Friday, October 30, 2015

QCinema 2015: Review of APOCALYPSE CHILD: Bitterness in Baler

October 30, 2015




Last night, the 3rd QCinema International Film Festival held its award night. The Best Picture prize went to a film called "Apocalypse Child". This film also won Best Director for Mario Cornejo, Best Supporting Actress for Annicka Dolonius and Best Film Editing. If you only had the chance to catch only one film before this festival ends this Halloween weekend, "Apocalypse" is that film. 

In the late 1970s, some scenes of US movie "Apocalypse Now" were shot in Baler. Rumors say 14-year old Chona allegedly got pregnant by the director himself. Her son Ford is now a thirtysomething surfing instructor in the beaches of Baler. His current student and part-time lover is 19-year-old Fiona. Ford's old childhood friend Rich returns to Baler after a long absence, now as its congressman. He brought home with him his fiancee Serena. To give her something to do while he is working, Rich encourages Serena to take surfing lessons from Ford. These lessons trigger a cascade of events that lead to explosive revelations and bitter betrayals.

Sid Lucero plays the American bastard Ford, which was essentially a surfer-type variation of his hot-headed philosopher character from his other acclaimed indie film "Norte."  The legend around the circumstances of his conception was such an interesting backstory for a film. Ironically, for the champion surfer and veteran surfing instructor that his character was, we never actually see him up on the board surfing. 

RK Bagatsing plays the hotshot, hearing-impaired congressman Rich. It was the long-repressed hostility between these two characters Ford and Rich that will hold us riveted to the story to the end. However, one gets the feeling that we do not really get the whole story at all. The way these two guys were starting at each other was so intense and pregnant such that you can cut the thick tension between them with a knife. The explanation the ending gave us for their conflict did not seem to be complete.

Ana Abad Santos was so delightful and charming as Ford's young mother, even when she was high on pot or alcohol. Her denial about her past, devil-may-care attitude for the present and sense of hope for her future were poignantly portrayed. Gwen Zamora is the beautiful future trophy-wife Serena, who has deep secrets of her own. Archie Alemania manages to make a strong impression despite his limited screen time as Ford's wacky good friend Jonas.

Annicka Dolonius made a bold impression in last year's controversial indie film "Ninja Party". She shows us more of what she can deliver acting-wise in this film as the young yet jaded free spirit Fiona. Dolonius had two gripping scenes in this film for which it is clear why she fully deserved the Best Supporting Actress award she won in this film is truly deserved. That quiet scene with Ford where she was asking him to hold her was heart-breaking in its poetry.

Writer-Director Mario Cornejo had created very rich web of interesting characters. All of them were very well-rounded real people who had a stories that could be individual films in themselves. I wanted to know them all more. One hour and a half of this film is not enough. Cornejo captured the beauty of Baler in breathtaking vistas and compelling close-ups to frame and enhance his characters. It is such a mystery for me that the beautiful cinematography of this film was not cited for an award. The images we see were powerful and symbolic as they were imaginative and energetic. 9/10.

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