Friday, October 30, 2015

QCinema 2015: Review of MATANGTUBIG: Bizarre Batangas Barrio

October 29, 2015

From only three films in its maiden year in 2013, this currently running 3rd QCinema International Film Festival now boasts of 60+ films in 13 categories, shown in six cinemas in three Quezon City malls -- Gateway, Trinoma and Robinson's Galleria. There are eight films in competition called the Circle, each with a P1M grant. I was only able to catch two of these eight films.

Matangtubig is a remote and sleepy town in the province of Batangas proud of its zero crime rate. Two high school senior girls Natalie and Melody were abducted by some men. The next day, Natalie was found raped and killed with a blow to the head. Melody was never seen again. A man witnessed their abduction but he did not know if he should report what he has seen. Meanwhile, this sensational case attracted attention from the public, everyone vying to weigh in with their opinions and interests.  

From the very first scene, director Jet Leyco created a suffocatingly dark and uncomfortable atmosphere. The horror of the whole situation was very palpable. However, heinous as the initial crime was, it was just set up for the filmmaker to offer commentary about various aspects of society.

There were sharp barbs against netizens (ever complaining on social media without actual physical effort to help), the mainstream press (those stupid prying questions, the fakeness of their coverage), the police (going out of post to escort businessmen, long and lousy investigating), the politicians (shortcut briefings right before interviews, smiling at funeral photos), etc. The lines by scriptwriter Brian Gonzales were pointedly critical as they were funny. Some scenes were simply visually striking even without words, like how a funeral march and a marching band for a fiesta met in an intersection. 

Aside from Miles Kanapi who played Natalie's mother, I did not recognize anyone else in the cast. The anonymity of the actors worked in this film's favor to add to the strange mysterious feel of the events. 

Instead of the traditional structure of climax and resolution about the crime in question though, the film took a turn to the increasingly bizarre to actually create more unanswerable questions. Who were the naked couple in the woods? Who were those two policemen speaking with a robotic voice? Who was that giant figure wading in the lake? What were those red flashing lights while the witness was running? Where did that annoying male reporter disappear to? Who or what did Melody's brother really see in the distance? 

What is this baffling and bewildering film really about? Was this a supernatural phenomenon? Was this science fiction with aliens? The movie ends without us knowing. Maybe because of time constraints, the filmmakers seemed to have rushed the ending with some weird editing choices that negatively affected the overall quality of the film. I hope a proper director's cut comes out in the future to maybe show us better what he really wanted to convey. 6/10.

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