because of intrusion by humans. Their eggs are being poached for commercial gain or worse, destroyed. The mother's loss of a child is made worse by snooty media people and greedy authorities.

The ending of Bwaya suggests a solution to their plight.

Leave them alone.

I'm glad though that Pasion didn't heed it, else we would have been deprived of this wonderful, award-winning film.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Dagitab (Giancarlo Abrahan, Cinemalaya 2014)


Dagitab sizzles like a crispy, tasty lechon roasted on an open coal fire.

The initial insightful scene has a professor fanning herself during an open-air, summer graduation ceremony at the country's national university. Adding to her discomfort is a lightning rally staged by graduating students. The last scene of the film shows the female professor out in the open field once more. This time, she has simmered down. Alas, her marriage has lost its fire, too. What remains are flickering embers of love as suggested by fireflies hovering over the professor and her husband.

The burnt-out feelings of the middle-age couple are depicted in a scene showing them touching hot things such as microwaved food. The wife is having hot flashes and the husband is yearning for passionate embrace of a lost lover. The heat must be unbearable because we see them in various states of undress.

One of the best scenes has the female professor and a young male writing fellow lying down on a beach. Both are smiling and obviously having a good time. The poetic top-down shot shows them lapping up gentle waves of ocean water. The wave base intersects the seafloor creating bubbly water that licks and caresses their feet, legs, buttocks, bodies, arms, and tresses. The white bubbles contrast beautifully with the blackish sand. Little did the female professor know that she will soon drown in an ocean of lies.

Another memorable scene has the husband encountering his lost lover in the boondocks. The activist lover, Lorena (Max Eigenmann), is seen as a diwata. I have never seen a diwata on movies as seductively enchanting as Eigenmann, daughter of the late actor Mark Gil. Stunning screen presence by the young Eigenmann lends support to the diwata's hypnotic grip on the husband. He eventually decides to settle in the boondocks.

Director Giancarlo Abrahan has created a loving ode to his alma mater, the University of the Philippines (UP). It is quite daring for him to undertake this ambitious project about two UP professors who've lived, studied, and taught for decades at the Diliman campus. He overcame the difficulty of depicting the school's idiosyncrasies and tradition of excellence. It probably helped that most members of the production crew also come from UP.

The UP Diliman scenes eschew famous places such as the Oblation and the Carillon Plaza. Instead, the filmmakers highlighted ordinary places and happenings at the campus such as jogging along the acacia-lined avenues, and holding sit-down lectures at the Faculty Hall. If you're a member of the alumni community or a student, then watching this film is as satisfying as the Maroons' first win at the UAAP in two seasons. Yes, it is worth lighting up a gigantic bonfire.

I've barely scratched the surface of this excellent film, whose title Dagitab means 'sparks.' There are lots of surprises in store for the viewers. Among the top reasons for watching the film are the sumptuous, electrifying performances of the two leads, Eula Valdes and Nonie Buencamino. The duo remind me of the middle-age couple featured in Before Midnight. When they talk and connect, the screen sizzles and sparkles.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Cine Europa 17 screening schedule at Shang Cineplex (11-21 September 2014)


It's an early Christmas gift for cinephiles. Coming on the heels of the Chinese Film Festival at SM Cinemas, Cine Europa 2014 will conquer Mandaluyong City and eight other cities all over the Philippines. 

Of special interest to Filipinos is the United Kingdom film Metro Manila. A mix of Lino Brocka and Raymond Red films, Metro Manila is also a knockout, white-knuckle thriller. It was UK's entry to the Oscars.

True-blue Filipino films are also slated including Magnifico, Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, and Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan.


The hugely popular international film festival then rolls over to Baguio and Iloilo in September 2014. Cebu, Leyte, Tacloban, and Davao host the fest in October 2014. The last pair of cities, Zamboanga and Cagayan de Oro, get their Cine Europa fix in November 2014.

                                                                              Schedule source: http://www.bmeia.gv.at/fileadmin/user_upload/bmeia/bilder/Botschaften/Manila/Cine_Europa_17_Manila_Flyer_final__3_.pdf