Saturday, July 22, 2017

Flashback: Review of DED NA SI LOLO: Funeral Foibles

November 13, 2009

For the weekend of November 13-15, 2009, the Philippine Educational Theater Association (or PETA) will be showing three acclaimed Filipino indie films in a three day series called "C Mo Si Direk".  The three directors are Maryo J. delos Reyes ("Kamoteng Kahoy" starring Gloria Romero), Joel Lamangan ("Fuschia" also starring Gloria Romero) and Soxie Topacio ("Ded na si Lolo").

Of the three, the one the really caught my attention was the one shown tonight, Soxie Topacio's "Ded Na Si Lolo".  Honestly, I wanted to watch it because it had been given the honor to be our country's representative to the Oscar Awards for this year.  The choice seemed too unlikely, so that I simply needed to watch and judge it for myself.

The PETA theater is so near where I work, but I never really had the chance to see anything there yet.  Tonight was the first formal event I attended there, and I hope only the first among many more to come.  The entrance of P200 may be a bit expensive for a local indie film showing, but the promised chance to hear the director and cast in an open forum after the show seemed worth the price of admission.

The affair was opened by PETA President Ms. Cecilia "CB" Garrucho.  She was a memory from my childhood as the emcee of "Tele Aralan ng Kakayahan." She introduced director and writer Mr. Soxie Topacio, again familiar in my childhood memory as cast member of the TV sitcom "Duplex."  He told of how close to his heart this movie was as these were his own experiences growing up, so close that he was able to write the script in three days!


The movie is about how a family of five adult siblings coped with the death and the wake of their father, as simple as that.  But within that bare context, Mr. Topacio was able inject very familiar Filipino situations that make us laugh out loud, and tug some heartstrings in the process.  A central theme element is the depiction of various irrational superstitions that surround death, the wake and the funeral.  It also tackles uniquely Filipino practices during the wake, including the gambling operations (saklaan).  The inter-family conflicts among the siblings are also very well-limned and very realistic.  As it is sharp, the words of the script were really very witty.  

It is very obvious that the movie also succeeds because of the excellent cast.  Mr. Topacio himself acknowledged that the secret of this movie's success is that he was able to get the actors he wanted.  The siblings were played by veteran performers Dick Israel, Elizabeth Oropesa, Gina Alajar, Roderick Paulate, and Manilyn Reynes.  

Paulate, as expected with his flamboyant role as the gay son Junie, steals all his scenes, even when he does not have dialog.  They play their comically-melodramatic roles with gusto and fun.  Their interactions are quite carefree and natural, in both funny and dramatic situations.  Another stand-out performance is by the child BJ Forbes who plays the grandchild Bobet from whose eyes this story is told.  The scene where he recalls his fond memories of grandfather was silently touching.

I am glad I watched this movie.  I think it would be a good movie for competition abroad because of its perfect rendering of the Filipino ways, very "masang Pinoy" indeed.  I was hoping they would show the subtitled version today, but they didn't. I wanted to see how the humorous Filipino dialog would come out in English, how much nuance could be lost. I am concerned that a foreign audience might treat the whole movie as an inside joke that they do not get. 

Last year's Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film went to a movie about death customs as well -- "Departures" from Japan.  But certainly, as the quietness of that movie made it uniquely Japanese, the noise and festivity of "Ded Na Si Lolo" makes it uniquely Pinoy.  I believe it deserves its shot at the big prize.  As part of its effort to raise funds for its Oscar campaign, this movie will get another theatrical run this December.  Do try to catch this and support this very Filipino film to win the elusive Oscar.

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