Thursday, July 13, 2017

TOFARM 2017: Review of INSTALADO: Futuristic Farm Fable

July 13, 2017


The ToFarm Film Festival was launched last year to "showcase the lives, journeys, aspirations, trials and tribulations" of farmers. Its mission is to "stimulate the agriculture community with the help of the film medium to promote awareness of the life of Filipino farmers." The festival director is esteemed film director Maryo J. delos Reyes.

I completely missed the first ToFarm Film Festival held July 13-19, 2016. The film "Paglipay," about Aeta villagers in Zambales who made a living by kaingin farming on Mt. Pinatubo, won Best Picture, Best Director (for Zig Dulay), Best Actor (for Gabby Cabalic), Best Supporting Actress (for Anna Luna), and People's Choice. 

Fortunately, "Paglipay" and "Pauwi Na" (another multi-awarded entry) are among the films chosen for the first Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino to be shown this August, so I hope I can watch those two films by then.

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The story of "Instalado" is set in the farming town of Porac, Pampanga in the near future. There is now an advanced technology where an entire four-year college course is simply "installed" in the brain of an individual in a matter of four hours. Many people were availing of this easy form of "education", the high price notwithstanding. On the other hand, teachers and professors are protesting how this system only favored the rich and privileged.

After having been installed with no less than four college courses, Arnel Balajadia returned to their hometown driving a red BMW convertible. In order to earn his own money for his own installation, Arnel's childhood friend Victor Maniago chose to leave his father's farm and worked like a servant in Arnel's home in order to earn money for his own installation.  

We also meet Danny Tua, a 15-year old boy who had his installation with 8 diploma courses done just 4 years before. Despite his wealth and position as the chief executive of the marketing firm hired by a new all-Filipino installation firm, Danny does not seem happy being pressured to be the breadwinner of their family, losing his childhood in the process.

Pinoy Big Brother graduate and #Hastag McCoy de Leon is starring in his first film in the lead role of Victor. We see him wash a carabao, chop vegetables, wipe vomit off the floor and several other mundane chores that he probably never ever did in real life. He knows he does not really look like his parents nor his kid brother here, but he still gave the role his all, and we appreciate the effort.

Jun-jun Quintana plays Arnel, Victor's successful friend and master. The role required him to act basically as a spoiled rich boy, so this was probably not so much of a challenge for this young actor who already has an Urian award for Best Supporting Actor (for "Philippino Story", 2013). His best scene would be one of his first, the one where he confronts his old professor who flunked him before.

Francis Magundayao plays Danny. He is only 18, so he is not much older than his character who just had his 15th birthday. He had the private angst and depression part of the teenager Danny nailed. However, as the CEO of his marketing firm, he still looked like he lacked confidence. Maybe he was supposed to look awkward to highlight the discomfiting reversed situation where the boss is the youngest person in the conference room.

Archie Adamos had a marked role as Prof. Gener Taruc, a professor who was against installation but was offered a free installation himself. 13-year old Barbara Miguel (Best Actress winner at the 2013 Harlem International Filmfest for the Cinemalaya film "Nuwebe") had a winning performance as Danny's childhood friend Shamila, a Muslim girl who also yearned to have installation herself. 

The plot is very intriguing and provocative. You will think about the story long after you've seen the film. This type of education is very convenient, isn't it? Four hours vs. four years is no contest. Furthermore, the technology aspect does not seem to be too far-fetched to become reality in the future. However, writer-director Jason Paul Laxamana is careful to present both sides of the coin. Theoretical knowledge does not equal personality, ethics, manners and respect. 

At first glance, this science-fiction theme seemed unrelated to the festival theme of agriculture. However, Laxamana was able to weave farming in a significant side plot to make it fit. It was interesting to hear progress in political geography with terms like "State of Cagayan Valley" or "Mabalacat City" mentioned. There are also droll futuristic props like hologram cell phones and plastic-looking peso bills. This audacious and imaginative storyline makes this film definitely stand out from the other more down-to-earth entries of this festival. 7/10.

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