The society of respected film critics that hands out the annual Gawad Urian in cinematic excellence

Filmography

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Bwakaw

Deceptively Innocent, Truly Revolutionary

By Nicanor G. Tiongson

With the rise of inexpensive digital video technology, indie filmmakers have finally been liberated from profit-oriented producers and now are able to make films more freely, including those with themes that were studiously avoided by the commercial mainstream cinema. One of these themes is homosexuality, which has become a fad among new wave filmmakers in the past six years, especially since Philippine urban society itself has become more tolerant or at least less condemnatory of gayness. Moreover, gays have now found their own niches in arts, academe, and media and their own voice in militant organizations that fight for gay rights. Read more

Baybayin

Inscribing Love, Land and Loss, and Self via Subversive, Sensual Syllabaries

By Tito Genova Valiente

In the beginning was chaos. As with all myths, order comes through words or naming. Man and woman give names to things that are unknown to them, and knowledge brings about harmony. Classification restores logic and understanding to the universe.

Syllables create the film, Baybayin. To be precise, the ancient syllabaries called Baybayin initiate the movement of people—characters—in this tale, while the metaphor of Paradise runs amok, losing control at certain points, meandering now, and then, but coming to an end that is rightfully, forcefully in silence, at the heart of any post-colonial discourse. The traveler is always on his or her way, never reaching the destination.

Loss, to follow Eva Hoffman, can magically preserve things.

That is the magical proposal of this film: Loss of language or its vanishing, more than its strong presence, can help people preserve elements of their culture and their identities. That is what happens in this film, when syllables are inked on the body of a boy in a trance.Read more

Ang Paglalakbay Ng Mga Bituin Sa Gabing Madilim

Romancing And Realizing Mindanao

By Tito Genova Valiente

The film, Ang Paglalakbay ng mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim is not about travels than it is about travails. For all the romance in the title—stars and darkness and the promise of limpid light at the end of the night – this film by Arnel Mardoquio is about weariness, discontent, and the in-between shades of ideologies. And yet the film is political.

The story is about a boy who lost his parents to war or whatever it is that does not stop from harming the communities in Mindanao. Faisal inherits a bag full of American dollars after the boy’s parents turned to kidnapping with ransom. In the narrative, no one dwells on this. In fact, the storytelling of Mardoquio does not stop and dwell on anything. Very much like the individuals we see filling the screen with their presence so haunting because it is terrifically ordinary.Read more

Tsardyer

Banditry, Kidnapping in Mindanao

By Butch Francisco

Any hardcore journalist will kill – or will even risk getting killed – for a scoop. In news programs today, it’s all about having stories that are exclusive, exclusive, exclusive! That’s what all their headlines scream.

Only very few of today’s journalists, however, can still do undercover work because everyone has become a celebrity. Those who are not on TV are on Facebook. The production staff who join the raids on sex joints are often green, their journalistic instincts yet to be sharpened. They can flush out all the sex workers from those seedy establishments week after week, but has anyone bothered to look into the operations of those powerful people running and/or protecting these prostitution joints? It’s back to business after some palms have been greased.

Technology Transfer and Negotiations, Batteries not Included

By Tito Genova Valiente

Tsardyer is a film that illustrates how Information Technology connects all our islands and all their people. If mobility between and among classes and ethnic groups cannot be brought to reality by education, then another more mobile structure, that of mobile phones can do so. The narrative of Tsardyer, as cinema, is so compelling I wait for the next ad man to use and fuse the stories so his firm could tell the story of technologies and territorialization and deterretorialization. In between such narrative, we could perhaps have a glimpse into what troubles some political groups in Southern Philippines and how we never can really understand what those brothers and sisters of ours there want from our national government that serves only a few.

In other words, however central the mobile phone in Tsardyer, we will never see this cinema put to work by mobile companies based in our country and anywhere else.Read more

Sheika

A Woman Named Sheika

By Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera

Arnel Mardoquio’s investigation of the impact of war in Mindanao began in Hunghong sa Yuta which tells of a young artist from Davao City who volunteers as a teacher in a mountain community where children born at the onset of the war grew up deaf and mute.

Mardoquio’s seond film, Hospital Boat, narrates the story of two women friends, one a doctor and the other a religious sister, who together moves from one coastal community to another to bring medical relief to war refugees in the company of a young lumad boy. The film introduces us to a wider variety of characters—Muslim revolutionary leaders, a priest who runs a relief center for evacuees and war victims, and an abusive Muslim warlord and his sister who, beside him, stands as a counterbalancing figure, a Muslim lawmaker who takes the side of the oppressed.

