Thursday, June 26, 2014

Global premiere of Lav Diaz's latest film at the World Premieres Film Festival

Still reeling from the enchanting effect of Lav Diaz's award-winning Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan? Ready for more?

Lav Diaz's Mula sa Kung Ano ang Noon will have its global premiere at the World Premieres Film Festival (Philippines) in July 2014.

Here are the slated screenings for the reportedly 315-minutes long film:

Day 2, July 3 Thursday - SM Cinema Megamall
7:00 PM  Mula Sa Kung Ano Ang Noon (Main Competition)

Day 4, July 5 Saturday - SM Cinema Manila
7:00 PM  Mula Sa Kung Ano Ang Noon (Main Competition)    

Day 7, July 8 Tuesday  - SM Cinema North Edsa
7:00 PM  Mula Sa Kung Ano Ang Noon (Main Competition)

Complete festival screening schedule here

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sanglaan (Milo Sogueco, Cinemalaya 2009)

I haven't decided which among Sanglaan and Engkwentro is my pick for the top film of Cinemalaya Cinco. I need to catch up again with Engkwentro. But, if I were to choose my favorite movie, then it will have to be Sanglaan. It is one of the best multi-character films done the Cinemalaya way.

The well-written characters are portrayals of people we ordinarily bumped into on the streets of Metro Manila. A greencard holder named Olivia (Tessie Tomas) manages a small pawnshop. She refuses to go to the United States because she'll probably end up as nanny of her grandchildren. Helping her at the pawnshop is an adoptive family member, Amy (Ina Feleo). The pawnshop's security guard named Kanor Sevilla (Jess Evardone) and his wife Esing (Flor Salanga) subleases an apartment. Their current tenant is Amy's high-school crush, David Santillan (Joem Bascon). He is a seaman waiting for a call to go onboard a ship. The last, but not the least, character is loan shark Henry (Ryan Neil Sese), an ardent admirer of Amy.

With this film, Ina Feleo might as well be tagged as princess of proletarian romances. She portrays Amy, a devoted romance pocketbook reader and sentimental appraiser at the pawnshop. Just when she gets close to the boy of her dreams, fate intervenes. In a nod to the film Endo, romantic affair must give way once more to port calls and dollars. Ordinary employees and wage-earners sometimes end up forgoing their romantic dreams because they barely make enough money for their own expenses. When they do go out on dates, a simple bowl of noodles is accepted main course for cash-strapped employees.

Director and co-scriptwriter Milo Sogueco has an observant eye. He knows the aspirations and dreams of ordinary Filipinos. He essays their close family relationships and their fondness for eating. The film's most memorable scene involves Olivia preparing a snack called ginataang bilo-bilo. When Amy arrived, Olivia serves her a bowl of the snack. Audience starts to expect something like an apology because of an earlier rift, or a chat about Olivia's possible departure for the USA. Sogueco brilliantly turns the scene into a priceless portrait of family bonding. Amy gets confirmation that she is not just an ordinary employee. She is a well-loved member of Olivia's family.

Filipinos endure life's trials and tribulations. They survive because of the love and support from family members and extended kin. That love is the reason why Filipinos value things given by their family members. Appraiser Amy goes out of her way to raise funds needed to get back the pawned ring of David. Kanor seeks money in order to get back a pawned television. How deep is Filipinos' love for their kin? Deep enough for them to sacrifice a kidney.

There is something that prevents people from being bowled over by the film. They tend to admire the film but can't seem to pick it as one of the best full-length features of Cinemalaya Cinco. The film seems too bland for their tastes. Parang kulang sa patis.

