July 5, 2016
The 3rd World Premieres Film Festival (WPFF) is currently running from June 29 to July 10, 2016, organized by the Film Development Council Philippines in cooperation with the Cinematheque Centre Manila. It has a Filipino New Cinema showcasing contemporary indie films screened in select cinemas all over the metro (Cinematheque Centre Manila, Uptown Cinema, SM North Edsa, SM Megamall, Greenbelt 3, and Shang Cineplex).
The six entries in competition vied for awards which were presented last Sunday night. The winner for Best Picture is Alvin Yapan's "EDSA", which I hope I can still catch. However, I did get to watch the Second Best Picture "Ringgo, the Dog Shooter", which also won Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay. Despite this acclaim, I saw some pretty harsh ratings for "Ringgo" in social media (including a 0/5), and this made me even more curious to go see it for myself.
Ringgo (Sandino Martin) is a 16 year-old apprentice dog-shooter, a person who facilitates the mating of two dogs to assure a good chance of conception. When his master Mang Willy (Bodgie Pascua) suddenly fell ill, Ringgo took over his job. His luck changed when he was hired full time as a pet caretaker by Bong (Janice de Belen), a butch lesbian who kept various breeds of dogs in her home.
Their love for dogs, particularly for an abused Doberman named Inca, bonded the two closely as they faced their own personal problems. Ringgo had to deal with his Uncle Frank (Bembol Roco, Jr.), an adoptive father for whom he owed a lifelong debt of gratitude despite being an abusive alcoholic. Bong had to deal with her own father issues, as well as her relationship with her life partner, the beautiful vet Dr. Alva (Liza Dino Seguerra).
Sandino Martin initially had to play a tough, stoic street urchin, a boy abandoned by his drug addict mother. Martin had a difficult challenge to show the slow process of healing his broken character experiences. He was able to deliver very well in a some well-crafted dramatic scenes, one with Inca and a couple of scenes with Bong, to highlight this to us. He was not an easy person to like at first, with ugly hairstyle, uncouth manners and annoying attitude. He eventually does make us feel for his plight later as the film went on.
Even if the title role belonged to Martin, the showier role belonged to Ms. Janice de Belen. She was really convincing as the masculine Bong, in her short-cropped hair, tattooed arms, muscle t-shirts and her love scenes with Alva. Her confrontation scene with Bembol Roco, Jr. may have seemed extreme and out of place, but she pulled that off gutsily. There was no denying that she deserved that Best Actress Award for this transformative performance like we have never seen her before, as well as for those tenderly maternal scenes with Ringgo.
With a background theme like dog-shooting (an occupation I only learned about today), there was a preponderance of scenes and references of a sexual nature that pervaded this film. These sex scenes may have given this film some cause for controversy, but for me they did not seem entirely necessary to build up its central message of healing. On the other hand, they even detracted from this message by sending confusing signals.
That side plot about Ringgo's affair with a flirty neighborhood beauty Emily (Micha Oteyza) felt extraneous. It could have been cut out entirely without affecting the story. The same is true with that side plot about Alex (Manuel Chua Jr.), the sex pervert stalker of Alva. In fact, that Alex story ended in a climactic bloody scene which turned out unintentionally hilarious, nearly ruining the whole film.
With this film, director Rahyan Carlos and veteran screenwriter Ricky Lee convey a most reassuring message of how healing can happen even to the most damaged among us, and this healing can come from the people who may not even be related by blood. This core essence was effectively delivered mainly because we all saw how the close relationship that developed and forged between Ringgo and Bong (as very well-portrayed by Martin and de Belen) which led to their respective healing and redemption. 6/10.