Friday, January 06, 2017

Oro (Alvin Yapan, Metro Manila Film Festival 2016)


In this latest film of Alvin Yapan, there are no clearcut heroes. There are no outright villains, either. However, due to a minor direction lapse the people behind the film are being called names and ostracized as villains.

It was shocking to see a dog being prepared to be roasted or boiled. From my recollection, there seems to be no footage of the dog being whacked or killed. But, there on the big screen we can clearly see a skinned dead dog prepped up and ready to be cooked.

There are a hundred and one ways to simulate the process of preparing a dog meat dish or portraying the food traditions of small-scale miners. Sadly, the filmmakers didn’t try any of it. On the other hand, there’s no good reason for the gory sight of a dead dog.

It is a pity that the dog killing controversy tarnishes the luster of Oro’s brilliance. The film has the eye of Badil for small island economics, politics, and social interaction. It boasts of an ensemble acting that is second to none. I’m all praise for Irma Adlawan‘s award-winning performance as a long-tenured kapitana. I admire the film’s courage to pinpoint the mastermind behind the killings of 4 small-scale miners in Camarines Sur.

A current lawmaker from the province decries the film’s portrayal of the kapitana as a heroine. My reading of the kapitana is different from that of the lawmaker.

The thing I like most about the film Oro is its multi-faceted treatment of the kapitana character. She is not a goody-two-shoes character in my opinion. She is a traditional greedy politician holding on to power for two decades. She wields a vise-like grip on the mining industry in her community. Her handling of her workers is akin to that of a feudal system. She eliminates competitors via unfounded rumors. When she gets kicked out from the mining industry, she uses social media to gain sympathy.

The kapitana portrays herself as a benevolent benefactor. The reality is the workers are so poor that they are dependent on her. With her wealth and power, the kapitana should have built several alternative livelihood projects for the workers and residents.

The shrewd kapitana is similar to film producers kicked out from the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). These film producers and supporters decry the non-inclusion of their films by harping on its effect on their alleged beneficiaries. They bewail the fact that organizations such as Mowelfund will no longer receive huge windfall from festival proceeds. They utilize the social media in voicing out their disappointment to the revamped selection process.

During their decade-long monopolization of the MMFF, these star-producers didn’t pursue alternative stories and characters that enrich the lives of viewers. As the Cinemalaya 2016 teaser aptly pointed out, the aging film stars continue to appear in recycled stories. The only difference is that the leading ladies are getting younger. Some star-producers are so greedy they allow themselves to be used for product placements in their films. Just like kapitana, they share a minuscule, teeny-amount of windfall from their profits in order to project a philanthropic image.

Oro has the bravery and guts to bring out in the open an issue involving a powerful clan of lawmakers. Alas, with all the idiotic lies told by the film stakeholders regarding the dog killing incident, several viewers may see the film as a figment of the filmmakers’ wild imagination.

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