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

Reviews

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Florentina Hubaldo, CTE: A Cartography of Anomie and Angst

By Mike Rapatan

Lav Diaz’s Florentina Hubaldo, CTE probes into the harrowing and pitiful life of its eponymous character afflicted with chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, a debilitating condition that emerges years after an individual has experienced a series of physical assaults on his or her brain. The disease reportedly strikes professional athletes engaged in rough contact sports (e.g., boxing and wrestling) where during play, the exposed head is heavily battered. Typical symptoms of CTE range from depression to mental anguish and dementia.Read more

Diablo: Ang Matimping Sining Ni Mes De Guzman

Ni Bien Lumbera

Ang naunang mga pelikula ni Mes de Guzman ay nasa estilong lantay na realismo. Hiwalay ang mga ito sa tradisyonal na sineng Tagalog na batbat ng madudulang tagpo kung saan ang mga popular na pangunahing bituin ay naglalambingan, maingay na nag-aaway at nagpapalitan ng mga dialoging sadyang pinatitimo sa damdamin ng mga manonood. Ang estetika ni Mes de Guzman ay hubad, umiiwas sa “drama,” walang borloloy, nakatuon sa totoo lamang.

Ang Diablo ay nagbubukas sa isang eksenang nangangako ng “drama.” Isang minero ang sinapian diumano ng diablo at kinailangang ipailalim sa kakayahan ng albularyong makapagpapalabas sa diablo. Pero walang kinalaman ang isasalaysay ni Mes de Guzman sa pambungad na eksena.Read more

Colossal: Ang Pelikula-Tula Bilang Alternatibong Andamyo Sa Pagtatag Ng Bansa

Ni Benilda S. Santos

Lubhang bantad na tayo sa mga balita sa media, at maging sa mga paksa ng pelikulang indie nitong nakaraang lima o pitong taon, na nagsisiwalat ng iba’t ibang antas ng kabulukan at kahirapan sa ating lipunan. Hindi naman sa nais kong imungkahi ang total ban sa ganitong mga balita at pelikula; higit na nakaririmarim ang ibubunga nito. Subalit hindi ko pa rin naiwasan ang umasa sa pagdating ng naiibang anyo ng naratibo ng pagtatatag ng ating bansa. Read more

Bwakaw: Deceptively Innocent, Truly Revolutionary

By Nicanor G. Tiongson

With the rise of inexpensive digital video technology, indie filmmakers have finally been liberated from profit-oriented producers and now are able to make films more freely, including those with themes that were studiously avoided by the commercial mainstream cinema. One of these themes is homosexuality, which has become a fad among new wave filmmakers in the past six years, especially since Philippine urban society itself has become more tolerant or at least less condemnatory of gayness. Moreover, gays have now found their own niches in arts, academe, and media and their own voice in militant organizations that fight for gay rights. Read more

Baybayin: Inscribing Love, Land and Loss, and Self via Subversive, Sensual Syllabaries

By Tito Genova Valiente

In the beginning was chaos. As with all myths, order comes through words or naming. Man and woman give names to things that are unknown to them, and knowledge brings about harmony. Classification restores logic and understanding to the universe.

Syllables create the film, Baybayin. To be precise, the ancient syllabaries called Baybayin initiate the movement of people—characters—in this tale, while the metaphor of Paradise runs amok, losing control at certain points, meandering now, and then, but coming to an end that is rightfully, forcefully in silence, at the heart of any post-colonial discourse. The traveler is always on his or her way, never reaching the destination.

Loss, to follow Eva Hoffman, can magically preserve things.

That is the magical proposal of this film: Loss of language or its vanishing, more than its strong presence, can help people preserve elements of their culture and their identities. That is what happens in this film, when syllables are inked on the body of a boy in a trance.Read more

Ang Paglalakbay Ng Mga Bituin Sa Gabing Madilim: Romancing and Realizing Mindanao

By Tito Genova Valiente

The film, Ang Paglalakbay ng mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim is not about travels than it is about travails. For all the romance in the title—stars and darkness and the promise of limpid light at the end of the night – this film by Arnel Mardoquio is about weariness, discontent, and the in-between shades of ideologies. And yet the film is political.

