Two standout indies in World Premieres fest

Aiko Melendez

WE PATRONIZE indie films not because they’re seamless, but because they often offer a different—and more realistic—perspective on significant themes that the mainstream industry deems too provocative for the peanut gallery they cater to to appreciate. They tackle issues that aren’t perfunctorily spoon-fed to viewers.

Take Mel Chionglo’s World Premieres film fest entry, “Iadya Mo Kami,” whose beleaguered protagonist, Father Greg (Allen Dizon, appropriately cast but ultimately underwhelming), is torn between fatherhood and his priestly calling. He finds himself reassigned to another parish as punishment for his “worldly indiscretion.”

But, the fresh start he yearns for is compromised by the dire political situation his parish is in, as well as the mother (Diana Zubiri) and child who refuse to sever ties with him.

Does he have the guts to steer his vocation back on track and expose the illegal activities of the abusive Julian (Ricky Davao) and his enabler wife, Millet (Aiko Melendez, award-worthy for her deceptively twisted portrayal)—who just happen to be the parish’s most generous donors? —Does this story ring a bell?

Growing up in a predominantly Catholic country like ours, we’ve been raised to believe that priests are vicars of Christ. Unfortunately, some of them are as fallible as the parishioners they preach to—and their sins of commission (and omission) are sometimes conveniently swept under the rug, as Tom McCarthy bravely exposed in “Spotlight.”

Chionglo’s return to filmmaking is far from flawless. In fact, it’s weighed down by distracting convolutions and a relevant albeit overwrought tale that plays out like predictable scenes and characters from a teleserye—from the miserly landlord and the sexually predatory employer, to the “benevolent” hypocrite, whose left hand doesn’t know what her right hand is doing.

But, while the movie is too melodramatic to be truly insightful, its heart is in the right place.

Lichauco

Lucid recollections

For its part, Sunshine Lichauco de Leon and Suzanne Richiardone’s “Curiosity, Adventure and Love,” is satisfying, because its cogently strung sections are as cohesive as its principal protagonist’s recollections are lucid—in fact, it’s one of the best local films we’ve seen this year: That’s no easy feat, because De Leon and Richiardone make their subject matter’s 100-year-old-plus reminiscences come alive.

The film immortalizes the vivid memories, shared with disarming candor precision and spectacular lucidity, of De Leon’s vibrant 104-year-old grandmother, Jessie Josephine Coe-Lichauco, a lovely American who threw caution to the wind to follow her heart and relocate to the Philippines after she accepted the proposal of Filipino lawyer and diplomat, Marcial Lichauco, the first Filipino to graduate from Harvard.

The film neither proselytizes nor indulges in schmaltz as it recalls the hard-won battles we fought as a people. But, something stirs when you witness Jessie’s catchy ebullience and joie de vivre as she shares her thoughts about the Philippines’ complex struggles.

It’s inspiring to listen to Jessie talk about the “wonderful people” she helped…“for whom life was a struggle.” As she sits beside the old banyan tree in her colonial home by the Sta. Ana river, Jessie, who was granted Filipino citizenship in 2012, waxes nostalgic about the wars she endured and the loved ones she lost through the years.
But, she remains positive about life: “I’ve been sad, but never unhappy!” she exults.

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