Contra Mundum

Once in a while, you get to see a beautiful story play out before your eyes. In this case, all your senses are piqued by an amazing film called Ang Larawan (The Portrait) a work of art by three of the Philippines’ best artists: Nick Joaquin, Rolando Tinio and Ryan Cayabyab.

The story is about a renowned artist and his family facing the many changes challenging each of the characters. It is the story of their ancestral house and its uncertain future in a changing world. And all of that is captured in a painting we can only see glimpses of but never the whole.

And that is where the fun is in this film. People’s lives can only be glimpsed in parts but the whole will sometimes surprise you. The film which deals with these people’s lives, on the whole, is a masterpiece. There are bits and pieces here and there that appear off: a song better left unsung (dialogue would have done); a miscast character; and a song line that is forced into the melody, but the film is so awesome these irritations quickly pass.

Before we saw the film, we heard that it was being pulled out of some theaters, which is unfortunate. This may be an artsy film but it is the artsy film people should see. That may be an elitist thing to say but this world needs more artsy films. It’s the kind of film that can make you reflect on your life and where you want to go with it. That we all need to do not only because a new year is just about to roll in but the world today just needs more thinking people in it. That is the challenge of the film: seeing the world as it is, do we have the guts to go against the world? Contra mundum.

Picture that.

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Pulling ourselves out of the septic tank: Pesos and Sense.

There are comments circulating on how much Pesos the recent MMFF made, which is much less than the previous festivals. Yes, commercial success is important. No sensible person would pour money into a project that wouldn’t make a buck but I am hoping it doesn’t end there. 

I consider Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2 a failure as a comedy but as a commentary between artsy and commercial films, I consider it a strong voice. Eugene laments how after soaking in shit for a film, the film won tons of awards…overseas! When it was shown in the Philippines, however, no one came to see it. 

That is the MMFF. It is a battle between Direk’s artsy vision versus Eugene’s shallow commercial romp. Will it have another round of Shake, Rattle and Roll, or Enteng Kabisote, or a Vice Ganda-starrer; or will it risk showing more indy or indy-ish films? This is not to say that the former group has no value at all but do you go for entertainment with a moral lesson more than a film that deals with hard issues even if it is not as entertaining? 

I for one believe we should go beyond commercial success and rightly promote the latter group. Films in the former group are something that can be shown the whole year round. It will make tons of cash regardless of the season it is shown. What we need to do, however, is to encourage the making of artsy films not just for the sake of making them but to eventually broaden the choices for the viewers.  

There lies the true worth of a film festival like Cinemalaya. It helps enrich Philippine culture. The MMFF can be an equally effective vehicle for this in the hope that artsy films too will be available all year round and enjoy considerable commercial success.  

If we fail to do that, then we risk ending up like Eugene who, despite getting the film she wanted, still ended up in a world of shit.

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