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

Ala Verde, Ala Pobre: Complex but good storytelling

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The past days of Cinemanila film festival have highlighted the local digital films created by mostly independent film artists. Here are different story-telling forms that our audiences may find unfriendly and not easily palatable in the standards of commercial filmmaking. I find this healthy…at least we, as the audience, can have choices beyond the mainstream formulas.

Unfortunately the local films that joined the festival have very minimal promotions and therefore not many people know that they are being shown.

This again is not surprising. The producers joined not for profit and therefore are wary about pumping in more capital that will dictate concerns about the return of investment. In our system, promotions spell expenses that amount to more than the production budgets of these works. All in all, parties concerned are comfortable with the idea in helping out our young independent film artists. However our exhibitors or our theater owners may have some reservations. But, we think that the experiment is a prototype that may be easily improved in the future.

Let me shift the focus to one of the digital films that our viewers may find interesting… Ala Verde, Ala Pobre.

Ala Verde, Ala Pobre, directed by Briccio Santos, is a very engrossing film. It has been a long time that good story-telling has reached the big screen. This is one of the digital films now showing at theaters in Manila.

This is independent filmmaking with its rough technical quality being in line with the rawness of its theme and concept. The plot starts with dead bodies and persons in the verge of dying in the train sharing the screen with goons ready to throw these people on the railroad tracks.

A fast flashback takes us to the push cart on the tracks carrying a woman, Ana Capri, who has come back from a Japan stint but which did not seem to improve her life. Her life in the slums still stays the same…unchanged. She is married to a janitor in an overseas recruitment agency bringing Filipinas abroad to be entertainers. She has been involved with the drug syndicate in the neighborhood. This time she is involved not as a user but as a pusher. It all seems too easy to go through one’s everyday life in a suffocating, dirty and dangerous neighborhood and feel at home with the smell of crime and death.

Ana Capri is the comeback Japan GRO who did not quite make it. Capri plays two other characters. One is the wife of the owner of the recruitment agency who knows about her husband’s philandering and the other is the manager of the agency who is later on fired from her job.

Her first character is married to a utility person who gets promoted to being the security guard at the same recruitment agency. They try to make both ends meet but her husband’s salary is not enough for the both of them, most specially when she got pregnant. She however thinks it important to get a job instead of dealing with drugs that have somehow been widely distributed even among children. She has managed to abandon pushing drugs and is able to get the job as the manager of the recruitment agency. But her husband has warned her of the exploitative owner and head of the agency, who is known to be a lecherous man.

The storyline and the story-telling get complicated because one actress plays the three characters. This I find rather appropriate in the interpellation and the discourse of women. Women as we know are subjected to the same difficult trials regardless of some women who may not be in less difficult situation of abuse because some are not financially challenged. But in the summing up of status, women, still women as a whole, has it tougher because of some gender issues that make society indifferent to their plight.

Ana Capri is outstanding as the face of these different women. Her performance is truly marked as she shifts from a rich woman scorned, a working woman and a woman trying vigorously to change her lifestyle.

The script is tightly written, the editing has captured the pacing and the beat of the life of people living in the peripheries of the railroad tracks, the performances are all exceptional. Director Briccio Santos has Ala Verde, Ala Pobre as a true laurel in his cap. — Gigi Javier Alfonso