Thursday, August 02, 2012

Diablo (Mes de Guzman, Cinemalaya 2012 New Breed Best Picture)

‘Ewan ko nga kung bakit nilagay ako sa New Breed.’

Award-winning director Mes de Guzman submitted his Diablo script for the Directors Showcase category of Cinemalaya. But, even though he has made seven films, he still hasn’t met a crucial requirement. The veteran director doesn’t have at least three full-length commercial feature films to his name.

Fortunately, the guys at Cinemalaya decided to include his script as one of the 10 New Breed finalists. It was a big surprise, a pleasant one at that, to read about his inclusion at Cinemalaya. Cineastes and knowledgeable film buffs eagerly awaited his film.

Diablo didn’t disappoint. The film deservedly won five awards, including Best Picture and Best Direction. It is so good that it can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the top films from the Directors Showcase category.

The film soaks the viewers in an atmosphere of dread. The early shots of a miner possessed by the demon sets the stage for a creepy, chills-filled viewing. A creaky gate and an old house bathed in darkness add suspense to the film. Anything, paranormal or not, can happen any time.

But, having spooked his viewers, de Guzman applies the effective, Richard Somes-style of familial horror. The devil is not some hideous monster but takes the form of a flattering, deceptive human being. Family members are slowly introduced along with mischievous characters. Nana Lusing (Ama Quiambao) is a religious matriarch not unlike Rosa Rosal’s character in Biyaya ng Lupa. Both widows show unconditional love for their wayward sons. They are shown scrounging for coins to give to their sons. Both mothers had a breakdown in which they embraced things that helped them kept their sanity and faith. Both breakdowns end up as bookends for the excellent award-winning performances of Quiambao and Rosal.

Mes de Guzman is an actor’s director. He has an uncanny ability to bring out the best from his bevy of veteran actors and young performers. Maybe the picnic-like atmosphere during shooting helps build up rapport amongst the crew and cast. Arnold Reyes remarked that the shoot up north was quite memorable. Quiambao narrated how the director guided her in tackling her strong character. She was getting impatient with a long scene but de Guzman wasn’t keen on halting it. Those long takes capture the solitary life of the old mother.

Nana Lusing, a fervent radio listener, reminds me of my elders in Nueva Vizcaya. Several of them have acute hearing like that of Marvel superhero Daredevil. They know who is up and about the house just by the sounds they make. Creepy? Not if you’re not doing anything naughty.

When Loy Arcenas made a strong debut with his Niño film, I was one of those who wished for him to compete once more in the Cinemalaya competition. Now, I hope de Guzman try once more to enter a festival competition. He gets better and more confident with every film he makes. I, for one, am eagerly anticipating the last film of his Earth trilogy. Will the film be worth celebrating at Leonides restaurant? Let’s wait and see.

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