But, I think there will be others who will be raving over the comforting warmth of Sanglaan. I loved this little gem of a film. It reminds me of a Ma Mon Luk meal with family members and loved ones. Simple but fulfilling. Bland but warms the heart. Inexpensive but elicits priceless images of love and family bonding.
Original online posting in July 2009

Friday, June 06, 2014

Huli ka! Pinoys and Filipino creations in foreign films and videos

Among the best surprises I've had at the movies were seeing Filipino stories brought to life in two foreign films submitted to the 2014 Oscars. The British film Metro Manila dealt with a rural family caught up in the claws of Manila's neon lights. The Singaporean film Ilo Ilo tells the story of a Filipina nanny indirectly affected by the financial turmoil in the Asian region in the late 1990s.

This list will note down those foreign films which contains some adobo, kundiman, and Pong Pagong in their footage. I will start with X-Men: Days of Future Past and will then update the list whenever I chanced upon the Philippines or a Pinoy in films. Let's do a Larry Alcala trick and find slices of Filipino life and culture.

 X-Men: Days of Future Past

Filipino Connection: 
Comic book illustrator Whilce Portacio > The mutant character Bishop was co-created by Jim Lee and Portacio. Bishop was supposed to be a Filipino superhero but the idea was turned down by the editors. Portacio drew himself into the character Randall (leftmost character).

Halo-halo thoughts: 

I love the mutants' battle against the slick, savvy Sentinels in the film. The latter are pure weapons of hate. Now, I know why the best mutants died in the comic books. They must have had to endure waves and waves of Sentinels.

Check out the teaser on the next possible heavyweight villain at the end of the credits. I hope to see Psylocke and Rogue in the next installment, too.

Photo credit:

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Fantastic Filipino Films at the French Film Festival 2014

After a long, long drought of not seeing fine local films, we now get a chance to see a handful next week. Three of the best local films screened last year will be shown once again on June 12, 2014 at Greenbelt 3 Cinema 1. There's the wonderfully restored classic Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag, the gritty actioner On the Job, and the sublime epic Norte: Hangganan ng Kasaysayan. The trio was also screened at the Cannes Film Festival, hence their inclusion in the 19th edition of the French Film Festival.

Make haste in getting a ticket. The fine print on the poster says that the price of an admission ticket is just PHP100. If only there's no work for me, then I'll watch the three Pinoy films again. Those ten hours are guaranteed to bring you to cine nirvana.

Here's the rest of the films and their screening sked:

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

The Cinema of Celso Ad Castillo (Produced by Byron Ron Bryant, 2009)

A lot of movie industry people were interviewed for the documentary titled The Cinema of Celso Ad Castillo. Some of them call him Maestro. Others look up to him as a genius. Lav Diaz affectionately describes him as a madman. But, I tend to agree most with their observations that Castillo is a visual artist par excellence.

One of the best visual stylists in local cinema, Castillo was aptly described by Peque Gallaga as a lucky cinematic animal. The heavens and the weather conspire to create a picturesque moment every time he shoots a film. Castillo admits to having fits over the setting up of his first ever camera placement. But, once he got over it, he goes on to utilize his being a former comic book illustrator to paint beautifully-framed stories.

Check out the Dutch angles of his horror classics. The coffin being carried out of the hearse seems to have a 3-D effect of trying to break through the screen. The eerie mirror reflection of Ruth's diabolical glare still brings shiver to the spine. The haunting visuals and spooky soundtrack bolster the reputation of Patayin Mo Sa Sindak Si Barbara as a scary terrifying flick.

There's a story behind the famous wet look popularized by beauty queen Gloria Diaz in Ang Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa. She narrates how she was showered with lots of movie contracts after her return from the United States. From those offers, she chooses Castillo's. She was so impressed with the filmmaker's Patayin Mo Sa Sindak Si Barbara that she promptly said yes. New and still naive in the film industry, she hikes off to location shooting with nary a change of clothing and underwear. The film crew accompanies her to a nearby town to look for a bra. The available ones for sale are so bad Diaz decides not to wear a bra in the movie. Since the movie is set along the sea coast, there are shots of Diaz in a wet, see-through dress. The catfight between Diaz and Elizabeth Oropesa on the coastline is the stuff that wet dreams are made of.

