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.

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