Sunday, December 04, 2016

Miss Saigon: 25th Anniversary Performance (Brett Sullivan, 2016)

Miss Saigon: 25th Anniversary Performance is a feel-good Pinoy pride movie. Composed mostly of footages taken during the 25th Anniversary Gala show of Miss Saigon, the filmed play showcases to great detail the extraordinary artistry of performers with Filipino blood.

The first highlight goes to Rachel Anne Go portraying the reigning Miss Saigon, Gigi. The song ‘The Movie in My Mind’ tells of Gigi’s dream of a better future. She is tired of servicing soldiers who screw like boys. Her highly expressive face is shown clearly in several close-up shots.

A major advantage of film is it can focus on a certain performer or give a better view of facial expression. I’ve seen the musical Miss Saigon in its Manila run at the Cultural Center of the Philippines a long time ago. I was seated way up high at the Balcony section and can barely see the faces of the performers. The visual treats that stuck with me then were the mammoth scenes such as the Helicopter evacuation scene and the fall of Saigon parade. I’ve heard the songs but I didn’t see the performances.

The filmed musical Miss Saigon levels the playing field. The audience gets to see the performers’ emotive faces up close. The downside to a filmed play is when the cinema audience claps in appreciation it is a one-way gesture. There’s no sharing of love.

The crowd favorite Jon Jon Briones is stunning as an opportunistic manager of a girlie bar in Vietnam. Briones, being an Oriental, fits the role of the Engineer. The Engineer’s deep yearning for the American way of life is seen during 'The American Dream’ scene. Here, Briones pants like a dog. The Engineer’s huge ambition overwhelms his small stature.

Jonathan Pryce is a good actor but the Engineer is really a Vietnamese. Well, Pryce might have put up a great performance as an Engineer that the audience simply ignored his white skin.

The US-born Fil-Am actress, Eva Noblezada, evokes empathy with her innocent, gentle voice as Kim. There's a tinge of vulnerability in her that makes men take notice and care for her.

The first Act is packed with amazing musical highlights. However, there's an early small scene that made me believe in the filmed concept. A notable scene shows a saxophone player showered with cocaine powder. As the white dust settle on the shimmery sax, the player is egged to hit the ‘high note.’ This is a case where the filmed scene is an improvement on the theatre scene. Without the white dust, the ‘high note’ phrase is a mere musical term and not a druggie term.

A major bonus of the film is a 35 minute show featuring stars of the original cast, Jonathan Pryce, Simon Bowman, and Lea Salonga.

Rachel Ann Go reprises the 'Movie in My Mind' song this time with the original Kim, Lea Salonga. She is really a fantastic singer. The filmed version of the song, while stunning, sees Rachel Ann Go singing in a mix of live performance and subsequent filmed close-up footages. Yes, there are lots of sleight of hand editing wizardry done in the filmed version. However, the gala performance of Go with Salonga shows pure Filipino singing talents at their finest. There is no take two for the two wonderful ladies.

My main complaint with the filmed version of Miss Saigon is the fuzzy texture of the film. It is not as clear as the filmed version of the 25th anniversary show of Phantom of the Opera. But, even though it is not in high definition, I'm thankful to relive the musical Miss Saigon on a theater widescreen.

Searching for a Christmas present for the theater fan? Look no further. A Blu-ray or DVD version of the filmed version of Miss Saigon is the perfect gift.

Si Magdalola At Ang Mga Gago (Jules Katanyag, Cinema One Originals 2016)

In the indie film scene, there are several people working behind the scenes whose presence in the credit roll marks that film to be of high quality. Of course, they do appear in some clunkers but these team players are like solid baseball pinch hitters able to help their team win big. On the top of my head, such reliable film people include producer Bianca Balbuena, producer Daphne Chiu, scriptwriter Michiko Yamamoto, editor Carlo Francisco Manatad, and script consultant Armando Lao.

Filmmaker Timmy Harn had been helping tyro filmmakers work on their dream projects for the Cinema One Originals film competition the past three years. He was a finalist during the 2013 competition with his film Ang Pagbabalat ng Ahas. In 2014 and 2015 competitions, he was assistant director to the award-winning films Violator and Manang Biring. This year, assistant director Harn kept his Midas touch by helping the film Si Magdalola At Ang Mga Gago win the Jury Prize. 

Si Magdalola At Ang Mga Gago surprisingly incorporated some concepts from films made by Harn. Reptilian behavior, horrific flaming deaths, and feisty elderly women find their way into this wonderful amalgamation of film genres.

