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

Reviews

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Colorum: A moving fable

By Bienvenido Lumbera

JOBIN Ballesteros is a new name in the indie scene, but judging from the art and skill he displays in his first film he seems bound to be a director to watch. In “Colorum,” he has fashioned a moving moral fable set in a colorum taxicab on a long journey of escape away from the site of an accident that had killed an American NGO worker. The fable is framed by two men––a good-hearted policeman (Alfred Vargas as Simon), young and benignly good-looking, who doubles illicitly as a cabdriver to earn extra cash in anticipation of setting up a business and marrying his fiancee; and an old man (Lou Veloso as Pedro), an ex-convict, gnarled by 30 years in prison, seeking to connect with an only son whom he had not seen nor heard from in all the years he was in jail.Read more

Bakal Boys: Decay by the Sea

By Gigi Javier Alfonso

“BAKAL Boys” is about the young metal divers from Baseco, a community by the sea, who are marching and chanting verses of toughness, smallness and pride in being organized. The children metal divers (the bakal boys) are driven to look for better lives for themselves. They present a picture of boys with dreams. They seem to be full of life and always ready to conquer the waters. They may be seen as ridiculous by others at times but certainly they are not losers in their own eyes. They strut around with dignity.Read more

The Arrival: Unvarnished and understated

By Mike Rapatan

AMONG last year’s heady batch of independent films, Erik Matti’s “The Arrival” sticks out like a sore thumb. While other indie films in 2009 predictably focused their lens on abject conditions of economic displacement and hardship (e.g., “Baseco Bakal Boys” by Ralston Jover, “Himpapawid” by Raymond Red, and “Lola” by Brillante Dante Mendoza), human rights abuse (“Engkwentro” by Pepe Diokno and “Kinatay” by Brillante Dante Mendoza), the circuitous government bureaucracy (“Last Supper No. 3” by Veronica Velasco), and political warlordism (“Hospital Boat” by Arnel Mardoquio), “The Arrival” turns its gaze away from the heavy social realism of many indie films. Matti himself also takes a sharp and refreshing detour (hopefully, not just for now) from his commercial directorial style in past mainstream work like “Scorpio Nights 2” (1999), “Ekis” (1999), and “Prosti” (2002) and succeeds in presenting a love story indie style.Read more

Yanggaw: The Affliction in Us All

By Tito Genova Valiente

In a period when the form of anti-cinema seduces the audience, “Yanggaw” asks us to take it because it is relatively recognizable—and arguably the more accessible—of the many films that are lately produced. By accessibility, I am referring to the linear narrative of the film and should not be equated with something that is “facile” or plain. Such linearity, however, even makes more obvious the dimensions “Yanggaw” has recovered for us and reveals the many layers of storytelling that the well-wrought screenplay, because of its construction, is able to accomplish. The director, who is also credited for the screenplay, accomplishes what is difficult to accomplish: embedding the symbolic and the metaphorical in the actions and processes of the film. No stilted dialogues or contrived poses, just a storytelling that explores the many facets of patriarchy and myth-making in our cultures.Read more

Serbis: Cinema purgatorio

By Lito B. Zulueta

“SERBIS,” the first Filipino movie to have competed at the Cannes Film Festival in more than a quarter of a century, opens with what appears to be a commentary on its feat. A very young woman, Jewel (Rosanne Jordan), newly bathed and naked, admires herself in the cracked life-size mirror, moaning with apparent pleasure as if she were making love with her reflection. The camera lingers, perhaps a tad lasciviously, on her body, until she’s woken up from her narcissistic daydream by the catcall of her pesky little brother, who has surreptitiously opened the door to catch her unawares. When he runs away from her to announce to the rest of the family what she has been doing, the viewer learns that they are living in a vast movie house that has seen better days and scarcely survives with a double-feature program of faded sex movies where the actors always find an excuse to undress every 15 minutes. The theater scarcely survives on a diet of sex screenings, but they will do: patrons hardly go there to watch movies, after all; they go there to feast on the lusty images onscreen, rev up their libido, transact for sex with or without payment, and do their lurid acts under the disguise of darkness. It’s literally “service after dark.”Read more