Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Brillante Mendoza weaves brilliance in the award-winning MMFF entry ‘Mindanao’

The cast and crew of Mindanao led by award-winning director Brillante Mendoza and one of the best actresses of her generation Judy Ann Santos.  

Whenever people talk about director Brillante Mendoza, his work would often be described as thought-provoking, moving, socially relevant and award-winning.

Who can forget Mendoza’s first film Masahista in 2005 where a newcomer Coco Martin portrays the role of young man offering massage service to gay men and touches the harsh realities of life?  Four years later, Coco was again tapped by Mendoza for the movie Kinatay where the later won the best director plum at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival, the first Filipino to achieve such milestone.

Mendoza has also worked with the Superstar of Philippine Cinema Nora Aunor in the movie Thy Womb (2012), his first movie set in Mindanao, and Cannes Best Actress Jacklyn Jose for the 2016 drama Ma’ Rosa.

In this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), Mendoza is bringing his winning ways with the much-acclaimed movie Mindanao to compete in the box-office with other entries:  The Mall, The Merrier (Vice Ganda/ Anne Curtis); Mission Unstapabol: The Don Identity (Vic Sotto/ Maine Mendoza); Sunod (Carmina Villarroel/ Mylene Dizon); 3POL Trobol: Huli Ka Balbon! (Coco Martin/ Ai-Ai Delas Alas/ Jennylyn Mercado); Miracle in Cell No. 7 (Aga Muhlach/ Xia Vigor); Write About Love (Roco Nacino/ Miles Ocampo); and Culion (Iza Calzado/ Jasmine Curtis-Smith / Meryll Soriano).

Mindanao does not lack star power with Judy Ann Santos leading the cast of this movie graded A by the Cinema Evaluation Board. Juday won the Best Actress award for this film at the 41st Cairo International Film Festival while the full-length feature was also recognized as Best in Artistic Contribution.

If you need a good cry this holiday season, Mindanao is a certified tearjerker. Make sure that along with your popcorn, you have a lot of tissues on hand because things can be messy when you started to sob with Juday. Another good news is that you can now tag along your kids watching a Brillante Mendoza film because the multi award-winning director used animation in his feature for the first time to incorporate the epic tale of Rajah and Sulayman in this action drama film about Saima (Judy Ann) who spent the final days of her daughter Aisa (Yuna Tangog)who was battling cancer at the House of Hope in Davao City while his husband Malang (Allen Dizon) dodges bullets as a medic in the military operation in Maguindanao.

My personal takeaways after watching Mindanao is that, regardless of religion, beliefs and social status, we are all equal when we see death waving at us. Whether its cancer or a loaded gun that is slowly killing you, it doesn’t even matter because the bottom line is if you don’t survive, you’re dead. Plus, it was quite an experience even just through this film to witness how our Muslim brothers and sisters pay their last respect to their loved ones who passed away.

But the movie is not really that gloomy because Mendoza was able to weave scenes of hopes and colourful moments to balance the heavy premise of the story. Watch out for the heart-warming grocery store scene and you might whisper, “Faith in humanity restored.”

Indeed, the brilliance of Mendoza is flying and spewing fire like Ginto and Pula from the popular folktale from the South, in this yet another eye-opener and one of the front-runners for the Best Picture at the MMFF award ceremonies.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Babae at Baril: A shot in the arm to a society of gender stereotypes

What can a girl do with a gun?

This is the premise of the Janine Gutierrez starrer Babae at Baril, an official entry to the ongoing QCinema International Film Festival.

(Spoiler alert: Some key scenes of the movie will be discussed here)

The film begins by introducing the audience to the city landscape that regular commuters can easily identify as Cubao. Different angles of the setting were shown but the sense of horror that ordinary Filipinos experience when they go through the tunnel or the overpass bridge is felt ---- traffic jam, smog or even threats of possible physical harm of any form.

When a timid yet angelic face of Gutierrez graced the screen, you can’t help but smile because how can a movie go wrong with a gun-slinging pretty woman on the lead role. But what is quite impressive is how director Rae Red built the persona of Gutierrez from a silent, calm and submissive saleslady to a tough reckless alpha woman. The movie is Red’s sophomore feature and first solo directorial effort.

Gutierrez’ character was a victim of many predator’s and unpleasant situations in the first part of the film. She held out against workplace verbal abuse and unending catcalls day in, day out. Until the unfortunate night came when she was raped by her co-worker (Felix Roco) who was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It was also the same night she found purpose to a gun she found right on her doorstep.

The character build up was so effective that I overheard someone from the back, “Ay, bakit di niya binaril sa mukha?”