Memorable oddball characters created by Jules Katanyag include a nubile granddaughter, an English-speaking food-sensitive villain, a pistol-packing female mayor, and the titular elderly shaman, Magda (Peewee O’Hara). They keep the story boiling because any interaction between or among themselves reek of strong sexual tension or high suspense.

Si Magdalola At Ang Mga Gago utilizes multi-screen images that seemingly blend an insect’s way of seeing with a witch’s clairvoyance. The witches can locate the whereabouts of any person. A witch easily traverses the forest like a slithery snake to put a hex on a rapist.

A hilarious scene uses the subtitle to bring on the laughs. The gang leader is more adept in mauling the English language than in gunning down the spunky Magda.

The action scenes are okay although the scenes to watch out for are the graphic drug abuse scenes. The dopey girl who've had a good time ended up in the morgue. Another scene shows a pair of thugs trying to extract information from a druggie.

Si Magdalola At Ang Mga Gago combines the lunacy of Big Time, the surprises of a Quentin Tarantino movie, and the smoldering atmosphere of Alon. It is a heady, messy, bloody but intensely riveting movie.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Sa Ikauunlad ng Bayan, Pelikula ang Kailangan

To the millennials interested in learning more about the Marcoses, the 20-year reign of President Marcos, and the Martial Law era, check out the following films from a variety of directors:

1)      Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim (Lino Brocka) – a desperate, laid-off worker is forced to commit a crime
2)      Dekada ’70 (Chito Roño) - a middle class family supports the idealism of a young activist
3)      Forbidden Memory (Teng Mangansakan) – survivors speak out against the perpetrators of the September 1974 massacre in Mindanao
4)      Imelda (Ramona Diaz) – a documentary on the idiosyncrasies of the wife of President Ferdinand Marcos
5)      Ka Oryang (Sari Lluch Dalena) – a female medical student decides to serve the people
6)      Mula Sa Kung Ano ang Noon (Lav Diaz) – militarization during the pre-Martial Law era
7)      Pisay
(Kanakan Balintagos) – a group of high school scholars gets caught up in the Yellow fever
8)      Sakada (Behn Cervantes) – sugarcane farmers fight for their rights
9)      Sister Stella L. (Mike de Leon) – an awakened religious sister urges the audience to go out in the streets and fight the Marcos dictatorship
Working Girls (Ishmael Bernal) – a lady boss with the initials C.A. battles male chauvinist pigs and breaks the glass ceiling

Forbidden Memory (Teng Mangansakan, Cinema One Originals 2016 Best Documentary Winner)

Recollection of atrocities during Martial Law played a big part in the build-up to the People Power Uprising in 1986. The courageous bearers of stories risked their lives to expose the violent, corrupt nature of the Marcos administration.

The wellspring of horrendous Martial Law stories has yet to dry up. With the hushed and rushed burial of President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, Martial Law victims are coming out with their stories.

Forbidden Memory documents eyewitness accounts of the gruesome massacre of more than 1,500 adult males in Palisbong, Sultan Kudarat in September 1974.

The documentary consists basically of a barrage of talking heads. However, filmmaker Teng Mangansakan alternated the interviewees. Generally, four to six persons talk about the circumstances of the incident. This editing device serves to concretize the horrendous communal experience.

It is not only one family that felt military abuse. Hundreds of families were greatly affected by the wanton criminal act of the soldiers. Women and children were put on board naval ships. The adult males were then herded and subsequently killed. Their only fault was that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Towards the end of Forbidden Memory, the issue of a Marcos burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani springs out in the open. More than three decades have passed but the anger towards the Marcos administration still seethes among the survivors. They do not want him to be buried honorably. One frail, elderly woman regretted not having been the one to kill President Marcos.

