Dagitab: Sparks and Sparkles
By Gigi Javier Alfonso
Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival brings to the fore Dagitab directed by Giancarlo Abrahan who belongs to a new breed of young filmmakers. Dagitab is a standout. Abrahan, who also wrote the screenplay, shines and shows his mettle as an ace director. He just shouts it out that this film may not be for everybody. But then again... it maybe for everyone. It is for all those who will allow themselves to walk with him as he dares tread where directors fear to go. The poetic, the lyrical, the theorizing... the long takes to allow moments of visual pleasure together with the reading of silence. Setting of the breathing space, time for reflection to attain the rhythm of knowing in contemporary times. The film has texture.
Dagitab talks about passion, activism, history, literature and people who make things matter... trying to make sense of our world. It is about two professors married to each other. One is a teacher/ researcher/activist, Jimmy played brilliantly by Nonie Buencamino and the other is a teacher/mentor/writer Issey, performed with unquestionable ease by Eula Valdez. Their complex marriage is a relationship that has been seemingly, slowly eroding. They ask themselves if they are still in love, if their life in the campus makes them feel safe but that they are really not connected with the real world. But they are clearly showing nonlinear connections, some unexplained state of nonchalance, boredom, perplexity, wanting, titillating mystery and comfort. It is a delight to see the academics in their most dysfunctional and vulnerable states, brooding and unintelligible. The film talks about the sparks that ignite when there are intersections, when the characters meet and at times collide. And this is what propels the narrative to move.
The narrative starts with maggots wriggling as it consumes a corpse. As the story moves on we realize that the images are part of the journey of Jimmy in finding himself and the fulfillment of his research and search for his long lost love and engagement for social transformation for our country. In his mind he is very near finding the muse who has guided him through his life in academe. Here we sense that there is magic realism that creeps in. Issey on the other hand slips into another relationship that seems casual, natural, falling in love with a young man who reminds her of youthful experience that may fill a void left by an absentee husband, but as in a recurring concept of a lost love that leaves a void in ones heart which can never be mended. Another love will simply create another void when it ends. It is a gap that will stay for a lifetime. The film poses many questions and sprinkles not enough answers. It is about love stories that are unsettled, it is about loving life that sways people to move on and intersect ones again with many others. The sparks go on. Just like the characters in this honestly written story are echoed in the real scenario of the doing of this film.
Dagitab is full of intersections that carry the sparks, electricity and powered by the director/writer and the absolutely masterful performances. The dialogue has pushed the actors to bring to the big screen mature performances. Lesser actors will bring the challenging lines and situations into stilted disaster.
Nonie Buencamino cannot be more precise in personifying the roller coaster search for his deity as she appears and disappears. He rejoices, mourns, climaxes with satisfaction and sings his songs for country with authenticity. Eula Valdez is simply amazing as a lost soul, sometimes shouting, sometimes mumbling, giggling and laughing. Such enormous range of feeling and unfeeling. Her moments of tenderness with Martin del Rosario create a heart pounding performance from this young but accomplished actor and her roughness juiced out from him a complex mix of limp anticipation. Sandino Martin likewise sparkles with subtlety as he portrays the lover who gravitates to the character that del Rosario plays. Both these young actors depict perfectly these two developing characters who sometimes are undecided, excited but cautious with what the new experience can bring. They are dynamite together.
The script continues to present unpredictable circumstances and this is its strength. As it brings profound thoughts, it likewise injects down to earth lines that reminds us of our everyday lives. The times that are without dialogue equally speak eloquently. The shots of Issey’s aloneness, Jimmy’s chase for his passion, top shot of lovers lying on the beach with water repeatedly washing off the sand from their bodies, the longing stares, the light kisses, and the caring looks. All these only mean to say that Dagitab sparks and sparkles! It has a well written screenplay, even outstanding performances and fearless and creative directing.