Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Maskara (2011, Laurice Guillen)

For the second straight year, technical difficulties plagued the opening film screening at the Cinemalaya film festival. In 2010, intermittent disruptions marred the showing of Ganap na Babae. As a result I barely recall the segments from the anthology. On the other hand, Maskara, the opening film of the 7th edition of Cinemalaya, was a memorable trip to the world of local actors and thespians. A brief stoppage midway through the screening did not seem to bother the audience, who showered the film with a well-deserved applause in the end.

Laurice Guillen’s indie film begins with a widow (Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino) unearthing several letters addressed to her recently departed husband Roberto Martinez. Ellen then reads those letters from a woman named Anna and learns the truth about the double life of her late actor-husband.

The bulk of the movie happens during the 40th day commemoration of Bobby's death. Relatives and friends recall their fondest memories of Bobby (Tirso Cruz III). This segment becomes a showcase for the dramatic and singing skills of various actors who played the guests. Angelica Panganiban, a semi-regular in Guillen’s films, was superb in her delivery of a eulogy. Her character spoke of a practical acting tip by Bobby. The gist of the advice is to bring out real emotions and it won't feel like work. It can even serve as a stress reliever and a way to unburden pain and sufferings. Panganiban’s acting is a fine example of ‘as-is where-is’ acting. With voice on the verge of cracking, she seems to be channeling real emotions deep from her heart.

From the recollections, Bobby emerges as a well-loved colleague. But, there's someone who harbors some resentment towards him. Anna is the woman whose voice intrudes into and sometimes eclipses the hosannas and praises from Bobby’s friends. Her letters tell of another mask worn by Bobby.

Stories and tales about acting give us a fine understanding of the craft and how in the real world all of us are actors. We all wear masks in our dealings with people. A father like Bobby may put on a distant facade to help toughen his daughter. He then attaches another mask when he is with his new family. Bobby wears those masks out of love. He gets away with his double life because he follows his heart and not the art of acting.

Painting by Johnny Delgado
Scriptwriter Ina Feleo, with some help from scriptwriting maven Armando Lao, presents a heartfelt, moving tribute to Johnny Delgado, her late father (and Laurice Guillen’s husband). His presence fills every nook and cranny of the movie: from his paintings adorning the house; to his daughters, Ana and Ina, who both appeared in the film; and to the various fine performances that recall his ‘no acting’ approach to performing. Ina is indeed her father’s daughter by nailing down a difficult breakdown scene. She then delivers the coup de grace with her ice breaking dialogue ‘kain lang kayo.’ That line rivals that of Fides Cuyugan-Asensio’s hilarious ‘paabot nga ng patis’ dialogue in Niño.

The script goes haywire near the end of the film. Feleo gets a wee bit over the top with the rambling contents of Bobby’s letter to his daughter. The words love, art, happiness, and solitude get jumbled and nearly messed up the missive’s message: Happiness should not be entirely dependent on another person. What happens when that person goes away or dies?

Johnny Delgado died at the age of 61 on November 19, 2009. We dearly miss his presence in local films. It is a good thing his wife, Laurice, and daughters, Ana and Ina, continue to bring us happiness and joy with their superb films and fantastic acting.

Related link/s:
Thoughts by director Laurice Guillen (

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