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

2008

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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

Serbis : What’s Showing in Mendoza’ s Family Theater

By Dr. Bienvenideo Lumbera

Brillante Mendoza has two stars in the movie Serbis. The first is a moviehouse that has seen glorious days as a magnificent film palace and has declined with the years into a decrepit theater home to soft-porn movies and to patrons in search for sexual encounters of the third kind. The second is a human monument, tall and regal dowager-actress Gina Pareño who plays a matriarch who has sued the husband who abandoned her for another woman and when the movie begins, she is anticipating the husband’s conviction.

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.”

CINEMA PURGATORIO
BY MIKE RAPATAN

BRILLANTE DANTE MENDOZA’S “Serbis” presents a heady slice of life in the daily grind of Family theater, a rundown movie house in Angeles, Pampanga owned and operated by the Pineda family. In several steady and ambulant long takes, Mendoza takes us into the dark and winding corridors and dank and skanky corners of the shady theater and slowly reveals the grungy lives of both the audience who patronize the theater and the family members who in one way or another strive to survive. Read more

Melancholia

MELANCHOLIA SA ‘MELANCHOLIA’
NI ROLANDO B. TOLENTINO

SA MGA REBYU ng “Melancholia,” laging dinidiin ang kalungkutan na pumapaimbalot sa mga buhay ng tauhan, ng produksyon ng sining at katotohanan sa gitna ng matinding politikal na panunupil ng komersyal na cinema (negosyo) at ng gobyerno. Ang huling dalawa ang bumubuo ng estado ng bansa, ang black hole na humihigop sa lahat ng mga anak at mamamayan nito sa pagdalumat sa kolektibo at individual na buhay bilang kalungkutan.

PHILIPPINE CINEMA AS MEDITATION AND METAPHYSICS
BY LITO B. ZULUETA

LAV DIAZ’S MELANCHOLIA provides a sweeping fillip and summing-up to the aesthetics he has stubbornly maintained and that has always baffled audiences. A mordant movie that is part pastorale, part meditation, and part social commentary, there is no other film like it, except for the previous movies he has done— sweeping narrative movies that seem determined to break the standard idea of a regular feature movie that’s all but told in just 90 minutes more or less. Read more

Jay

CENSURING TV ‘INFOTAINMENT’
BY LITO B. ZULUETA

IN FRANCIS XAVIER Pasion’s mordant “Jay,” the brutal killing of a gay TV employee in his own pad in Manila occasions a media scramble. TV journalist Jay (Baron Geisler), the victim’s namesake, gets to the family in Pampanga ahead of the pack, lures the relatives to Manila and turns out a footage of the mother breaking down at the sight of her carrion-son at the morgue. High TV drama, except that it was staged. Finding the footage damaged after the victim had been buried, Jay had asked the woman to repeat the “breakdown.” She had performed like a pro. This is what televiewers see.

CINEMA GETS BACK AT TELEVISION
BY BUTCH FRANCISCO

MEDIA HAD ALWAYS been very useful—at disseminating news and information, providing public service and exposing society’s ills, especially corruption in the government. Read more

Imburnal

ETNOGRAPIYA NG SITYO NG KARAHASAN AT KAHIRAPAN
NI ROLANDO B. TOLENTINO

GAYA NG ISINASAAD ng titulo, walang patumanggi ang nais ng pelikula: ibuyanyang ang kasuka-suka at marumi, gawing tahanan ang primaryong lunan na binabalik-balikan. Ang kakatwa, binabaligtad ng “Imburnal” ang diskurso ng identifikasyon: ang isinusuka ay ang karahasan ng estado na ipinapangalandakan ang arbitraryong kapangyarihang iditermina kung sino ang mabubuhay at ang papatayin, kahit pa ang pinadayo ng mismong karahasan ng estado ay ang mga tauhang paratihang napapadpad sa imburnal bilang tambayan at laguman ng kanilang buhay.

DAVAO DOWN THE DRAIN
BY LITO B. ZULUETA

SHERRAD ANTHONY SANCHEZ’S “Imburnal” builds on the strengths of the young filmmaker’s commanding debut, “Huling Balyan sa Buhi,” with slight modification of geography: from the mystical but conflict-ridden hinterlands of Mindanao, we are brought to the sewers and emerging ghettoes of Davao City, a countryside in transition from the pastoral to the cosmopolitan. Read more

Hunghong sa Yuta

A MINDANAO FILM FOR THE NATION
BY BIEN LUMBERA
NATIONAL ARTIST FOR LITERATURE

“EARTH’S WHISPER” AS the English translation of the title of Arnel Mardoquio’s film about war and peace in Mindanao easily cues us on how to read this story about a clutch of deaf-mute children in a mountain community consisting of Christians, Muslims and lumads, and the teacher from the city who introduces them to the alphabet and numbers. War between rebels and the military has devastated the community of Hinyok, its most telling casualty being children born without the ability to speak and hear whose fathers are now intent on training them to become fighters to defend their land. Vigo Cruz, artist and toy-maker, answers a posted notice about Hinyok’s need for a teacher, and his work with the children brings joy and hope to the young war victims and their mothers.

THE GHOSTS OF WAR
BY GIGI JAVIER ALFONSO

WE CAN ONLY see the vestiges of war and the clouds of the coming wars. We see the victims—children and women left behind after bullets and fire ravage their homes, towns and men. We can only try to thickly describe the lives of those who are left behind to be able to make meanings of death, fear and pain. The ghosts are those who have been swallowed by the rage of war who will forever be around merged with the everyday lives of those who remember their loss. Read more

Boses

MUSIC IS THE MESSAGE
BY BUTCH FRANCISCO

MUSIC IS A key element in “Boses,” an entry in the recent Cinemalaya competition. It is a heart-tugging drama about a teacher-pupil relationship, the story of a violinist named Ariel (played by the international award-winning violinist Coke Bolipata) who gives hope to the battered young boy Onyok (Julian Duque).

ODE TO THE VOICES OF THE YOUNG
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. Read more

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