This was when Gutierrez decided not to gun down Roco when she was able to corner her after a chase scene. Anyone who is carrying a yoke on their shoulder can relate to Gutierrez’ role and for sure is also cursing in their head along with her when she fought back to all the people who have wronged her in the past.

Aside from vividly showcasing the realities of domestic physical abuse and office sexual harassments, Babae at Baril also tackled extra judicial killings and even the poor working conditions of many Pinoys are currently just bitterly swallowing because of lack of opportunities and power-tripping bosses and their threats, “Kung ayaw mong sumunod, huwag ka na nang babalik dito.”

My favorite line in the movie is Gutierrez in-your-face –back-to-you anger growl with gun pointed to Roco, “Gusto mong iputok ko sa ‘yo ito!?” which you will only appreciate if you go watch the it  during festival run (October 13 to 22) at Gateway Mall, Ayala Trinoma, Robinsons Galleria, UPFI Cine Adarna, Cinema ’76 Anonas, and Cinema Centenario in Quezon City.

The film also stars Elijah Canlas, JC Santos, and Sky Teotico with special participation of Ruby Ruiz, Allan Paule, and Archie Adamos.

The musical scoring is also commendable. The sounds were on point to set the mood of the scenes. The classic rock hit "Magnanakaw" by Asin is fit to the film and was played timely in during some of the more important film sequences.

You better watch Babae at Baril because depending of its success, I personally see at least a part 2 or spin-offs based on the lives of the other characters. Whatever happened to Gutierrez’ female dorm mate who was a victim of physical and sexual abuse? Or the young step sister of the EJK victim? Or Cruz, the employee of the month awardee whom Gutierrez bumped into during a bus ride? They all seem have interesting back stories to tell. Remember that there is a box-full of guns shown in the middle of the movie which were never seen again.

In today’s world, women in many developed countries now enjoy equal rights to men. However, reality bites that there are still gender stereotypes that pervade our culture. Films like Babae at Baril maybe the shot in the arm our society need. Maybe.

Babae at Baril is one of the three recipients of production grants amounting to P1.5 million each from QCinema and is presented by Cignal Entertainment in partnership with Epicmedia. The movie will be competing along with Glenn Barit’s The Cleaners and Arnel Barbarona’s Kaaway sa Sulod, and against entries from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos, and China.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Sylviahera: A journey to life with a silver lining

If someone will do a survey among Filipinos to write down the reasons that make them happy, more likely the top answer would be "family."

It is the same reason why we have millions of OFWs around the world working hard to give a decent living for the loved ones they left here in the Philippines. It is realy unimaginable all of a sudden to be away for a long time from people you have shared almost all the highs and lows of all your life. Sacrifice is an understatement. Believe me, I worked overseas for years almost two decades ago.

A few days ago, I was fortunate to have met in person one of the actresses I really admire, Ms. Sylvia Sanchez. She was given recognitions from in and out of the country because of her almost impeccable portrayal of every role given to her. My favorite perhaps is her portrayal as a loving mother in ABS-CBN's moving drama series "The Greatest Love" where Sylvia gave a performance of a lifetime as Gloria, a woman who have gone through tough challenges in life from being a rape victim to living as a scavenger to survive and at the end suffers Alzheimer's disease. All of these challenges she have faced but still she have shown the essence of being a mother.

On Christmas day, Sylvia will share to us how to keep your family together and how to make each time that you are together memorable, especially when the time comes that the children already have their own lives. This time, it will be through an online reality show called "Sylviahera" that anyone in the world can watch via Youtube and Facebook. When I say anyone, it will also cater not only to fellow Filipinos but also to foreigners curious about Pinoy life. Every episode comes with English subtitles.

At the blogcon held at Bizu, Greenhills, you can feel her presence as a caring mother the moment she arrived. She went around and greeted everyone with "Oh, naka-order na ba kayo?" to "May paborito ako dito tikman n'yo din, ha." or "Pasensiya na if nakalimutan ko pangalan nyo pero tanda ko mukha ng karamihan sa inyo dito."

I was so into the dalandan juice that I ordered when I heard her say at my back, "Kain muna tayo ha, tawagan ko lang si yaya?"

"Mam, Yaya Dub, po ba?", I mentioned in jest.

She laughed and held both my shoulders and literally shook me, "Ay naku, naba-bash na nga ako eh.!"

This is how casual, cool and real Sylvia is. 

In Sylviahera, you will learn about the life and dilemmas of Jojo Campo, a simple girl from the town of Nasipit, Agusan Del Norte in the island of Mindanao who became the actress that we all love now and eventually married a man from a traditional Spanish family.

Presently, two of her kids already followed her footsteps in the entertainment industry and she is already feeling the struggle of bringing everyone in the family together to enjoy a meal she prepared.