The story is about a boy who lost his parents to war or whatever it is that does not stop from harming the communities in Mindanao. Faisal inherits a bag full of American dollars after the boy’s parents turned to kidnapping with ransom. In the narrative, no one dwells on this. In fact, the storytelling of Mardoquio does not stop and dwell on anything. Very much like the individuals we see filling the screen with their presence so haunting because it is terrifically ordinary.Read more

Tsardyer: Technology Transfer and Negotiations, Batteries not Included

By Tito Genova Valiente

Tsardyer is a film that illustrates how Information Technology connects all our islands and all their people. If mobility between and among classes and ethnic groups cannot be brought to reality by education, then another more mobile structure, that of mobile phones can do so. The narrative of Tsardyer, as cinema, is so compelling I wait for the next ad man to use and fuse the stories so his firm could tell the story of technologies and territorialization and deterretorialization. In between such narrative, we could perhaps have a glimpse into what troubles some political groups in Southern Philippines and how we never can really understand what those brothers and sisters of ours there want from our national government that serves only a few.

In other words, however central the mobile phone in Tsardyer, we will never see this cinema put to work by mobile companies based in our country and anywhere else.Read more

Tsardyer: Banditry, Kidnapping in Mindanao

By Butch Francisco

Any hardcore journalist will kill – or will even risk getting killed – for a scoop. In news programs today, it’s all about having stories that are exclusive, exclusive, exclusive! That’s what all their headlines scream.

Only very few of today’s journalists, however, can still do undercover work because everyone has become a celebrity. Those who are not on TV are on Facebook. The production staff who join the raids on sex joints are often green, their journalistic instincts yet to be sharpened. They can flush out all the sex workers from those seedy establishments week after week, but has anyone bothered to look into the operations of those powerful people running and/or protecting these prostitution joints? It’s back to business after some palms have been greased.Read more

Sheika: The New Land: A Place of Promise or Peril

By Mike Rapatan

Arnel Mardoquio’s Sheika recounts the harrowing story of Sheika (Fe Gingging Hyde), a Tausug mother who, together with her sons Mudin (Mark Anthony Perandes) and Alfad (Dan Lester Albarracin), flees the bombings in her war-torn village in Jolo for the urban comforts of Davao City. Her decision to move to Davao, a place she regards as a safe haven for Muslims like her family, is not merely a geographic relocation. At a deeper level, Shieka’s agenda for migrating is psychological. Her family’s transfer to Davao is a quest for catharsis from the traumas she has experienced. It is also a deliberate attempt on her part to escape the ruthless violence targeted at people of her kind by the diablo, her allusion to the military who, as implied, claimed the life of her husband in some bloody military operation. Hoping to prevent a similar fate, Sheika on the boat trip to Davao instructs her sons to avoid speaking in their dialect and abandon their Muslim garb and religious practices and assume new names in order to appear no different from the other city folk. Sheika becomes Shie while Mudin and Alfad respectively take the names of Dindin and Soysoy.Read more

Sheika: A Woman Named Sheika

By Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera

Arnel Mardoquio’s investigation of the impact of war in Mindanao began in Hunghong sa Yuta which tells of a young artist from Davao City who volunteers as a teacher in a mountain community where children born at the onset of the war grew up deaf and mute.

Mardoquio’s seond film, Hospital Boat, narrates the story of two women friends, one a doctor and the other a religious sister, who together moves from one coastal community to another to bring medical relief to war refugees in the company of a young lumad boy. The film introduces us to a wider variety of characters—Muslim revolutionary leaders, a priest who runs a relief center for evacuees and war victims, and an abusive Muslim warlord and his sister who, beside him, stands as a counterbalancing figure, a Muslim lawmaker who takes the side of the oppressed.Read more

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