The New Land: A Place of Promise or Peril

By Mike Rapatan

Arnel Mardoquio’s Sheika recounts the harrowing story of Sheika (Fe Gingging Hyde), a Tausug mother who, together with her sons Mudin (Mark Anthony Perandes) and Alfad (Dan Lester Albarracin), flees the bombings in her war-torn village in Jolo for the urban comforts of Davao City. Her decision to move to Davao, a place she regards as a safe haven for Muslims like her family, is not merely a geographic relocation. At a deeper level, Shieka’s agenda for migrating is psychological. Her family’s transfer to Davao is a quest for catharsis from the traumas she has experienced. It is also a deliberate attempt on her part to escape the ruthless violence targeted at people of her kind by the diablo, her allusion to the military who, as implied, claimed the life of her husband in some bloody military operation. Hoping to prevent a similar fate, Sheika on the boat trip to Davao instructs her sons to avoid speaking in their dialect and abandon their Muslim garb and religious practices and assume new names in order to appear no different from the other city folk. Sheika becomes Shie while Mudin and Alfad respectively take the names of Dindin and Soysoy.Read more

Noy

Panalo, Patalo: Sugal ng Buhay sa Kapalaran at Eleksyon

Ni Rolando B. Tolentino

May scoop ang pelikula: ang footage ng kampanya ni Nonoy Aquino sa pagkapangulo. Sa unang tingin, mukhang ginawa ang pelikula para sa kampanya ni Aquino. Mayroon din namang katatohanan dito. Ang katukayong Noy (Coco Martin) sa pelikula ay jologs na naghahangad ng quickie na solusyon sa buhay, tulad marahil nang napakaraming Filipino na linggo-linggong umaasa sa lotto at serbisyo sa simbahan, El Shaddai at iba pang mega-churches.

Pinalsipiko ang diploma at credentials, pumormang journalist sa kompanyang media na pagtratrabahuan at nagbakasakali na pumusta sa ikagaganda ng buhay. Sa huli, unang nadiskubre ang kanyang kawalang-alam sa pagiging journalist (na ipagtataka kung bakit siya napasok sa inner media circle ni Aquino), at malaon, ang dispalsipikadong credentials na magtatanggal sa kanya sa trabaho.

The Documentary and the Narrative at a Disjuncture that Works

By Gigi Javier Alfonso

Noy is a film well-directed by Dondon Santos and released by Star Cinema. Here is a film that is a documentary within a narrative. The contrast and the disjuncture of the two genres, that of the documentary for television with jerky and almost technically violent footage, and that of the melodramatic, sleek narrative meshed together. Its message is in its form. A narrative with its Act I, introduces the characters, Act II, the body with all the details of the characters, the conflict presented and climaxing with the brothers drug involvement and Act III, the resolution of either the death or the satisfying future of the protagonist.Read more

Limbunan

Kapag Binasag ng Babae ang Kanyang Katahimikan

Ni Benilda S. Santos

Higit pa marahil sa panitikan, ang pelikula ay imahen, talinghaga, metonimiya, o salaysaying biswal na maituturing na lunsaran ng mga alaalang nagmula sa kasaysayan, karanasan, matatandang kuwento, o kahit pa nga panaginip na itinutulak sa liwanag ng pagkakilala sa isang kawalan o kakulangang nais punan, o ng isang uri ng dominasyon o manipulasyon na pinagsisikapang harapin. Sa pelikula ng kababaihan, may isa pang bukal na pinagmumulan ang malikhain at mapuwersang pagbuhay sa imahinasyon, at iyan ay ang pagnanais na masilayan ang isa o ilang alternatibong larawan at salaysay ng buhay ng babae.

Tinutugunan ng Limbunan ni Gutierrez Mangansakan II ang pangangailangang iyan ng kababaihan, na mismong pangangailangan din ng pelikula sapagkat lagi nitong dapat na hangaring lampasan ang nakagawian, lalo na sa pagbubuo ng isang pananaw ng babae, o sa pagkakataong ito, ng isang paraan ng pagtingin sa tradisyonal na lipunang Muslim na kumikilala sa umiiral na mga puwang at guwang dito na uusbungan ng bagong paglikha.

Enigmatic movie of quiet strength

By Lito B. Zulueta

In Limbunan, a young Maguindanao girl engaged to be married undertakes an elaborate pre-nuptial ritual of cleansing and preparation. Betrothed to a man she hardly knows, 16-year-old Ayesah (Jea Lyka Cinco) tries to remain faithful to her culture and tradition. But her fidelity comes under quiet assault as she struggles with her feelings for a soldier, who may or may not be in love with her but who’s bound by the same strictures of Maguindanao culture. Since she has been betrothed to another man, he can only watch as she goes through the rigors of the rituals. He cannot reveal his feelings because such would only disturb the age-old tradition of a people so set on its old ways as a matter of survival and self-perpetuation. Read more

Halaw

Voyage of the Damned

By Mario A. Hernando

Sheron R. Dayoc’s Halaw Ways of the Sea, which he wrote and directed, isn’t so much about the sea but about the experience a group of contemporary boat people fleeing their homeland go through. The journey is from Tawi-Tawi in Mindanao to Malaysia, and on board are a motley set of characters who are seduced by unknown prospects in a strange land that is presumed to be more promising than home. The movie begins and ends with these travelers besieged by security forces in the country of their destination, warned and maybe shot at by the guards to drive them away. It is the dead of night.