To the millennials interested in learning more about the Marcoses, the 20-year reign of President Marcos, and the Martial Law era, check out the following films from a variety of directors:

1)      Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim (Lino Brocka) – a desperate, laid-off worker is forced to commit a crime
2)      Dekada ’70 (Chito Roño) - a middle class family supports the idealism of a young activist
3)      Forbidden Memory (Teng Mangansakan) – survivors speak out against the perpetrators of the September 1974 massacre in Mindanao
4)      Imelda
(Ramona Diaz) – documentary on the idiosyncrasies of the wife of President Ferdinand Marcos
5)      Ka Orya
ng (Sari Lluch Dalena) – a female medical student decides to serve the people
6)      Mula Sa Kung Ano ang Noon (Lav Diaz) – militarization during the pre-Martial Law era
7)      Pisay (Kanakan Balintagos) – a group of high school scholars gets caught up in the Yellow fever
8)      Sakada (Behn Cervantes) – sugarcane farmers fight for their rights
9)      Sister Stella L. (Mike de Leon) – an awakened religious sister urges the audience to go out in the streets and fight the Marcos dictatorship
10)   Working
Girls (Ishmael Bernal) – a lady boss with the initials C.A. battles male chauvinist pigs and breaks the glass ceiling

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Miss Bulalacao (Ara Chawdhury, Cinema One Originals 2015)

I was elated to see the list of films slated to be screened for free at the Cinema One Originals campus tour in UP Diliman. I’ve been waiting for months to see the critically-acclaimed films, Miss Bulalacao and Hamog. Alas, the organizers scrapped the two films from the slate.

I finally caught up with the two films at the Cinema One Originals 2016 screenings at Cinematheque Centre Manila. The admission price is an affordable one hundred pesos per film. Droves of students came over to watch the Cinema One Originals films. I applaud Cinematheque Manila for fully supporting the quest of master director Lino Brocka in forming the Great Filipino Audience.

Miss Bulalacao is a well-directed, highly restraint comedy film about a teenaged drag queen who gets pregnant. How the residents of a coastal community treated the expectant gay gets most of the screen time. His stepmother lovingly protects him from nasty neighbors. His woman employer, initially repulsed by the idea of a pregnant male person, makes a 180-degree turn and becomes a firm believer of a miraculous conception.

My favorite scene starts with the woman employer convincing the pregnant Dodong to stay with them. A nosy maid listens carefully to the telephone conversation. Sensing the conversation to be going nowhere, the maid scampers away and calls upon a fellow maid to go inside the home. They eagerly wait for the final stand of the boy before going on with their errands. Their nosy behavior is done in good faith. They make sure that the things they will buy will be utilized by their expected guest. The roles of maids may be small but they were infused with truthfulness.

The observant eye of the filmmaker coupled with an ear for believable relationship dialogues make the film grounded in reality despite the fantastical tale of a pregnant male. I also loved the fact that the filmmaker did not go the slapstick route in presenting the pregnancy woes of the ostracized boy. The tears shed by the grieving boy at the end are consistent with the film’s light and serious approach to the issue of motherhood.

The climax of the film book ends the early scene of an alien visit. It clears up any lingering doubts on the veracity of the pregnancy. The film, aside from being an entertaining piece, leaves several questions that audience can ponder. These are not typical beauty contest questions but more of the X-Files type of questions: Do extra-terrestrial beings fall under the familiar gender binary of male and female? How do they exactly reproduce? Is Jesus Christ an alien?

Miss Bulalacao is indeed a winner. On the other hand, Hamog is too dark and hazy for my taste.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Damortis (Briccio Santos, 1986)

The film Damortis begins with a footage of bloodied penitents during the Lenten season. A dozen of prostrated penitents mirror the passion and sufferings of Jesus Christ. At various points of the film, the different personas and interpretations of Jesus are shown or discussed. A radio program suggests Jesus as mere human. Foremost image that emerge though is that of a healing Christ.

Miguel, an ex-seminarian, returns to his hometown of Damortis in La Union because his father recently died. During his stay in that place, he reconnects with his healing power and assumes the title of local faith healer. He rekindles his relationship with his childhood friend, Anna (Madeleine Nicolas). The two friends later married after a whirlwind courtship.

Anna assists Miguel in his healing sessions. She initiates the idea of putting up donation boxes. The windfall from clients became so big they were able to buy and transfer to a bigger house. Alas, the couple’s love for more money led to their downfall. 

Long-haired and bearded Lando, another childhood friend of Miguel, becomes his protégé. He usurps the role of foremost healer in their town after Miguel’s healing power wanes. Not content with getting Miguel’s exalted position, Lando starts to covet his long-time crush, Anna.

The personas of the major characters can be gauged by the way they use their hands. The healing hands of Miguel become accustomed to holding alcohol bottles and gamecocks. The lustful Lando mashes the breasts of his patient. An affluent Anna becomes stingy with her money when relatives ask for help. When confronted by Miguel on her tendency to spend money on material things, her initial reaction was to raise her hands and hide her earrings. She tries her best to hold on to her possessions.

