Friday, September 26, 2014

Bwaya (Francis Xavier Pasion, Cinemalaya 2014 Best Picture Winner)

The deceptively sleek, powerful film Bwaya highlights a more fearsome predator than the 20-foot-long saltwater crocodile Lolong. Heart-wrenching story deals with a fatal crocodile attack on a girl at a marshland in Agusan del Sur. 

Director Francis Xavier Pasion returns with the caustic bite of his award-winning Cinemalaya film Jay. He sets the cross-hairs once again on slimy media people and, uumm, exploitative filmmakers. This time around, the family of the victim runs afoul of people who filches a huge sum of contributed money. The amount is miniscule when compared to the pork barrel funds stashed away by lawmakers but it is a significant bonanza to a destitute family.

Angeli Bayani gives a dazzling performance as the poor mother of the dead girl. A memorable poignant segment shows the mother failing to identify, and unable to get hold of her daughter's art drawing. She is illiterate hence her failure to decipher the names on the drawings. There is bitter laughter when her request to take home the drawing is shot down by a student.

The mother, obviously reeling from trauma, attempts to continue her daughter's school project which is a requirement for graduation. The school project, a paper-beaded curtain, ironically resembles a massive crocodile's sharp, angled bony plates. When the curtain sways with the wind, it looks like a crocodile bobbing in and out of the water.

The film's visual flourishes continue with shots of slender boats making their way through the narrow water paths. The main leads, Bayani and Karl Medina, make it seem so easy to traverse the marshland.

Bwaya brilliantly likens the plight of the grieving mother to the quandary of endangered crocodiles. All of them suffer because their respective territories are being encroached upon. The aquatic reptiles have seen their habitats diminish because of intrusion by humans. Their eggs are being poached for commercial gain or worse, destroyed. The mother's loss of a child is made worse by snooty media people and greedy authorities.

The ending of Bwaya suggests a solution to their plight.

Leave them alone.

I'm glad though that Pasion didn't heed it, else we would have been deprived of this wonderful, award-winning film.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Dagitab (Giancarlo Abrahan, Cinemalaya 2014)

Dagitab sizzles like a crispy, tasty lechon roasted on an open coal fire.

The initial insightful scene has a professor fanning herself during an open-air, summer graduation ceremony at the country's national university. Adding to her discomfort is a lightning rally staged by graduating students. The last scene of the film shows the female professor out in the open field once more. This time, she has simmered down. Alas, her marriage has lost its fire, too. What remains are flickering embers of love as suggested by fireflies hovering over the professor and her husband.

The burnt-out feelings of the middle-age couple are depicted in a scene showing them touching hot things such as microwaved food. The wife is having hot flashes and the husband is yearning for passionate embrace of a lost lover. The heat must be unbearable because we see them in various states of undress.

One of the best scenes has the female professor and a young male writing fellow lying down on a beach. Both are smiling and obviously having a good time. The poetic top-down shot shows them lapping up gentle waves of ocean water. The wave base intersects the seafloor creating bubbly water that licks and caresses their feet, legs, buttocks, bodies, arms, and tresses. The white bubbles contrast beautifully with the blackish sand. Little did the female professor know that she will soon drown in an ocean of lies.

Another memorable scene has the husband encountering his lost lover in the boondocks. The activist lover, Lorena (Max Eigenmann), is seen as a diwata. I have never seen a diwata on movies as seductively enchanting as Eigenmann, daughter of the late actor Mark Gil. Stunning screen presence by the young Eigenmann lends support to the diwata's hypnotic grip on the husband. He eventually decides to settle in the boondocks.

Director Giancarlo Abrahan has created a loving ode to his alma mater, the University of the Philippines (UP). It is quite daring for him to undertake this ambitious project about two UP professors who've lived, studied, and taught for decades at the Diliman campus. He overcame the difficulty of depicting the school's idiosyncrasies and tradition of excellence. It probably helped that most members of the production crew also come from UP.

The UP Diliman scenes eschew famous places such as the Oblation and the Carillon Plaza. Instead, the filmmakers highlighted ordinary places and happenings at the campus such as jogging along the acacia-lined avenues, and holding sit-down lectures at the Faculty Hall. If you're a member of the alumni community or a student, then watching this film is as satisfying as the Maroons' first win at the UAAP in two seasons. Yes, it is worth lighting up a gigantic bonfire.

I've barely scratched the surface of this excellent film, whose title Dagitab means 'sparks.' There are lots of surprises in store for the viewers. Among the top reasons for watching the film are the sumptuous, electrifying performances of the two leads, Eula Valdes and Nonie Buencamino. The duo remind me of the middle-age couple featured in Before Midnight. When they talk and connect, the screen sizzles and sparkles.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Cine Europa 17 screening schedule at Shang Cineplex (11-21 September 2014)

It's an early Christmas gift for cinephiles. Coming on the heels of the Chinese Film Festival at SM Cinemas, Cine Europa 2014 will conquer Mandaluyong City and eight other cities all over the Philippines. 

Of special interest to Filipinos is the United Kingdom film Metro Manila. A mix of Lino Brocka and Raymond Red films, Metro Manila is also a knockout, white-knuckle thriller. It was UK's entry to the Oscars.

True-blue Filipino films are also slated including Magnifico, Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, and Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan.

The hugely popular international film festival then rolls over to Baguio and Iloilo in September 2014. Cebu, Leyte, Tacloban, and Davao host the fest in October 2014. The last pair of cities, Zamboanga and Cagayan de Oro, get their Cine Europa fix in November 2014.

                                                                              Schedule source: