November 15, 2015
For this year's edition of Cinema One Originals Film Festival, I had not been fortunate to catch any of the films in competition yet. Whenever I had time to go to the Trinoma Mall cinema, there would only be old C1 original films scheduled, all of them from 2014. Lucky I was able to finally see two which I long wanted to see since missing them last year.
Everything about this film was relentlessly dark and depressing. From the beginning, there were various scenes depicting the most grisly deaths, involving a building rooftop, fire and a pig's head. There was also a very eerie, grainy and silent "found footage" sequence about a mass suicide in a religious cult.
It would then settle down to tell the story of a group of men (three policemen played by Joel Lamangan, Victor Neri and Anthony Falcon, their janitor Andy Bais and a driver RK Bagatsing) trapped in a police precinct during a very strong storm. Hell breaks loose when a mysterious new prisoner (Timothy Mabalot) was brought in because this boy seemingly knew the secrets of these five men.
This film was the big winner at last year's festival awards, winning Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Andy Bais), Best Editing and Best Sound. The Best Picture award is a big surprise since this is a pretty disturbing film. Kudos to the board of judges for looking beyond the conventional parameters as techniques prevailed over plot here. The other awards won were all well-deserved. Andy Bais really gave a most chilling performance of a man being churned inside by unforgiving guilt. The editing and sound were both very effectively done to augment the tense atmosphere developed by the disturbing images of director Dodo Dayao. 7/10.
Red (Jericho Rosales) is a known fixer in Bacolod City. Someone commits a crime, Red is called to come and "fix" the situation. One day, he gets framed in a crime himself, his charmed world, including his marriage to childhood love Mai (Mercedes Cabral) comes caving down on him. His best friend Milton (Nico Antonio), a radio voice talent who was also the favorite storyteller in the local marketplace, spins his best tales in order to save Red's face and reputation.
The cinematography, production design and costume design were quite beautifully done. From his accent to his tears, Jericho Rosales is really a very good subtle actor who does not have to resort to anything over-the-top or annoying to be effective. Mercedes Cabral was underused here, but that scene in the underpass was a such a heartbreaking killer. JM Rodriguez was very campy playing the rich, spoiled brat who gets Red involved in a fix he can't fix. While I thought those storytelling scenes with Nico Antonio and his excitable audience at the marketplace were very unnatural in execution, I do recognize it as a necessary device to deliver the main point of the film.
This film won the Best Screenplay award for Jay Abello and Dwight Gaston. Although the plot did get a little too out-of-hand in its complexity in the middle with so many characters and side events cluttering the storytelling, director Jay Abello was able to rein it all in with a good satisfying ending. 7/10.
3. HINDI SILA TATANDA
A photographer Diwa (Kean Cipriano) had a self-consuming fascination with UFOs and aliens. A trip to Sta. Cruz, Zambales with his girlfriend Mona (Mara Lopez), and best friends Ryan (Ketchup Eusebio) and Andrea (Dawn Jimenez) gives him the encounter with the third kind he had been long-obsessed about. However, the consequences of this bizarre trip on their friendships were less than ideal.
The story was supposed to be very interesting, but it just went to directions that I did not expect. It had an alien character but they did not tell us more about him. It had a simpleton houseboy with revealing old photographs from his old camera. Instead writer-director Malay Javier chose to dwell on the mundane and angst-ridden relationships between its millennial characters. I felt this was such a waste of its unique promising premises.
I never really got why the title of the film was such. The whole film wallowed from dim light to pitch-black darkness. The climactic nighttime search in a deserted field lit only by flashlights echoed the tension of "The Blair Witch Project". However, this would only to be totally ignored in the next scenes, which was a downer for me. Anyhow, I give positive props to the rock-driven soundtrack, which I felt was the best part of this project. 5/10.
I thought this would be an action film because of the guns in the poster. It turns out it is a serio-comic look at the life of a lonely 60 year old lady who was always unlucky in love. The guns were a metaphor for the hurt that love inflicts on people, rather than the usual Cupid's arrows. Writer-director Sigrid Bernardo tried to stuff so many side stories into this package which may have bloated it a little. However, the main message of moving on from life's misfortunes remains loud and clear.
Shamaine Buencamino really gave this film her all in a passionate bravura performance where she totally bared herself here, fractured spirit and abdominal flab and all. This would surely win the Best Actress prize any other year, but too bad for Buencamino that it was the same year as Angelica Panganiban had her more popular winning turn in "That Thing Called Tadhana".
This film won the Best Supporting Actress Award for Ms. Maria Isabel Lopez. Well, she really caught attention in this film and got to deliver the funniest, wildest and most memorable lines. I liked the all-star supporting cast with Angel Aquino, Jim Paredes, Felix Roco, Miguel Faustman, Juan Rodrigo and Raquel Villavicencio (who was so funny in those zumba scenes). But the biggest surprise of them all was the cool (and high?) participation of celebrated long-form indie film director Lav Diaz as Lorna's high school crush, Rocky. Diaz' performance was so raw and unpolished, yet so oddly compelling. 8/10.