(The film is still by Edward, thanks to Viva Films).
Warden: Above Nazarno
Good Bilungsman knows the importance of change and discovery. When we reach certain stages in our lives, we grow and recognize, we understand and act, we create and break. More importantly, we do. After the screening of Edward’s film, which received a special jury prize, Top Nazarno asked a question and answered it: Age is the exploration of identity and personality. The later development of the Nazarno trilogy of old age (the first was Kiko Boxingero) is a web of truths about the public health system or a kind of prison for staff and patients. We see in her character of the same name (Louise Abouel) the voice of many. It brings with it the feeling, because it stands for 20/20 experiences, that you are in a hospital with a loved one who suffers from a terrible disease. What could first be a playground for him eventually becomes a labyrinth of suffering.
He helps the nurses by going from ward to ward to examine each patient, while at the same time being responsible for the care of his brothers, his father (Dido del Paz), who left him at a young age and came back as a burden to his life. Eventually he falls in love with a girl (Ella Cruz) from another department. But beware, this is not a love story (far from it, in fact). There is no doubt that creating this kind of realistic fable is invaluable. It speaks and preserves the whole truth about people whose responsibility suddenly exceeds their true nature. Edward was a little boy, but unconsciously became a man under the negative conditions imposed by the hospital. Edward experienced the cruelty of life at an early age and tore apart the innocence he could never understand as long as he lived. The story itself adds layers and layers of what would be like for those who dare to look at it. What if her father’s illness could be cured? What if there are no thieves hiding here? What if a girl and a boy were together forever? What would happen if the hospital had enough departments, staff and resources?
The truth of society is in the eyes of the witnesses. And those of you who have seen everything, like Edward, should now know that if you never see the light of day, you should know
Photo of the International Film Festival Rotterdam
4. No data plan
Warden: Miko Revereza
Now every Filipino knows how to fight abroad. We have seen stories about our foreign employees working in different parts of the world, read their testimonials on social networks and listened to their feelings in one way or another. We know that. What we don’t know is how serious their fight is. We don’t know how they really feel. And it’s not because we don’t care. We don’t know because we’ve never been in his shoes. We never knew the hardships they had to endure to live on. Ironic, isn’t it? How well do we think we know the problems, but we never fully understand the physical, psychological and social aspects of the pressing problems our compatriots face abroad? Miko Revereza uses his personal experience with an American migrant to film the migrant’s struggle in a strange landscape, using the Amtrak train journey as a visual representation of such a struggle.
For three days, the speechless narrator takes the train from Los Angeles to New York. It is not a tragedy to document landmarks, important destinations and memorable moments. Instead, we get a sense of what life is like as an unregistered immigrant in the United States, using the director’s own memories and personal experiences, even those of his mother, to shed light on how the country’s poor foreigners are treated as refugees in exile. And it is not only the mobile nature of the means of transport that he has removed to create the metaphors he sought; he explores the folds and crevices of the vehicle to convey xenophobia, to illustrate the growing fear that at some point he got off the train and was deported. We listen to routine conversations in the background and see other vehicles passing by, which brings us almost into the filming time Revereza sets up in a period of at least an hour. The film addresses the issues he raises with a sense of urgency about how to document everything he and his family go through, and is almost like an essay, focusing on the racial conflict and challenging the promise of a better future in the United States, where the so-called American dream can only be used by privileged and authorized people. At first there is no point in making a data plan. But at the end of the train ride only the No Data plan makes sense. And nothing else.
Photo by PÖFF
3. Calel, 15.
Warden: June Robles Lana
Juni Robles Lana directed three films last year in 2019. He doesn’t have to prove anything to people anymore to understand how productive and talented director Lana is. And although quantity does not always equal quality, each on-site manager has a 1:10 ratio to create an innovative project, provided the right materials and execution are available. His two films that year, Sisters Panty and The Unforgettable, weren’t really my thing. What is also commendable about these films, despite my reservations, is the fact that they still have nuances that prevent them from being a star. And if you ask me, it wouldn’t be so bad. In fact, it only proves my previous vision of research or creating something that brings everyone to the limit of his or her position. And it’s not for nothing that 15-year-old Kalel exists that year in his film story.
The sinister and nihilistic exploitation of Filipino society, which pervades all levels of hypocrisy, double standards and pseudo-neoliberal ideology, seen through the eyes of a teenager without a family mentor, 15-year-old Calel, is not only the state of the nation, but the nation itself. The film dares to break the thread of HIV consciousness without relying on emotional manipulation, and leads us on a cruel and true spiritual path to accept identity and liberation from judgment, while presenting its title character to perfection. Elijah Canlas is plagued by multiple torments and sufferings as his decisions and actions gradually remove his innocence of body and soul. In many cases it is a direct attack on the superficiality of Catholicism, where behind the mask of glory and religiosity there is only darkness, while everyone is blinded by his faith and especially by love (or the lack thereof). Behind the surface there is anger and anger when our society refuses to accept and acknowledge the reality of the gender and how the traditions we use to prevent us from moving forward. As the frame gets narrower and narrower, Kalel’s filming begins to appear in hope. Kalel is just a victim of this cursed world, and despite all his efforts to create a wreck of hope for him, he will never be able to taste what he wants. Just the candy.
