Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Review of HAMOG: Unsavory Urchins

August 22, 2017




Of all the participating films in the first Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino this year, this one is one of the older ones. "Hamog" debuted in the Cinema One Originals Digital Film Festival back in 2015. I did not see it back then, honestly because the topic about street kids did not immediately appeal to me so I prioritized to watch others. And then the acclaim and the series of awards followed, so now I was curious to see what it was all about. 

It won four festival prizes then, including the Special Jury Prize, as well as for Best Actress (Therese Malvar), Supporting Actor (Bon Andrew Lentejas) and Editing (Charliebebs Gohetia). In the Moscow International Film Festival 2016, it won the Silver St. George prize for Best Actress for Therese Malvar. Shanghai International Film Festival 2016, the film won the Golden Goblet for Outstanding Artistic Achievement for director Ralston Jover.

Under the Guadalupe Bridge beside the Pasig River, a gang of four street kids live inside a discarded drainage cylinder pipe. 13 year old Rashid is a Muslim boy who would rather sleep in the streets than stay at home with his father and his many wives. 8 year old Momoy is his usual partner in crime. While the younger kids distract the victim,15 year old Jinky and her 16 year old boyfriend Tisoy perpetrate the theft. 

The two-pronged plot of the film stems from an incident when they attempt to steal from Danny whose taxi was stalled in traffic. All the boys were able to get away with the loot, but Danny was able to catch Jinky. The first half follows Rashid and Moy, an episode marked with an accidental tragedy and its aftermath. The second half follows Jinky and Danny, an episode marked with abuse and perversity.

As could be expected from a film about hardened street kids, this was quite the depressing affair. No hope for joy nor redemption can be gleaned from the stories. We admire Rashid for his sense of responsibility about little Moy, even if they were not blood relatives, but it was apparent that his life is already condemned in misery. How about Jinky? What do you think will happen to her after that last scene of hers? The last we saw Tisoy, he was being conscripted into an Akyat-Bahay robbery gang. Again, another hopeless case. 

All the kid actors played their respective roles with realistic stench and grit. I know Zaijian Jaranilla's talents from his days as Santino on TV, and he can still deliver as a young teenager now. Bon Andrew Lentejas was a very natural as Moy. In fact, he looked like he was not acting at all. The jurors decided to reward his efforts despite his abbreviated screen time. Samuel Quintana played Tisoy, even if he did not look Tisoy at all. Compared to his fellow young actors, he came across as stiff and amateurish. His scene with "Supergirl" (Kyline Alcantara) was absurd.

As Jinky, Therese (aka Teri) Malvar had the toughest, scariest role to play, and she nailed it. That heart-rending scene of Jinky in front of her mentally- and emotionally- unstable mother (who was curiously not credited, but I later found out to be Cherry Malvar, Teri Malvar's mother in real life!) was her best scene for me. But all throughout her ordeal with her victim-turned-"guardian" Danny, I was on the edge of my seat about what was going to happen to her. I did not know that DSWD youth centers worked that way, that they would just let delinquent female street children leave with an unknown man -- a truly nightmarish scenario if indeed this happens in real life. 

With his on-point portrayal of the polygamous father Abdul in this film, I could say that Lou Veloso can really portray any role realistically. Their father-son relationship and Rashid's past sins could be spun off for another episode of this drama for a future film. Ruby Ruiz played the ONLY positive adult character I remember in this film, a Barangay Kapitana who helped Rashid out in his mission of mercy.

This was the first time I had seen theater actor and singer OJ Mariano in a film, and it was so unlike his stage persona that it had to be a dark negative film like this. Anna Luna (a ray of sunshine in films like "Paglipay," "Bar Boys" and yes, even "Requited") played a sadistic schizophrenic sexual deviant here -- most times bitchy, then one time inexplicably kind. Mike Liwag's third-wheel character Bernard was not clearly explained, but I think his sleazy behavior already spoke for itself. 

Awards and favorable recommendations notwithstanding, sad hopeless movies like this are not exactly my cup of tea. I do agree with the accolades received by the young cast. However, the stories told were either too mundane (Rashid's) or too weird (Jinky's) to draw my interest into it. This is not something I would highly recommend. But then again, that is just me. To each his own, I guess. 5/10. 

6 comments:

  1. Despite the many awards it got, preferences still vary. A story inspired by misery is not a good thing to watch.

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  2. I find the plot interesting. I kind of was spoiled. I should not have read your post :|

    When I was working in BGC Taguig area and returning home at night time, I always see these children or also known as Batang Hamog, Rugby Boys, Batang Yagit, etc. along Kalayaan ave. and some of them are lurking in front of Guadalupe Mall. Sometimes, I saw them being pursued by the authorities but they just keep coming back.

    DSWD is not doing a long-term solution. They just returning those children to their parents. Their parents who keep making more children despite their poor living conditions.

    Anyway, I should really watch this film. I wish they release a copy in movie stores.

    Thanks!

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    1. Thanks for your comment Roy. I would like to assure you that what I wrote was just a shallow overview of the film, but there is still so much story for you to unfold when you watch it yourself. :-)

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  3. Oh my! Reminds me of Slumdog Millionaire! Its just heartening to see little kids play such serious roles with so much dedication. I'd love to watch the movie.

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    1. Although this one has no comedy at all, nor any dancing at the end.

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