One Christmas morning, she went to her hometown alone, built a box that transforms into a one-burner kitchen, and decides to embark into a culinary adventure with a goal of finding ingredients, learning new recipes, and bond with mothers who are also going through the same situation--and eventually rekindle simple, warm moments with the family that she implores to keep together, no matter what... and it is through food and conversation that she expresses her joy and love for them.

Sylviahera is a mother’s journey that will tell us that no matter how seldom a family eats together, it is how much love and preparation you put into it that will make it special and memorable.

Join me, not as a fan of Sylvia, but as one of the 104 million Filipinos, including the noble OFWs around world proud of the way we live, we eat and see our lives with silver lining.

Streaming at @CasaNieves.TV on Facebook and YouTube starting December 25, 2018 at exactly 12:01am (Philippine Time).

Friday, November 23, 2018

Maganda ka ba?

Filipinos, literally and figuratively, worship beautiful images.

We grew up in communities with different patron saints, curved in wood or stone with Caucasian features from the nose to the fair complexion. We associate being white as beautiful that is why we could be the world’s top consumers of Glutathione and just about anything that can lighten our nut-brown skin.

Some may throw in the old saying that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but why do we have this certain affection with oppas and blonde girls. White is just one of the colors and not even included in the amazing rainbow. No thanks to the more 300 years of Spanish rule and spurts of colonial mentality.

Actually, we Pinoys should be proud of our race and color when we talk about beauty because we have proven many times that our looks can stand out amongst nations with all the beauty pageants we have conquered. We have three queens in Gloria Diaz (1969); Margie Moran-Floirendo (1973); and Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach (2015) who were crowned Miss Universe, the most prestigious and popular beauty contests in the world.

Thus, you should always tell yourself, “Maganda ko!”

Out of curiosity, just to get reactions from my Facebook friends, I posted on my wall the question: “How do you feel when somebody tells you, 'maganda ka' or 'you are beautiful'?

In a span of an hour, I got 35 comments/ responses and here’s how the survey answers look like:

12 -  will say 'thank you' to whoever told them
10 – will get flattered. Four of them used the word “kilig” to express how they feel
9 – thinks it’s just a joke
4 – said they don’t know how to react (they can’t ralate, nobody told them this before, etc)

The different responses seems like depends on how one sees him or herself as someone beautiful; just being pleased; accepted the fact that he/ she is not beautiful based on whatever standards of beauty he believes; and for those who do not care how others see them. 

I would like to share the response in the same thread from beauty blogger Earth Rullan: “When I was younger, elementary, I don't think I'm beautiful. Maitim saka two front teeth missing kasi ako saka maliit. Lagi ako tinutukso negra, baluga saka bampira. Nung highschool boyish ako and nobody would really say maganda ako unless ung nanliligaw saken. Pero my father, when I go home crying feeling panget, he would say I am beautiful, he would always say you are the Ms. Universe of my life. Kamukha mo so Gloria Diaz he would always tell me. I think because of what my father told me when I feel down or feel ugly, I developed this belief or confidence na maganda nga ako. So now when people say maganda ako, I tell them thank you. And a sweet smile.”

In the message of Earth, one that strikes me is the word “confidence.” While we can argue how physical beauty should be rated, confidence is something that you cannot tweak or easily added to one's personality. It is developed and comes out naturally when you think you are beautiful in its very essence.

BusinessInsider.com published an article about the advantages of being beautiful and here’s the list that they shared. Beautiful people are…

1.      Viewed as healthy
2.      Actually healthier than others
3.      Easier to find partners
4.      More intelligent
5.      More persuasive and can command attention
6.      Has strong social skills
7.      Gets higher sales
8.      Acquire advantage in politics
9.      Looks more trustworthy

Although the list can be a good subject for a debate, why argue when you it is easier and more worthy to reap benefits. So do yourself a favor, find out what makes you beautiful and flaunt it.

Let’s take a look at fast-rising young star Maymay Entrata, the first Big Winner of the combined edition of Pinoy Big Brother: Lucky 7 of ABS-CBN. Maymay made history in Dubai last November 21 as the first Filipina celebrity to ever walk the runways of Arab Fashion Week. The actress, now a certified international model, has been subjected to unpleasant comments like “Not good-looking enough for showbiz” or her love team Edward Barber is “too handsome for her.”

Credit: starcinema.abs-cbn.com

Just recently Maymay was also introduced as the first-ever brand ambassador for local skincare line Megan. She will be the face of the Megan Peel-Off Mask #MegandaKa campaign.

Now the next time you look on the mirror, stop asking, “maganda ka?”

Rather, smile and be proudly say, “Maganda ko!”