Cinema One fest yields pleasant surprises, frivolous duds
There were more hits than misses in the 11th edition of the Cinema One indie fest this year, with screenings in SM Megamall, TriNoma, Resorts World and Glorietta cinemas from Nov. 8 to 11.
“Dahling Nick” is a fascinating fusion of fact and fiction anchored on the life and career of Nick Joaquin, portrayed with plucky gusto by Raymond Bagatsing. It is far from perfect, but is nevertheless a must-see because of the tantalizing trivia and little-known facts about the beer-chugging National Artist, his endearing quirks and amusing antics, his disdain for Imelda Marcos (Dindi Gallardo) and her corrupt husband’s oppressive martial law regime.
While compromised by its punishingly bum-numbing length and slow-grinding, self-indulgent moments, Sari Dalena’s incisive three-hour docu-drama is greater than the sum of its overreaching parts—and is the director’s most significant film to date.
Raymond Red’s “Mga Rebeldeng May Kaso” attempts to capture a crucial moment in the aftermath of the 1986 People Power revolution—the emergence of indie filmmaking in the Philippines.
Unfortunately, the film’s screwy plot has trouble settling into a coherent story, weighed down further by eardrum-puncturing portrayals that are as frivolous as they are goofily vacuous. You sit there and convince yourself that what you’re watching can’t be an accurate reflection of its subject matter’s pertinence, because many of the indies you love aren’t loud, aimless—and annoying as heck.
Kaye Abad works her way up to the heart of “The Comeback’s” thematic mayhem: After an embarrassing fall from grace, loopy movie star Angela Velasco (Abad) struggles to come to grips with her dastardly fate—but her suicide attempt is interrupted by the arrival of a mysterious package containing four letters and a dead man’s ashes!
While earnest as she’s always been, Abad looks lost in the midst of the production’s riotous ludicrousness. Ivan Andrew Payawal’s wacky comedy gets off to a breezy start but soon meanders into a glut of shrill thespic navel-gazing. The movie and its characters happily play to the peanut gallery, but fail to say anything significant.
The gags in the disarmingly quirky “Baka Siguro Yata” are just as scattershot and silly—but, in a good way. Joel Ferrer delivers an unconventional rom-com that sparkles with wit and heartwarming brio, forged by the unlikely chemistry of best actor Dino Pastrano and Bangs Garcia, as well as Ricky Davao and Cherie Gil portraying old-timers who belatedly rediscover their undying love for each other.
In the occasionally rambling but otherwise moving “Manang Biring,” Carl Papa’s rotoscoped dramatic feature, cancer-stricken and terminally ill Biring Macasaet (Erlinda Villalobos) does everything she can to prolong her life, with the help of her well-meaning friends (Mailes Kanapi, Alchris Galura).
When her estranged, Dubai-based daughter (Cherry Pie Picache, outstanding despite her limited screen time) tells her that she’s coming home for Christmas, she hires an actor to impersonate her—because she wants a happy homecoming for the daughter she hasn’t seen in 10 years! The movie eschews schmaltz for something more thoughtful and stirringly bittersweet—and delivers one of the year’s most poignant final scenes!
In Sheron Dayoc’s “Bukod Kang Pinagpala,” the strained relationship of a religious fanatic with a Virgin Mary complex (Bing Pimentel) and her disbelieving daughter (Max Eigenmann) takes a turn for the twisted when a naked, Christ-like being (Paolo Paraiso) barges into their lives—and puts their lives in peril!
Dayoc’s execution lends a visceral force to his characters’ struggle between lucidity and religious fanaticism, but it doesn’t take long for the exposition to succumb to its frustratingly lethargic pace. Moreover, the production’s provocative musings about a vengeful Higher Power is too heavy-handed.
Ralston Jover coaxes exceptional performances from his spirited cast in “Hamog,” which follows the lives of young peddlers and petty thieves, portrayed by Zaijian Jaranilla, Sam Quintana, Bon Lentehas and best actress Teri Malvar, who conveys her character’s bottled-up resentments with poignant and probing clarity.
The sections are uneven, but Jover manages to tie up loose ends that allow the film to coalesce into a cohesive whole. OJ Mariano’s portrayal as a conflicted cab driver also deserves commendation.
Best director Bor Ocampo’s “Dayang Asu” raises questions about nature versus nurture as it follows the story of an impressionable son (Junjun Quintana) who wants to prove that he is fit to follow in his abusive father’s (the appropriately sinister Ricky Davao) footsteps.
Ocampo manages to shake up the inherently predictable suspense-thriller genre, but introduces disparate elements that considerably slow down its pace, undermine his noble intentions and fail to generate sustained suspense.
For its part, Ara Chawdhury’s “Miss Bulalacao” cleverly utilizes the elements of magic realism in its engaging plot and plot twists to examine the story of a drag queen, Dodong (Russ Ligtas), who one day realizes that he’s—pregnant!
Chawdhury goes beyond dutiful exposition by deftly capturing the aura of moral anarchy that results from Dodong’s unusual situation. Ligtas provides a crucial insight into his character and paces a fine ensemble who further enhances the impact of his movie’s compelling tale!
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