Monday, January 09, 2017
2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten (Petersen Vargas, Cinema One Originals 2016 Best Picture)
Kapampangan films are on a roll. Ari won the best indie film at the Metro Manila Film Festival 2015. Mercury Is Mine nabbed the Special Jury Prize at Cinemalaya 2016. 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten was selected as grand winner at the Cinema One Originals 2016.
A major force behind the awakening of the Kapampangan cinema movement is filmmaker/scriptwriter Jason Paul Laxamana. He was creative consultant for the drama film Ari. He directed and scripted the dark comedy Mercury Is Mine. He wrote the screenplay for the film 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten. All three films advocate the perpetuation of the Kapampangan language despite its weaknesses and quirkness.
Laxamana also organizes the CineKabalen: Kapampangan Film Festival, which features works done by local filmmakers in Pampanga. Petersen Vargas is just one of the filmmakers supported, and probably mentored, by Laxamana.
2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten, Vargas’ debut feature-length film, takes a look at a romantic newbie in Pampanga. An intelligent high school boy sees his bland school routine come to life with the arrival of two Filipino-American brothers. The older new kid, Magnus, becomes his classmate. He gets close to the two brothers after Magnus asks him to be his tutor in Mathematics and other subjects.
The boy becomes a regular fixture at Magnus’ house. He meets the boys’ mother. He sleeps over on some days. Everything seems to be going fine until the boy begins to fall in love.
2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten is the latest in the growing list of LGBT films shown in the Philippines. What makes the film stand out is the boy could have been a girl character and the story will still flow with a few bumps. The boy just happens to fall in love with someone of the same gender.
The film tackles issues besetting residents of Pampanga. Vestiges of colonialism continue to put a vise-like grip on the people. Students are forced to speak in English. The siblings prefer to live with their absentee American father rather than stay with their prostitute mother. The boy is enamored with a white-skin guy.
Pampanga officials try to deodorize the legacy of prostitution by building tourist spots. However, the putrid stench of the past is difficult to ignore. Notable recent films dealing with prostitution in Pampanga are the Cinemalaya film I America and Louie Ignacio’s Area. The latter film deals with the fate of two major places of prostitution. The Fields used to be the place horny American Marines go to. Young, pretty girls serviced legions of American soldiers. On the other hand, the Area is the place where mature and has-been prostitutes linger. These days, a dozen casas still stand to cater to Filipino clients in Area.
The prostitute mother in 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten used to be from the Fields. She is lucky to get monthly allowance from her American lover. Her two sons, awash with money, are bored with school and lack the drive to excel.
A memorable scene shows the prostitute mother chancing upon a former colleague. The latter is smartly dressed and adorned with jewelry. However, the colleague is sporting a black eye. Her Caucasian husband appears and bossily breaks up the short meeting between the ladies. This is like the situation of the Philippines with colonial and neocolonial powers. These powerful countries exploit, abuse, and encroach on our land and resources. Past local officials, though, put up with such abuses. They focus instead on the financial and economic benefits of such relationships with major powers.
2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten has similarities with Vargas’ short film Lisyun Qng Geografia. Both films deal with a gay high school student. The varied landscapes of Pampanga bear witness to the joys and hurts of these young gays. I love an idea from the short film that suggests we leave a bit of our hearts in places where we loved. Every time we go back to those special places, the pieces of hearts exude warmth from wonderful memories of love. Pampanga, as seen from these notable films, is peppered with places teeming with pieces of hearts.