Castillo went on to do much more revealing films for the Manila International Film Festival and the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines. His films Virgin People and Snake Sisters emerged as top-grossing flicks. There is a clip from Snake Sisters that shows Castillo's wicked sense of framing. We see a young scantily-clad female hunter searching for a prey. With her body crouched low, her posterior is prominently seen and surrounding it are dozens of erect phallic sticks.

I remember reading an article that says that of all the sex films shown at the Manila Film Center during the Marcos era, Castillo's Isla was said to have had the horniest effect on the audience. The story seems to imply that the Film Center insider based his assessment on the sticky state of the theater after a full-house screening of the film. A tantalizingly nude Maria Isabel Lopez frolicking in the sands and sea is simply too much to handle for itching viewers.

Castillo loves casting beautiful women in his films. He also adores the sea and the rain. Almost always there is a scene in his films set along the waters or set during a rainy day. Ron Bryant, a protege of Castillo, indirectly paid tribute by directing a Cinema One Originals film titled Alon, a story of a pretty, nubile girl vacationing at a seacoast village. Bryant upped the ante by helping create this eye-opening documentary.

The best visual revelation I'd discovered from the documentary was seeing traces of Fernando Amorsolo in Castillo's agrarian film Ang Alamat ni Julian Makabayan. The enchanting sunlight bathing the fields, the colorful attire of the farmers, and the framing of the daily rituals allude to several paintings of Amorsolo. Aside from the visual references to Amorsolo, the film is also memorable for those shots of farmers seemingly bonded to the lands. From a distance, a group of farmers are busy doing planting chores. Most of the time we see them with only their upper body half visible. The missing legs say a lot about rural bondage and feudalism in our country.

I'm extremely thankful to Cinema One Originals 2010 for giving moviegoers a rare chance to view bits of Castillo's works at Shang Cineplex's Premiere Theatre. Castillo and Lav Diaz are this year's worthy recipients of a tribute by the annual competition for independent filmmakers.

Original online posting in November 2010
Photo credit:

Patayin Mo Sa Sindak Si Barbara (Celso Ad Castillo, 1974)

The smart and pretty accurate title says it all! This classic is really a terrifying chiller of a movie.

Nurse Barbara Enriquez (Susan Roces) comes back to the Philippines to attend the wake and interment of her stepsister, Ruth Martinez (Rosanna Ortiz). She extends her stay in order to help her niece Karen cope with the loss of her mother. Meanwhile, strange things begin tormenting the members of the household.

Director Castillo utilized mirror and glass reflections to enhance the visual appeal of the film Patayin Mo Sa Sindak Si Barbara. He also came up with distorted shots and Dutch angles to heighten the terror index.

I can’t forget the cemetery scene involving Ruth and Barbara. I remember Rosanna Ortiz from her films with Dolphy. I never imagine that she can be this effective in portraying a vengeful woman. The piercing glances of Ruth are diabolic. The scorned woman is really bent on killing people who have hurt her. From that point on, the suspense goes on full throttle until the end of the movie.

One of my favorite scary moments sees Fritz Martinez (Dante Rivero) approaching Barbara at the fountain. You can feel Barbara is uncomfortable talking to Fritz. The audience is left wondering if they indeed had an affair. There is unbearable icy tension because Ruth may chance upon them. When the doll appeared, I nearly jumped from my seat. The excellent music score played a big part in setting the mood.

The only false note in the film is Barbara's attempt to calm down Karen by reciting the Apostle's Creed. Susan Roces' delivery bordered on campiness. That was the only thing that marred Roces' otherwise fine performance.

I hope Cinema One includes this horror classic in its annual film festival/competition. It deserves to be seen in a darkened movie theater. Try to imagine ogling the eyes of the vengeful Ruth on the big screen. Whew! That ought to be a spine-tingling movie experience.

Original online posting in October 2010