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.