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

Boses: Ode to the Voices of the Young

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By Gigi Javier Alfonso

“Boses” — a fascinating and lyrical approach to story telling about one of the most vicious of sins and crimes—that of child abuse. “Boses” is a film that paves the way to a more subtle and inner discourse of blatant and obvious destructive occurrences in our everyday lives. Many filmmakers will always be tempted to present the issue of child abuse stripped of interpretation; commonly approached with stark realism as if it was the only way to capture what is real. It sometimes becomes more of the exploitation of the exploited that surfaces in such cases. It is likened to turning scars back into wounds that remain open. It often has been described as pornography (that subject matter is not necessarily always sex… violence can be pornography) when crassness and lack of interpretation in presentations happens.

I am relieved and awed at the sensitive and creative approach of director Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil in bringing to the public’s attention the problem of child abuse in our society. She tells the story of Onyok performed by Julian Duque. A victim of his father’s perennial and repeated physical and psychological battering of his frail body and spirit, Onyok has become mute. The film is an analogy to the lack of space and voice given to those very young victims of a very adult-centric society lacking in concern for the sector meant to be loved and cared for.

The big and dominant irresponsible father figure is played by Ricky Davao, who shows his superior acting talent. Ricky has it right on target in being the bully father given to uncontrolled fits of violence, a solid image of the patriarch blaming everyone else for his misfortune and who concentrates in needling and berating the small defenseless boy. And later in the film the complex shift to a reconciliatory parent convincing Onyok to have another attempt at living together. The showing of a father almost begging for another chance and then the exhibiting of a rejected father’s impatience enveloped in a very reviling and effective moment cups Ricky’s prowess as an actor.

The importance of music in “Boses” cannot be left unnoticed. Violinist Coke Bolipata performs as the mentor of Onyok. The vibrations of violin strings are their vocal chords and the melody and rhythm they construct are their dialogue. This brought them to a different level of love, understanding and caring. The mentor becomes the father and Onyok, the son, even if only for the moment that they are together in the orphanage. But it is understood that Onyok will forever bring the music with him as he lives his life far away, armed with the wisdom that his mentor has imparted.

“Boses” is one of the few films that can be said to have an even quality in all its aspects. This film recognizes the outstanding orchestration by director Ellen of the many talents of her team. The performance of Cherry Pie Picache shows that she is comfortable in her role as the disciplinarian and caring social worker running the home for battered children. The screenplay of Froilan Medina and Rody Vera is a breakthrough in meshing life with music in a successful allegory that pushes forth the narrative with bravura. Bianca Gonzales picked the right locations and meticulously dressed them up not overtly but maintained a harmonious overall effect to go with the sometimes quiet and sometimes sound filled scenes. The cinematography of Nap Jamir has the good mix of lights and shadows that help strengthen the moods in the different scenes building up in a crescendo in the swashbuckling violins’ scenario. The camera was participative and almost dancing as it became part of the moving narrative driven not by words but by the flowing images, sounds and music. The sound by Allan Marcelo Hidalgo and Olean Joseph Tan crystallized an outstanding mix of silence and textured sounds in tandem with the masterful musical scoring of Jourdan Petalver. The editing by Orlean Joseph Tan was seamless.

Cinemalaya has become the venue for many brave new films and certainly it did its share of detecting what can be notable works in film. Kudos to Cinemalaya in recognizing “Boses.” However, I feel that “Boses” has been underrated in the awarding ceremonies of Cinemalaya.

To director Ellen and the creative team of “Boses”…congratulations! And we hear you.