Lando entices Anna to leave Damortis and live with him. He promises to shower her with wealth coming from his healing sessions. With her husband imprisoned, Anna decides to meet up with Lando.

The last image of a hand we see is that of a killing hand. The climactic scene serves as a bookend along with the initial scenes of bloodied Christ-like figures.

I always associate Briccio Santos with the film Kung Mangarap Ka't Magising. He portrayed the husband of Hilda Koronel. But he is more than an actor.

Santos did well with his stewardship of the Film Development Council of the Philippines. The annual holding of international film festivals and the creation of videotheques in major cities are just some of his accomplishments. But he is more than an administrator.

Santos is also an exceptional filmmaker and the hypnotic Damortis is proof of that. The restored film highlights the vibrancy of the color red. The scarlet color prefigures the bloody faith healing rites and the cathartic ending.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Baboy Halas: Wailings in the Forest (Bagane Fiola, QCinema 2016)

Lumads (non-Muslim indigenous peoples from Mindanao) have been on the news lately. An allegedly panicky police officer rammed a police van into a throng of indigenous peoples holding a peaceful protest at the US Embassy. He maneuvered the van in a helter skelter way and even ran over a few persons. UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan condemned the savage dispersal of the rallyists, who were hosted by UP Diliman.

Violence seems to follow lumads everywhere they go. In the hinterlands, they experience harassment from mining groups and logging companies intent on exploiting their lands. Sadly, some companies use the military to scare off lumads. Several lumad groups keep their communities off-limits to members of NPA. Still, they suffer from the war between the NPA and the military.

Lumads though are a tough breed. Their resilience and spirituality will help them survive all these ordeals.

The serenely beautiful Baboy Halas takes a glimpse into the lumads of Maharlika, Dawag, and Tabontabon, Marilog District, Davao City. The film, done in a documentary style, eschews straight-forward narrative. Even without a compelling story, I’m mesmerized with the things happening onscreen.

The award-winning lush cinematography captures the soothing verdant surroundings. There is something calming with the featured forest. It is not a foreboding one like the forest of Apocalypse Now and the jungle of Platoon. There are no man-eating carnivores or blood-sucking insects preying on humans.

The forest is a bountiful place offering sustenance and shelter for the lumads. The river flows with clean water. The sounds of birds chirping are music to the ears. A wild boar occasionally wanders into the paths of hunters. An excellent scene shows a family working together to cook a meat-based meal. All the things they need for the feast are provided by the generous forest. They just need to pray for them.

An admirable trait of lumads is their tendency to implore the help of spirits or dwellers residing in the resource they need. They may be skilled hunters but if a deer won’t pass by they will go home empty-handed. They may be adept in survival skills but if they do not have patience they will die of hypothermia.

The highlight of Baboy Halas, no, make that of the entire set of QCinema Circle Competition films, is the amazing ‘slow burn’ scene in a cave. This is something that should be seen in a darkened movie house and not described verbally. Suffice to say, it involves a hunter imploring the help of the fire dweller. He is wet from the rains and needs the warmth of a fire to help him get through the cold evening.

I have personally seen an Aeta demonstrate friction fire lighting with the use of wild bamboo sticks but this is the first time I’ve seen fire emerge from sparking rocks. No amount of CGI effects can convincingly replicate small sparks emanating from clashing rocks.

The excitement and thrill of seeing the sparks grow into a fire is palpable. Just as the hunter was humbly praying, I was also wishing for the fire to burst forth. I was feeling the shivering temperature of the movie house and was empathizing deeply with the rain-soaked hunter. When the fire did appear it was a heartwarming magical moment.

Director Fiola says the main protagonist in the film is the hunter. There is a more important character in my opinion.

The main character of the film is the old-growth forest. Forest silhouettes tell stories of their own. A zoom out shot of the forest shows how frail and vulnerable a lumad is amidst his vast surroundings.

I was elated with scenes wherein I see figures embedded in the forest. A creek scene shows a lumad standing over a rock that looks like a giant tortoise. When it didn’t move, I realized it was really just a rock. Another scene involves a lumad deep in the heart of the forest. Across the lumad is a trunk that seems to encase a human being clad in orange attire.

The forest is a visually and aurally strong character. Images can unexpectedly form from every nook and cranny. The cacophony of sounds reveals a multi-faceted character but mostly suggest a peaceful, calm personality.

