THIS year’s Metro Manila Film Festival ushered in a new era into the annual yuletide event, with its offering of a fresh lineup of quality films, mostly produced by independent outfits.
Headlined by both veteran and neophyte actors and directors, this year’s roster offers a diversity of topics: from social issues, religious horror and even technosexual dating. Here, the Varsitarian rounds up its take on the Magic 8:
“Sunday Beauty Queen”
FROM Chito S. Roño’s blockbuster hit “Caregiver” (2008) to Hannah Espia’s award-winning indie film “Transit” (2013), overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are staple subjects of Philippine cinema.
UST journalism alumna Babyruth Villarama’s “Sunday Beauty Queen” gives a refreshing take on the documentary genre, capturing the harsh realities of mothers working as nannies in Hong Kong.
The plot of “Sunday Beauty Queen” is heart-wrenching: mothers working to take care of other children in a foreign land, to support their own. These women, every Sunday, organize a beauty pageant to entertain and raise funds for their fellow Filipinos.
More than an exposé of harsh labor conditions, “Sunday Beauty Queen” talks about escape. The weekly contest, complete with elaborate costumes and comical question-and-answer portions, serves as a temporary getaway for the nannies who have to endure homesickness and unbearable employers, among others.
It also explores the social costs of working overseas such as neglect of family at home. In Cherrie Mae Bretana’s case, for instance, she gives up a better career opportunity in Japan for her employer’s son.
Chuck Gutierrez’s impeccable editing makes possible an uninterrupted narrative that never veers the spotlight away from the main characters. Dexter de la Peña’s cinematography widens every space, keeping the workers and their employers far from looking cramped in the kitchen.
With the technicalities of a documentary, “Sunday Beauty Queen” offers a new lens to the world of Filipinos working overseas, all to make ends meet for their families back home.
WITH a story grounded on the issue of extrajudicial killings, Arturo San Agustin and Real Florido’s “Kabisera” intends to mirror the social ills plaguing the country under Rodrigo Duterte.
Nora Aunor, the “Superstar” of Philippine Cinema, is Mercy, whose seemingly perfect family life is turned upside-down after a group of hooded gunmen enter their home one night, murdering her husband (Ricky Davao) and son (JC de Vera).
The rest of the film follows Mercy’s quest for justice. But the heroine ends up haplessly thrown around by individuals and institutions meant to defend and protect her, leaving her, in the end, jaded and disillusioned.
Unfortunately, “Kabisera” ends up relying heavily on the clichés of sociopolitical melodrama.
“Kabisera” boasts on a roster of veteran actors and promising new talents but ends up putting all the weight on Aunor alone, relegating other cast members to the background.
Color and cinematography blend near-perfectly in the film. The sunny- and gold-like hues that paint the lively town is juxtaposed with the darkness that looms over the characters. But this does not save “Kabisera” from its flaws.
“Kabisera” nonetheless shows that national issues have a place on the big screen, not just on the primetime news block.
ALVIN Yapan, known for the indie hits “Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa” (2011) and “Debosyon” (2013), returns to the big screen. This time, he takes on the Metro Manila film fest with “Oro,” which tackles the hardships of Filipino miners.
Based on real-life events, “Oro” is the story of Elmer (Joem Bascon), a miner from a small town in Camarines Sur, who is set to marry his pregnant girlfriend, Linda (Mercedes Cabral).
Their lives take a turn for the worse when the “Sagip Kalikasan Task Force” arrives and halts all mining activities in the town, creating tension between the workers and the armed men posing as environmentalists.
Yapan’s “Oro” gathers a spectrum of personalities, each with their own well-rounded characterization and perspectives.
Colorist Timmy Torres was careful with the palettes, with the gentle, middle-grade coloring of some scenes proving that high-contrast shades give stories a different mood. In shallow and deep blues and yellows, the drama progresses into the promising chronicle that it is.
Bascon, Cabral and Irma Adlawan, who portrays the community leader, were laudable in their performances.
As a social commentary on the 2014 “Gata 4” massacre in Bicol, the film exposes the ugly truth of how Filipinos willingly prey on their countrymen to pursue self-interest.