September 24, 2013
The curious title did not really appeal to me. I was not really planning to watch this film at all. Until last Sunday at the awards ceremony of the Cine Filipino Film Festival, this film tied for Best Picture (along with "Ang Kuwento ni Mabuti") and won for Best Acting Ensemble. The bigger shocker was the unknown 13-year newbie actress who played Anita, Teri Malvar, won Best Actress over the one and only Superstar of Philippine Show Business, Ms. Nora Aunor! These accolades made "Ang Huling Cha-Cha ni Anita" a must-watch in my book.
Anita is a awkward young girl who develops a crush on a gorgeous neighbor named Pilar. Pilar apparently left their town under scandalous circumstances five years ago, worked abroad as a physical therapist, and has now resettled in town after her father passed away. This film shows us how Anita discovers and comes to grips with her unconventional sexual orientation. This tale was told with the feast of St. Claire in Obando, Bulacan in the background (although I am not really clear what the connection of this to the main story.)
I thought Teri Malvar was a very natural actress as Anita. She was acting her age. She is very brave to tackle such a daring role. That final heart-to-heart talk scene between Anita and her mother Lolita (played by Lui Manansala) was so good! The Best Actress award she won was very generous of the judges. Not to say that young Teri not deserve it, but the performance of Nora Aunor in "Mabuti" is clearly superior and with more depth.
For me the more remarkable performance was that of the beautiful Ms. Angel Aquino. The camera simply loves her in this film. There was not a single bad shot of her in any angle in any scene. Her acting was truly affecting too. Her Best Supporting Award was very much deserved. With her long screen time, she could even be cited for Best Actress, but yes, she is not the central character.
To be very honest, no matter how beautifully this film was made (and it was), its very premise, once obvious, made me very uncomfortable while watching. I am not familiar with this scenario, and this was a very eye-opening film for me, in spite of my age. I admit I was a bit appalled by the careless exposure of Ms. Malvar's chest when she was changing her t-shirt, not once but twice. This is especially because I have a daughter of my own of her age and I don't think this was proper at all.
I am also not sure about the topics of conversations between Anita and her young friends Goying and Carmen. Do kids their age really talk like them nowadays? I do not hear this type of talk among my kids, but then again the milieu of this story is different from ours.
This film also touched on the contentious topic of abortion. My discomfort lies not really because it was shown, twice in fact, in two different ways. But I am disturbed with the seemingly mistaken idea in the film that the "hilot" (massage) done by physical therapists actually includes the type of "hilot" done in performing an abortion. There was also a scene of a drug-induced abortion, in the presence of a minor, which I did not sit right with me.
I would commend Director Sigrid Andrea Bernardo for tackling this heretofore never or rarely addressed story of the blossoming of a young lesbian girl. Several movies about homosexual boys have been made, notably the acclaimed "Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros," but not yet about homosexual girls that I know of. It is ground-breaking in that sense in the local indie scene. I do not know if it is a coincidence that the film that won the Palm d'Or in this year's Cannes, "Blue is the Warmest Color," likewise dealt on a budding lesbian's affair with an older woman.
As pleasant as the title might sound and with the presence of child actors in the cast, this movie is not for general patronage. I would say it is essential viewing for parents of young girls who are in the same situation as Anita's point of view is well-expounded upon. But due to sensitive issues it delves in, not everyone in our conservative society will be entertained by it. I have seen several movies of various genres and from various countries, but this one, set in the local context with kids that remind me of my own, still certainly challenged my sensibilities. It is brave, controversial, envelope-pushing. This is bound to be a cult classic of its sub-genre. 6/10.