The gentle forest and the lumads are basically peaceful in nature. Violence arises when outsiders push through with their racist, lustful, and greedy ways.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Patay na si Hesus (Victor Villanueva, QCinema 2016)

The rise in number of regional filmmakers has done wonders to the diversification of ideas and genres in the indie film scene. However, grant-giving bodies have mostly supported drama films. Cinemalaya’s slate for this year shows a pair of full-length film comedies. Cinema One Originals have consistently supported horror/science fiction/fantasy filmmakers but majority of the film finalists is still of the dramatic or romantic mold. Metro Manila Film Festival offers the widest selection of film genres. But, the quality of the films leaves much to be desired.

The deliciously hilarious Patay na si Hesus is a rare find.  It is a Cebuano film with tongue firmly on cheek. The icing on the cake is that it even passed the Bechtel test. I was flummoxed with this part of the citation handed out to the film. An online search on Bechtel test says that in order for a film to be a passer it must hurdle three components:  1) there must be two named female characters, 2) who talked with one another, 3) on any issue except men.

Male characters involved with females in the film are basically losers. That must be the main reason why they don’t get to be main topics of discussions. They are worthless nincompoops. The recently departed Hesus left his family for a woman. He eventually left her for another woman. Jay, second son of Hesus, refuses to attend his father's wake but eventually relents due to maternal pressure. The son, though, is also a loser.  He flunked the Engineering board exams twice and was found out to have called off his third board exam attempt.

On the other hand, the major female characters are strong, resilient, and a bit crazy.

A middle-aged mother, Iyay (Jaclyn Jose), hauls her Cebu-based family onto a multicab for an inter-island trip back to their ancestral house in Dumaguete City. Years of estrangement from her husband Hesus had deadened her emotions. Even her children are reluctant to see their late father. But, the tears eventually broke through for the dead. Tough luck for Hesus, the tears shed are not for him but for their dog named Hudas.

The dysfunctional family picked up the sister of Hesus on their way to Negros. The nun (Angelina Kanapi) provided some of the more outrageous laugh-out-loud scenes. A bad case of flatulence served as catalyst for her to throw caution to the wind. She sheds off her religious life and hitches a motorcycle ride to freedom. I also loved the hysterically funny scene wherein she showed her grief over the loss of her niece.

The very-much alive niece, Judith, is a tomboy. She copes with a domestic break-up by drinking alcohol with a group of men. The best visual gag of the film shows her raising her left arm exposing an exaggeratedly hairy armpit.

If there’s a comedy film that comes closest to the gross-out jokes and visual gags of Patay na si Hesus, it is the American film There’s Something About Mary. The sperm jokes are sick but outright comical. The dead dog jokes are wickedly humorous, too.

The laugh-a-thon film Patay na si Hesus won the Audience Choice Award and the Gender Sensitivity Award at the QCinema International Film Festival 2016.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Purgatoryo (Derick Cabrido, QCinema 2016)

Cut from the same cloth as the vastly underrated Cinemalaya film Oros, Purgatoryo takes another look at the use of unclaimed corpses for illegal gambling operations. Recent news about corpses piling up at funeral homes in Quezon City left me wondering whether illegal gamblers are ecstatic over the vast supply of corpses.

The film starts with a police officer hauling a bloodied corpse over to a funeral parlor managed by Violet (Bernardo Bernardo). The corpse is given a thorough cleaning and prepped up to look presentable. It will be the object of a faux wake by gambling operators. The elaborate set-up involves hiring people to act as grieving family members.

Card games sakla and sapaw are illegal although local police turn a blind eye over games played during wakes for humanitarian reason. Financial proceeds from the card games are a huge boon to destitute surviving family members.

If Oros amazingly shares the nitty-gritty details of a sakla operation, then Purgatoryo exposes nightmarish shenanigans at a funeral home involved in illegal gambling. A worker at Funeraria Jimenez rues having to work on the day of his romantic date with his girlfriend. He convinces the girl to have their tryst at the funeral parlor. The couple eventually make out inside the morgue. The horny male, left unsatisfied by his lover, turns his lustful eye on a naked dead woman.

I'm deeply impressed with the necrophilia scene from a filmmaking viewpoint. Is that a true female human being? I'm not sure if the naked woman is really a human being. It doesn't move at all just like a true corpse. In stark contrast, the initial scene involving the male corpse shows the actor breathing.

