Friday, March 20, 2015

SINAG MAYNILA 2015: Review of BAMBANTI: Anatomy of an Accusation

March 19, 2015

Of all the entries in the current Sinag Maynila film festival, this may be the one least likely to attract attention because of the unfamiliar title. The others all have snappy cool titles, but this one is a real head-scratcher. In fact, if it were not for the fact that it just so happened to be the one showing at the time I was in the mall, I might not watch it at all. If that were the case, it would have been too bad indeed. This film turned out to be a very well-made indie worthy of bigger audiences and even awards.

Bambanti means "scarecrow" in Ilocano. It is also the name of a colorful week-long festival celebrating the bountiful corn and rice harvest in Isabela province held every year. This whole film written and directed by Zig Dulay is delivered in proud Ilocano language, with subtitles in English.

Set in a golden sun-kissed corn field in Isabela, "Bambanti" tells of the story of poor young widow Belyn, who barely made ends meet with her laundry work, and her son Popoy, a smart and spirited kid. When one day Popoy was accused of stealing a gold watch, their already humble existence plunges to even harsher depths.

I have not seen the other films yet, but I feel that Alessandra de Rossi deserves a Best Actress trophy for her work here as Belyn. She had to keep her composure as painful accusations came from others and doubts came from within her own self. This actress has really come a long way in her acting career, now becoming a dependable star in many indie films, giving creditable performances in every film she was in. That scene when Popoy's letter was read to her can melt even the toughest hearts. 

De Rossi's co-star here is another dependable indie film star, no less than Ms. Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino. Her role here seemed simple. Her character had to balance her compassion for her sister-in-law Belyn and Popoy with the plight of her own spoiled brat of a daughter, Cristy (played with so much spite by Delphine Buencamino). Ms. Shamaine made it look so effortless.

The most impressive actor here though is the youngest -- Micko Laurente could definitely tug at your heartstrings as Popoy. This little guy was so naturally charming, none of the pretentious sassiness that some child actors have to put on to look cute. His tearful scenes are touching without trying too hard. The delivery of his Ilocano lines were as if this language was his mother tongue. I have seen Laurente act on stage in Tanghalang Pilipino's "Kleptomaniacs". He was very good there, but this film shows that he also registers very strongly on the big screen as well.

Sometimes the simplest stories make the best films. It depends on the way the filmmaker frames this simple story in the most breathtaking images and scenes. Dulay effectively contrasted the way children and adults react to an accusation. Those moments of childhood innocence between Popoy and his sister were priceless. The cinematography of this film is glorious, with camera angles that are very imaginative and compelling and colors that burst through the screen. The symbolic festival dancing scenes were very colorful and enticing. 

Even without seeing the other films, "Bambanti" possess a quality of excellence which will make it a serious contender for awards come awards night. 8/10.


  1. I'd like to thank Lui Manansala for recommending this film. Like Fred, I would not have gone to see it. Congrats to Zig Dulay for a well-scripted and directed film. I hope this film makes it to international film festivals because it deserves to be seen by bigger audiences.

  2. I am so sure many Ilokanos have watched this film. Seeing the tiltle made me smile na, I know the words agad. My lolo used to sayt ome. Sige, may Bambanti, kakainin ka nyan. Alessandra De Rossi is one fine actress that always gives her best to any role she portrays.

  3. This would be a good watch too as it would also give you an idea of their traditions. I hope that they market this more as it looks like a good one.

  4. Just like books, we should not judge it by its poster. Which is actually something so hard to do. That is why review blogs like yours are important and helpful. It gives us, as audiences, the idea whether to watch a movie or not.

    But honestly, even before I read your review. I already find the poster intriguing which makes me want to watch it. Maybe for creative people, they'd find this interesting but for some who may be straightforward persons, they'd want to see from the poster what it's actually about.

    1. The face in the tree design has been used before in the poster of a previous Sandra Bullock film "Premonition". It does not really figure in the story though.

  5. I love the poster! It speaks for the movie itself... Even if I haven't seen the movie yet, it fives you a glimpse of what the movie is about. I hope to see the film!

  6. I love the poster! It speaks for the movie itself... Even if I haven't seen the movie yet, it fives you a glimpse of what the movie is about. I hope to see the film!