Header Ads

Sinulog Short Filmfest 2010

The idea to qualify a slot for the Sinulog short filmfest is to make sure Sto. Niño does a cameo role in the story. It’s a risky guideline, although it puts the festival in context, because it invites YouTube-like works whose Sto. Niño appearances are more like afterthought or last-minute addition. Good thing nothing of that sort came to light up at the SM Cinema 1 stage on January 29, 2010. In fact, it did not seem like a stricture at all because interestingly, this year’s entries met this criterion with varying degrees of straightforwardness (a macro shot of small statue on taxi dashboard, placed in little home tabernacles, a severed plaster-of-paris head), religio-mythical physicality (the Holy Child in human form) and sometimes, of the Divine (a vision of a blinding midday sun).

Sto. Niño walking right to the scene is also a real risk, since it restricts the entries to only one theme: the presence and direct intervention of the Divine improves and transforms human condition. Pagtuo (the story of a mother of a cancer-stricken son) was a tearjerker in the mold of a primetime soap, but it is superior to films following miracle-cures-all theme in its sensitive and surprisingly touching portrayal of decay that sickness brings and bliss of healing.

The film on domestic violence (I’m so sorry, I can’t remember the title) was of special note as well; the good-for-nothing husband came to his senses not so much out of the virtue of a fantastic apparition, but the creeping realization that he has been slipping downhill morally. The conversion was organic and its suddenness was the real miracle, like someone freed from a deep reverie, although its plausibility might be disputable.

Another film (whose title I can’t remember, too) on long-distance relationship was promising in its attempt to highlight the harms of wired connectivity—specifically, social networking site Facebook—that we so greedily embrace and willingly trust. The choice of material is very contemporary, and the first few minutes to the film was visually and aesthetically appealing. The emergency scene, particularly the tried and tired scene of weeping in hospital chapel, was needlessly distended though. But it is a film that sticks to my mind because it is the one film where God did not give the miracle of restoring life to the dead and it made the girlfriend miserable. Like “Lost and Found,” the lesson is learned, and in a painful way.

The best of the films with God-intervening theme is Magkukulit II. The dialogue between three generations of men—grandfather, the sculptor and idealist; father, the realist; and grandson, the dreamer—about keeping wood carving as a family industry was sharp, and in such desperation and defeat, it breaks your heart. It is a commentary, a treatise of the passing of an era and the birth of harsh present where in the words of the father, “dili na kahoy ang isayaw sa Sinulog.” The film amplified more the mournful tolling of the bells for the departed rather than a wake up call, and this is where the Magkukulit II succeeds and we, the new generation, fails.

Films like Magkukulit II (Sculptor II), Pangandoy (loosely Dream), Kurtina nga Pula, and Taxi Driver were the whiffs of fresh air during the screening. Pangandoy also longs for a miracle, not of life, but of death. The tuberculous niece wants her single aunt freed from the bondage of her and her deteriorating body, and desires to be reunited with her dead parents. There is a lack of nuances in important places, especially on how much the niece wanted to die and on characterization of the aunt, but you could almost sigh peacefully when the niece breathed her last.

Kurtina nga Pula (The Red Curtain) prays for a different type of miracle: the miracle of redemption. A well-known chef screws up his last important job of preparing food for the VIP’s. Unfocused and self-destructive on account of the recent death of his wife, he is awaiting a hail of charges of food poisoning. So while he covers the Sto. Niño statue with a cloth and tucks in his daughter to sleep, he tells her a soft “pag-amping” (take care of yourself, which is so portentous I have to scream out to my seatmate Anna Lyn Pepito and shift my weight on the seat) and reprimands her for playing with her mother’s drapery. His delicate touches on the bead curtain while untangling his daughter’s toys are almost like caresses of a lover rather than plain housekeeping. Indeed the curtain is his wife’s and his grave, of which he is both the entombed dead and caretaker.

As he was about to tie the beads together to make a good rope for hanging, the cloth on Sto. Niño inexplicably is torn off and his daughter wakes up in time to tell him, “Ingon ka pa, dili duwaan ang kurtina ni Mama.” (I thought you told me not to play with Mom’s curtain.) Its serious look at death and the unbearable toll to stay alive, its unblinking view of the randomness and severity of bad luck, its understanding of our mind’s very thin thread separating sanity and madness, and its acknowledgment of a power beyond us make Kurtina nga Pula deserving of three rounds of applause it got from the audience, the only film that has earned such distinction. That was the closest to a standing ovation, which I would have given to it but did not, bowing to the potential embarrassment I might unnecessarily receive, not to mention, the questioning glares of others. (That night, the film was recognized the Best Picture of the competition.)

Taxi Driver is the modern tale of the prodigal son, and again it is awaiting for redemption, the kind of redemption that comes only when he has proven his worth. A Manileño, perfect with middle class English accent, drives a cab for a living and fools his mom to believing he is a top corporate executive drinking good brewed coffee during breaks. Slowly, his refined upbringing has given way to petty crime and mistaken bravado; he intentionally did not give a ride to a yuppie of about his age, cheated his fellow cab driver of 300 pesos, and had grudging jealousy to people with ambition. But as he has eavesdropped the conversation of his passengers, a mother and her son, talking about how Sto. Niño was such a good child He is the favored one, he hits the brake of his taxi and puts a a stop to all of his personal devils by phoning his mom about his trip going back home.

This article was written by Emelito Torres.


No comments

Powered by Blogger.