Indie filmmakers who insist on having lengthy shots of dead bodies almost always botch their scenes because eventually the stomachs begin to rise. When they check their rushes on small monitors, they won't see such movement but when projected on mammoth screens the slightest of movement is easily seen. What filmmaker Roderick Cabrido does with the female corpse is truly amazing. I’m stunned by it.

The film Purgatoryo is the second collaboration between Cabrido and scriptwriter Denise O'Hara. Their first film was the fantastic Kinaray-a tale Tuos. This time around, they are joined by fellow Cinemalaya regular Joseph Laban, who is also an Atenean just like Oros director Paul Sta. Ana. The two Ateneans have their own inside jokes. A criminal, a person of interest, or a crazed guy dons an Ateneo get-up or jacket in their films.

I described the film Purgatoryo as some sort of sequel to Oros because of their many similarities. Both films deal with the same subject. Both films star Kristoffer King. And, I believe, both films also share some film locations (Santa Ana location?). Even the lighting looks familiar.

The film has a few aces on its own though. The necrophilia scene is a tough act to follow. I also admire the embalming scene shot from the point-of-view of the corpse. The corpse is liken to a spirit held up in purgatory. It needs to be cleaned up and purified in order to get to the next level. The spirit benefits from prayers while the corpse needs the expertise of the funeral home employees. But, with sexual perverts on the loose, corpses at funeral homes are likely to experience hell on earth.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Mercury Is Mine (Jason Paul Laxamana, #Cinemalaya2016)

There is much to like about the film but an equal amount of bizarre things tarnish the luster of the award-winning Cinemalaya film.

The dark comedy Mercury Is Mine deals succinctly with the colonial mentality of Filipinos. The fortunes of a middle-aged cook Carmen Batac (Pokwang) begin to rise after taking in an American teenager Mercury (Bret Jackson) as temporary help. The American boy attracts hordes of customers smitten with his good looks. Carmen's roadside eatery begins to flourish and becomes a regular stopover for trekkers and fortune hunters going to Mt. Arayat.

The filmmakers suggest that Carmen is like a small-scale miner who struck gold after using mercury. But, mercury can be fatal if handled improperly.

An early film segment shows Mercury's true colors. He is not as pure as his white skin. He is a cold-blooded killer. Running away from patricide, he ends up in the eatery of Carmen.

The famed hospitality of Filipinos is shown through Carmen's decision to let Mercury stay. Carmen shows no hesitation in letting in the white boy. The whiteness of Mercury's skin clouds the minds of those he encounters. Carmen never doubted Mercury even after learning of the murder of his father.

This early in the film, I've lost my empathy for the male lead. Mercury is a killer. On the other hand, Carmen may be a bad girl who preys on the needy but she may still have a pure heart. However, as the film progress on, the dark side of Carmen's character comes to the fore. The two leads are so vicious they deserve one another.

Mercury Is Mine is spot on with its treatment of how Filipinos behave with Caucasians in their midst. However, the lead characters are extreme turn-offs. Imagine an absentee mother letting her daughter get impregnated by an American teenager. I didn't care anymore where the story went after that incident.

Pokwang's delivery of her one-liners brought the house down. Carmen's innocent guess on the origin of Mercury's name is a winner.

Prior to my viewing of Mercury Is Mine, I caught up with the Metro Manila Film Festival New Wave Best Picture Ari at Cinemalaya 2016. It is a Kapampangan film dealing with a famed poet. The film, with ample creative support from Jason Paul Laxamana, highlighted some of the main criticisms against the Kapampangan language. One of these quirks is the interchange of Fs with Ps.

I had a hearty laugh then after hearing Carmen say 'Let's fuck' when what she meant was 'Let's pack.' Local tidbits such as this, along with the delicious dishes, give the film a unique Kapampangan flavor.

The gold hoard of Mercury left me puzzled. Are they real? If it is real, then why didn't Mercury raise hell to recover them?

My guess is that the gold nuggets are fake. The last scene bolsters my hypothesis that the nuggets are fake. The final shot shows Carmen still cooking in her roadside eatery. Nothing has changed. Usually, when a character comes upon a fortune in the latter part of a film, the audience sees the result of this windfall in a succeeding scene showing a new house or a new car. In the case of Carmen, she is still stuck in her eatery.

I like to think that Carmen gave away those gold pieces but it is not within her character. That storyline is about as false as the gold hair wig of Carmen. Yes, there's no use changing her personality. She is, as she said early in the film, 'a bad girl.'