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

Reviews

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Sabel: Sinner or saint?

By Butch Francisco

The name Sabel conjures images of innocence, simplicity and even naivete. In Regal Films’ Manila Film Festival entry Sabel, don’t let the simple title fool you. The lead character Sabel is more complex than the three personas of Joanne Woodward in Three Faces of Eve. As played by Judy Ann Santos, Sabel has so many facets: a good daughter to her father, a rebellious kid to her mother, a generous and helping hand to her father’s best friend, a kind and cheerful nun, a woman wearing a habit but enjoys good sex, a manipulative and scheming bitch to her would-be stepfather, a lascivious tart who pets in public, an inconsiderate friend, a boyfriend-grabber, a thoughtful lover, a good and caring mother, a lesbian and a murderer. Only Sally Field’s Sybil has more contrasting personalities.

Written by Ricardo Lee, the story of Sabel is simple but its structure is made complicated with all the flashbacks throughout the movie. To the credit of the director, Joel Lamangan, we don’t get lost in the storytelling and we get to follow the developments in the film.Read more

'Sabel' debunks institutions

By Gigi Javier-Alfonso

Sabel is a bold and brave film. It is a work that helps gnaw on our existing value systems. It talks about the many ways of life that have been stifled because of society’s system that does not respond to the needs of the marginalized. Unfortunately in our country, too many are marginalized.Sensibilities may be offended and values are questioned in the new Ricky Lee material that is directed by Joel Lamangan. Sabel is Regal Entertainment’s 2004 Manila Film Festival offering with Judy Ann Santos as its star. There are many questions posted by this film--from issues about a priest’s celibacy vows, the right to sexual preference, intentions of women becoming nuns, the justice system’s weaknesses… on to land-grabbing issues by the powerful and the marginalization of our tribes. On the whole it deals with the rationale why law-abiding people feel that they have to move and even commit violence to defend their dignity.Read more

'Sabel' tackles sensitive topic

By Lito B. Zulueta

If there’s banishment in “Sabel,” it is banishment from gender. Produced by Regal Films, written by Ricardo Lee and directed by Joel Lamangan, the movie is perhaps the most shocking movie last year for its theme of latent lesbianism. It has audacity in tackling a very sensitive matter.

Sabel (Judy Anne Santos) is a nun working in the prison ministry where she gets to catch the attention of Jojo (Wendell Ramos), a man wrongly convicted for a crime he didn’t commit. In the oppressiveness of prison, he rapes her. He falls in love with her and released from jail, he looks for her. His search enables him to piece together fragments of her very enigmatic life.

“Sabel” is an intriguing movie that may disappoint some because the movie hovers between answering the riddle of Sabel and altogether evading it, much like a person evading questions about her sexuality. It seems in fact to depend too much on the reaction of the audience to accept Sabel’s mystery as a given in a world where nothing is really determined nor defined. Read more

Cesar Montano, a superior story teller

By Gigi Javier-Alfonso

I said of his first movie which was titled “Mananabas”: “Cesar Montano does have the talent for telling stories and using film language. It shows that he meticulously thinks of his audience.” But I strongly commented on his making use of images in this film which he thinks an action film should have and that puts him back to the usual Philippine action formula. The tested action formulas do not to rock the boat… a hero who is a victim of super harshness, the “anting-anting,” the powerful “maginoo” as oppressors, the “paghihiganti” which brings justice into his own hands, the warehouse scene ideal for the big production scene. Read more

River of grace runs through 'Panaghoy'

By Lito B. Zulueta

For wearing his heart on his sleeve, Cesar Montano has done an audacious work. “Panaghoy sa Suba” is perhaps the most accomplished film to be made by a Filipino actor-director in many years. But it is accomplished not because of the soundness of its filmmaking and the majesty of its vision. It is all that and more. It is accomplished because Montano shows a coherence of emotion and thought, a unity of feeling and action. It is a heartfelt work from an artist with a big heart.

This is a film that could only have been made by someone in love. How could one explain its setting and period: Bohol during the war? And how could one explain its courage in adopting four languages—Tagalog, Cebuano, English and Japanese? This is certainly a movie that doesn’t spare anything for the sake of authenticity. It is a movie with a mission.

That mission is particularly inspiring in a movie industry of tincan dreams and shortsighted visions. Montano has put his money where his mouth is. He is obviously a man in love with film and in love with his homeland and country. His is a testimony of love. Read more