September 20, 2013
I had no idea what this movie was about when I went in. It was the only entry to the Cine Filipino film festival that was being shown at 10 am when I went to the mall yesterday morning. Fortunately, there were two other people who wanted to watch it, so the screening pushed through.
"The Guerrilla is a Poet" turned out to be a biographical film about CCP-NPA founder, Mr. Jose Maria Sison. It was a semi-documentary since they also had footage and interviews of the 74-year old Mr. Sison himself and his wife Julie as they continue to spend their exile in Utrecht, as well his comrade-in-arms Bernabe Buscayno. I did not know that "The Guerrilla is a Poet" was actually a title of an important poem that Mr. Sison wrote.
The film depicted the youth of Mr. Sison (aka Amado Guerrero) from his days as a student activist, his marriage with fellow activist Julie, the rebirth of the communist movement, his relation with Ninoy Aquino, his alliance with Bernabe Buscayno (aka Kumander Dante), his clash with President Ferdinand Marcos, and his days of torture in captivity.
Young Joma was portrayed by Karl Medina, another talented member of the Medina family (after father Pen and brothers Ping and Alex). He did not really look like the real Joma, whom Buscayno described as "mukhang Instik" (looked Chinese) when they first met, which Karl did not. Karl has a very realistic portrayal of an activist, but it was hard to see him as Joma Sison, especially since we see the real Joma also in the same film.
This is the first film that I have really seen Ms. Angeli Bayani, who gained prominence in her lead role in the Singaporean film "Ilo-Ilo" which won in Cannes this year. You can see how she transforms into her character, very realistic. Hoping to see more of her work in the future.
Most supporting cast were not known actors which adds to the realism of the film. There were also some recognizable faces like Jao Mapa as Sen. Ninoy Aquino and Raymond Bagatsing as the notorious Major Aure. Ferdinand Marcos was portrayed by master impersonator Mr. Willie Nepomuceno. His was a chilling uncanny performance, although he was obviously too old to play the young Marcos, when compared to the news reels featuring the real Mr. Marcos.
The story was a straightforward telling of that turbulent time in recent Philippine political history. Of course, this was in the version of Mr. Sison. Image-wise, it was replete with artistic touches by the lady directors behind it, Sari and Kiri Dalena. The cinematography of the scenes in the mountains can be so breathtaking with the unique camera angles being utilized. The length of the film was formidable, running almost two hours and a half, which may be difficult to sit through for some people with limited interest or conviction in the subject matter. 6/10.