Tuesday, December 1, 2020


 December 1, 2020


Director: Arnel Barbarona

Writers: Arnel Barbarona, Arnel Mardoquio

David Justambaste (Dax Alejandro), CEO of a Davao-based mining company, experienced a series of tough events in his family, career and health. One day, he booked a spirited Lumad teenage guide Podong (Henyo Ehem) to take him up to the peak of Mt. Apo. While hiking the challenging trail up the mountain, David learned from Podong about the culture of his people, as well as how the mining industry had denied them of their ancestral domain and a decent education. 

Director Arnel Barbarona also produced, co-wrote, lensed, edited, scored the music and did the sound for this full-length film. The back story of David was told in a series of flashbacks which I never really figured out which events came first before the other, something that took time for me to get my bearings on. I get the "journey of redemption, closure and healing" part, as well as the important message about the encroachment into Lumad life and land. However, the amateurish self-conscious acting, the awkward comic relief and a gratuitous sex scene got in the way. Meanwhile, the view at the peak of Mt. Apo was breathtaking, and the special participation of an Audemars Piguet wrist watch was very classy. 6/10. 


Director: Jason Paul Laxamana

Writer: Jason Paul Laxamana

Broadcasting student Martin Pangan (Elijah Canlas) had a chance encounter with the Lawrence Manalastas (Enzo Pineda), a TV reporter he idolized when the latter interviewed him as a man on the street. That night, Lawrence gave Martin an unexpected call, inviting him to go out with him for coffee. However, when he related this experience to his friends like Klarisse (Lara Fortuna) and Neil (Gio Gahol), Martin came up with three different versions of how his meeting with Lawrence went. From a friendly chat, it evolved to a sleazy tease, and ultimately, it became a hellish nightmare.

This was a relatively short film at a compact 1 hour an 15 minutes, and in that time, it was able to build up a very shocking plot. It started as a case of "Rashomon" with the various versions were just told by just one person. Then you'd realize that 17 year-old Martin was just so in awe of his idol, he cannot bear to tell the ugly truth all in one go. As Martin grappled with psychological torture, Elijah Canlas once again proved that he was an actor with depth and skill to reckon with. As the charming and respectable Lawrence, Enzo Pineda was a smooth predatory wolf in sheep's clothing. The subject matter of sexual harassment is very uncomfortable to watch, and could certainly trigger people who had been in that helpless situation. 5/10. 


Director: Keisuke Yoshida

Writer: Keisuke Yoshida, adapted from a manga series by Hideki Arai

Iwao Shishido (Ken Yasuda) was a 42-year old Japanese man who worked in a game arcade. His mother Tsuru (Hana Kino) was very frustrated that he remained unmarried up to that time. He liked a co-worker named Aiko (Aoba Kawai), but his mother rejected her because she was divorced and had a bad reputation. Exasperated, Iwao flew to the Philippines to buy himself a bride. The childish young girl he chose Irene (Nats Sitoy) immediately met the disapproval of Tsuru who did everything to break them apart, even conspiring with a Yakuza goon Shiozaki (Yusuke Iseya) to kidnap Irene.

Co-writer and director Keisuke Yoshida was going for a dark comedy, but he tried so hard, the whole thing failed to fly, making it a chore to get through its entire 2 hour runtime. All the Japanese characters were very unlikable -- from the glum sex pervert Iwao, his histrionic terror mother Tsuru, to all his raunchy friends at the arcade. Even the pathetic character of Irene was made to do some bizarre behavior and foolish actions. The director went for the shock approach to drive his film forward -- the absurd, the violent, the offensive, the insulting and the perverse-- and it was all one big unsavory mess. 3/10. 


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