Saturday, October 15, 2011

Kamada (1997, Raymond Red | TV movie)

Jaclyn Jose & Francis Magalona
Have you seen a good suspense/mystery local film lately? Hmmmm… There are few films to begin with for both genres, so finding a good one may take some effort unless you’re an avid follower of special screenings by the Society of Filipino Archivists for Film (SOFIA).

The group SOFIA has screened/slated two films that may fit the bill of a good thriller. Danny Zialcita’s Masquerade is structured like a detective film complete with a ‘guess whodunit’ segment in the end. A mysterious benefactor offers money to people attending a special masquerade. Then, a killer strikes and the number of guests dwindles. The second film, Raymond Red’s Kamada, starts with several killings. A young male music student is soon caught up in a web of kidnappings, treachery, and more killings.

Kamada is a rare noteworthy film project of GMA 7. A made for television movie, Kamada benefits from the sure hand of Red, a splendid production design, a gripping story, and fine performances by a cast led by Francis Magalona and Jaclyn Jose. Red adapted his movie from a short film he earlier made with a Super 8 mm camera.

In my search for the English meaning of the word kamada, the most appropriate one I saw was ‘arrange.’ Maybe kamada refers to musical arrangement as the main protagonist is a composer named Julian (FrancisM/Francis Magalona). He rents a room in the hope of getting the solitude and silence he needs to churn out a musical piece. The silence is short-lived as he gets to hear the intermittent coughing from across the hall. His curiosity about the sick person leads to his meeting a fellow tenant, Amanda (Jaclyn Jose).

Amanda, a kidnapped victim, seems to be suffering from Stockholm syndrome as she inexplicably takes care of her wounded, coughing captor. Julian asks her to escape but she refuses. He then learns that a sister is also in the hands of the kidnapping syndicate and she doesn’t want any harm to befall her.

Julian finds a muse in Amanda and begins to finish several musical pieces. He soon aspires to be a hero who will save the damsel in distress. The young man is not unlike a Hitchcockian protagonist obsessed with a femme fatale and slowly being engulfed by a torrent of lies. Magalona imbues his character with the right amount of naivety and innocence.  

Kamada’s influence is seen in the films Sigaw by Yam Laranas and Ilusyon by Paolo Villaluna. Sigaw features a young man getting curious with a turbulent couple across the hall and befriending a little girl. The empty, silent corridors are soon permeated with a creeping sense of dread and deafening shadows of violence. Ilusyon highlights the different shades of red and evokes the zeitgeist of the 1950s through a standard song. It is interesting to note that the two directors and Red are all products of Mowelfund workshops. During a heavy sampling of Mowelfund film shorts (including Jon Red’s Tiempo) I noticed several filmmakers’ fondness for the 1950s feel. I don’t think it must have been due to their age. The workshops must have emphasized more the aspects of cinematography and production design. The 1950s era has a strong character that makes it visually and aurally appealing. Antique items are put to good use in the dream sequence of Julian. Incidentally, the film utilized Doris Day's 1957 version of the song titled 'Dream a Little Dream of Me.'

Kamada is up there with Anino and A Study for the Skies as my favorite Red films. It is like a rare, story-filled photograph that ought to be archived and definitely saved in case of a fire. I hope Red pushes through with his plan to remaster the film. 

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