Borders of death and darkness

By Lito B. Zulueta

IN SHERON Dayoc’s “Halaw,” a boatload of curious characters with their own private quests and ulterior purposes tries to cross the border between the Philippines and Malaysia. While they slowly make their way amid the waves and winds, their stories unhurriedly unfold, interweaving into an intricate whole that’s on one end is poignant, on the other sordid. When they reach their destination, they stealthily enter inland to avoid detection by border guards. In the depths of darkness, shots are fired, presumably by Malaysian sentinels; and we discover that the characters’ real stories have just begun—right at the point of death. From port of entry to port of destination, death is farewell and welcome.Read more

Chassis

Katawan at Bakal

Ni Benilda S. Santos

Nililikha at tinatahak ng malaya at alternatibong pelikula ang pabago-bagong espasyo na kakikitaan ng mararawal na larawan ng nagpapatuloy na buhay sa Ikatlong Daigdig, ng di-natitinag na pagkapigipit ng uring manggagawa, at ng madugong pakikibaka ng kababaihan upang makapamayani sa kanilang buhay. Sa landas na iyan matatagpuan ang pelikulang Chassis ni Adolfo Borinaga Alix, Jr. sa pagkatuklas niya ng posibilidad na igawa ng fiction ang hile-hilera ng mga container vans sa piyer upang sa pamamagitan nito, maisiwalat niya ang nagaganap sa buhay ng mga walang hanggahang matatawid—silang mga “hanggang pantalan” lamang—sa panahon pa naman ng crossing borders.

The Mechanisms of Living and Dying Rated X

By Tito Genova Valiente

The ending of Adolf Borinaga Alix’s film Chassis will be talked about for days on end. There will be two sides to the debate always: is that the real thing or merely prosthetic? Feelings about the scene will always be two-pronged: you either like that ending or you hate it. Somewhere in the middle of those extreme responses to the film will straddle the question about the logic of the ending or, in a more utilitarian vein, the necessity of the final act.

Logic as a mechanism is almost absent from this narrative about a mother who tries to eke out a living when living is also nonexistent in the place where she and her daughter find themselves. What one finds in that place as sign of movement are the many container vans under which individuals manage to live, exposed to the elements, and breathing in the polluted gas coming from the vehicles.Read more

Ang Mundo sa Panahon ng Yelo

Kalawang sa Bakal

Ni Mario A. Hernando

Naiiba ang mga pelikula ni Mes de Guzman. Sa iba’t ibang klase ng lugar nagaganap ang mga kwento, pero sa iisang bagay nakatuon ang kanyang interes—ang kalagayan ng mga batang maralita, mga paslit na hindi pa nakakahawak ng Playstation, kumakayod at kung mapalad ay nag-aaral para mabuhay.

Sa pangalawang ginawa ni De Guzman, ang Ang Daan Patungong Kalimugtong, pumunta siya sa kabundukan at kagubatan ng Cordilleras upang bisitahin at alamin ang kalagayan ng dalawang batang tinatahak ang malayo at masukal na landas mula sa tinitirhan hanggang sa paaralan, at sa pag-uwi. Sinundan niya ang Kalimugtong ng dalawa sa trilohiyang pelikula na pinamagatang Ang Mundo sa Panahon ng Bato (ang ikatlo’y hindi pa naisasapelikula). Ito’y nagaganap sa isa pa ring napakalayo at bulubunduking lugar—sa Nueva Vizcaya naman, tungkol sa mga batang sinisisid ang kaputikang parang lawa upang makakuha ng maliliit na bakal o bato na maipagbibili.

Kamatayan at Nihilismo bilang Tangkang Subersyon

Ni Rolando B. Tolentino

Trilohiya ang pelikula ni Mes De Guzman, kahit pa dalawa lamang ang tapos na: Ang Mundo sa Panahon ng Bato at Ang Mundo sa Panahon ng Yelo. Parehong papalubog sa kumunoy ng buhay at lipunan ang mga pelikula. Sa una, tinalakay ang pagkatuklas ng ginto sa isang lubluban ng kalabaw, at ang transformasyon ng pamilya tungo sa negosyong minero, gamit ang mga kapatid at kaedad nito bilang tagasisid para sa ginto. Sa huli, ang paghihiwalay ng magkapatid para manatili ang kuya sa kanyang troll at ang nakababatang kapatid para maging paslit na manggagawa sa pwesto ng yelo sa pantalan ng isda.

Walang mga magulang sa dalawang pelikula. Lumulubog ang kung anong labi ng pamilya sa pagitan ng kahirapan ng mas makapangyarihang buhay at ng kamatayan. Sa una, namatay sa sakit ang kuya, matapos ay ang natitirang magkapatid ay lumusong sa lubluban para hindi na muling umahon. Sa huling pelikula, naiwan sa storage ng yelo ang nakababatang kapatid, at pinack sa yelo ng kuya para paanurin at ilibing sa dagat.Read more