March 19, 2015
There is a new local indie film festival that debuted yesterday at selected SM malls (Megamall, MOA, North EDSA, Fairview and Southmall) called SINAG MAYNILA. This film fest is a project of Solar Entertainment CEO Wilson Tieng and internationally-acclaimed film director Brillante Mendoza. All five entries were given carefully chosen and given a P2M grant to make their projects.
Of all the five entries, "Ninja Party" immediately draws attention because it sought to expose an urban legend about secret immoral parties organized by Catholic school girls. This controversial film is directed by filmmaker Jim Libiran, a man who was first known as Xerex, the writer of lurid stories for the Abante tabloid. Interestingly, the script was written by a couple of Chinoys, one of them female: Iris Lee and Dominic Lim.
"Ninja Party" is about a clique of four graduating high school seniors at the St. Maria Goretti School, an exclusive all-girls school run by nuns. Their leader is Alexa Gonzales, a top student running for valedictorian. In her gang are Sasha (promiscuous Fil-Am), Carla (overweight and gregarious) and Nicki (studious and conservative). Because of a fiasco about a bold school play, the principal Sister Teresa cancels a planned school-sanctioned soiree. Dejected, the girls plan a secret party instead with scandalous activities no school would ever sanction.
The daring young actresses who played the four friends are all not known to me but they were really very natural in their roles. They were indeed very brave to take on these sexually-adventurous characters at the risk of their own reputations. Annicka Dolonius played Alexa. She was totally effective and convincingly realistic as an honor student whose path was going awry. Bea Galvez, a total showbiz newcomer, played Carla. She was very relaxed and fearless. Julz Savard, who was once a contestant on Pinoy Big Brother Teen Edition, played Sasha. Her bad-girl character was most obvious with her tattoos and smoking. All of these girls actually look and speak like snooty cool high school girls.
The odd-man-out Nicki was played by odd-man-out Elora Españo. That Nicki never really felt like part of the gang was a point of weakness in the story-telling. She felt out of place based on the way she conducted herself. What was she hanging around these mean girls for? This question was never really addressed in the film. That an actress who looked and spoke so unlike the other three was cast in Nicki's role exposed the conflict in the film quite early on. This made the endgame predictable.
From when I knew her since I was a child, Odette Khan really possesses that face that can strike fear in anyone she stares at with those big penetrating eyes. Her Sister Teresa had the unenviable task of running the school, disciplining her girls and answering to the parents concerns. In her limited scenes, Ms. Khan makes her mark. Teresa Loyzaga made the most of her few scenes as a busy doctor mom of Alexa. Alexa's dad was played by theater director/actor Dennis Marasigan. His outburst at the end is a big question mark. The part of Carla's dad could have been better cast since he had some important scenes to play.
These revelatory stories of the girls in this film would strike concern, even fear, for parents of teenagers girls. Apparently, no matter how exclusive or expensive the school is, run by nuns or not, strict parents or not, honor student or not, rich, middle-class or poor, these factors are not assurances that your daughter is safe from exposure to prurient or unwholesome influences from their classmates. The strength of self-control and self-discipline of kids is still rooted in values formation at home in early childhood.
The film took its time telling the story of each individual girl, but ended up not telling us what happened to them after the scandal. I am all for open endings, but in order to succeed as a cautionary tale for the young people going to watch this film, I wish they showed the consequences of their rash thoughtless actions. In this way, the film only titillated young people more about this dangerous practice, instead of discouraging them. Thus ultimately, it only succeeds as a cautionary tale, not for the kids, but for the parents. 5/10.