Image taken by Jet Leyco
2. For my alien friend…
Warden: Jet Leiko
We all have something to say. Can each of our personal stories be unique once they are told in the right way? What’s fair? How do you classify something as correct in terms of narrative? What’s the right story and how does it sound? Why is it important to tell stories the right way? Does the law really exist? Every image, every purpose and every story is subject to human perception and judgment. Fragments of our reality are far and near, intimate and deep, realistic and fictional. Images of history and time may blink right in front of your eyes. Sometimes they stick around for an exorbitant period until they do their work, whether it’s catharsis, awareness or something like that. Returning to the previous questions: Are there answers to these questions? And if there are any, which ones? He’s not interested in Jett Lake. Or maybe he does, especially when, in his psychedelic triumph because of my foreign friend, he asks twice what the audience thinks.
Leiko transcends the boundaries of experimental and documentary cinema and builds a sound universe that dares to tell the story of her life and the people around her by communicating in a language understood only by a stranger. The film begins and ends with a QR code that seems to evoke the idea of developing interaction with people who perceive the transfer of memory, time and the Leiko experience. The attempt to analyze the messages refutes the purpose of seeing my alien friend. The film doesn’t want you to just look for answers; the film wants you to keep your head down and use visual effects that may or may not make sense. After all, we’re all extraterrestrials and aliens in someone else’s world. The question is whether we are willing to participate in each other’s journeys, whether we are willing to listen, whether we are willing to understand.
Photo by Arden Rod Condez
1. John Denver Trade
Warden: Arden Rod Condez
About 16 years old. Century n. Chr. the world fell victim to the witch hunt and burned at the stake those accused of playing with black magic. Joan of Arc (known to the people as Joan of Arc), despite her heroism and bravery during the Hundred Years War, a relatively famous war in which the English and French were involved, was tried for witchcraft demonstrations, after she said she had many visions of God, represented by the angels Michael and Catherine. Again and again, innocent lives fall into bottomless pitfalls, and justice never comes close. The same can be said of modernity, in which our lines of communication can reach even those who are far away from us. Today, social networks are the way forward when it comes to information, access to information and determining trends. What we see on our social networking sites is a lot of superficiality, a fantasy fabrication that turns all versions of reality into a kind of product. That’s why everyone gets it when something goes viral. Whether people have seen all sides of the medal or not, the court will decide. John Denver Trading deals with the well-known principle of intimidation and public trial, but masterfully creates an atmosphere of tension by describing and presenting a toxic recruitment culture as a 21st century witch-hunt.
John Denver Kabungkal (the great John Magpusao) was filmed insulting his classmate by unpacking his bag after he was accused of stealing his classmate’s iPad. The video was posted on Facebook and John Denver talked about the city, or rather the nation. John Denver was put in the spotlight as a suspect in a crime he never committed. And he didn’t stop at the video. His past actions have been evoked and enchanted to make him seem more contradictory than he really is. John Denver didn’t say much and didn’t try anything, not because he couldn’t, but because he was powerless. He has neither the social status nor the influence to raise his voice in a noisy crowd. Although he was hurt by the way society represented him, he was rejected by everyone, including almost his mother (Merrill Soriano), who at one point almost doubted his words, he remained silent behind all accusations.
The horror is in the news, when the country sank into a blaze of false news and mass manipulation. John Denver is an ideal representative of our homeland: calm, defenceless, oppressed. To the extent that our society continues to perpetuate malicious truths and well-packaged lies caused by false news, the foundations of our nation will be effectively destroyed to the point of decay. Interviews with manipulated characters, invented stories, memories, flooded rhythms, etc. turn social networks into hell. But in addition to the fact that social networks are presented as a clash of truth and lies, the alleged first line of defence of the oppressed, the police and journalists is questioned. The police want to believe in everything that goes on in their heads and push them in the face of the victims without recognizing or listening to them. On the other hand, there are pseudo journalists who simply pour oil on the fire, spread the story and acknowledge the wrong point of view as right and true. For them, it’s a tragedy that’s well done, and they make money from it. They sometimes resort to adding or deleting details in the so-called messages they broadcast. It’s terrifying to see how they’ve become different people. Sartre has never been as right as he used to be.
At the end of the film we see ourselves mourning the fate of John Denver Kabungkala. We see ourselves crying at the thought of a possible reaction from Denver’s mother after the scene. We see ourselves crying over disobedient children mocking a weary mother who is looking for justice in a corrupt system. And it’s true. We have to cry, because this movie is our country now. We have to cry because the film reflects the status of our criminal justice system. We have to cry, because the film shows the exact state of our social networks. We have to cry because we refuse to look higher and higher, because we refuse to understand and worry, because we refuse to open our eyes and listen. John Denver Trading is proof that cinema is powerful and that it can reflect our society in no time.
What about you? What’s your favorite Philippine movie of the year 2019? Leave a comment below and tell us what it’s about.
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