In pursuit of the indies
Cinematic art is dead—it plunged into sheer commercialism of the mainstream industry with shackles set in stone. Compared to what independent cinema has to offer, rarely does one get mentally stimulated on JaDine and KathNiel films or enlightened on movies that are nothing but extensions of career popularity. But if you wish to feed your appetite for fresh and local alternative films, you have reason to celebrate: there’s a new wellspring for local indie films streamed at the heart of Cavite.
Sine Pop-Up is a budding event that began screening rarely seen independent Filipino films last year, first finding its seat at the Robinson’s Place Manila and soon after at the Robinson’s Place Imus Theater. “Indie films need exposure, and I think most importantly, there’s a treasure trove of unseen titles,” explains Mr. Carlson Chan, a co-founder and curator of the exhibit.
A promising monthly event, Sine Pop-Up basks in the newfound spirit of Filipino artistry and originality. It challenges the prevailing seclusion of alternate films from the public eye and brings the authentic image of society to light by intending to build its audience. Last year, it screened the comedy-musical Pepot Artista and the internationally acclaimed 4-hour film by Lav Diaz, Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan.
Recently on January 10, Sine Pop-Up featured two independent films that challenged formulaic mainstream productions and unraveled the varied shades of truth: Purok 7 and Badil.
Purok 7 (2013)
Written and Directed by: Carlo Obispo
Starring: Krystle Valentino and Miggs Cuaderno
A moving tale seen through children’s incongruous eyes, Purok 7 dwells on resounding moods and affections without overshadowing the bleakness of truth.
Set in a far-flung community, the film begins with a festive game of paluan ng palayok under a torrid noonday sun that brings in a crowd of clamor and cheers—a sight one would usually catch in the countryside. The story centers on Diana (Krystle Valentino), a gracious 14-year-old mired in a facade of maturity too heavy for her age; and Julian (Miggs Cuaderno), her precocious little brother with a face of comic charm. As they seemingly jaunt into their childhood likea roller coaster, they experience the thrilling ride of growing up. The ride, however, is infused with the obstacles of having to fend for themselves and occasionally eating almost nothing but swamp spinach.
Despite their mother working abroad andwith their father abandoning them for another woman, their lives are full of funfairs, puppy love, stealing mangoes, and long afternoon walks. For all that, a tragic loss later dawns on them that reverberates throughout the rest of the movie. This heartwarming tale is reminiscent of a childhood fixed in a background of a resolute and close-knit community that is definitely predisposed to look at the bright side of things.
Purok 7 depicts social realities like its indie film predecessors Anak (2000)by Director Rory Quintos, Caregiver (2008) by Director Chito Roño, and Balikbayan Box (2007) by Director Mes De Guzman. But Purok 7 withdraws from the traditional demands through its narrative of the day-to-day life of those left behind and their escape from the aches of truth. The film fluently magnifies the external reality by silencing the internal vicissitudes of Diana, portrayed brilliantly by Krystle Valentino, an actress capable of eliminating every dab of self-consciousness.
There are no pretentious images in this film or luxurious settings, just a deliberately moving screenplay set in a picturesque vista. With its basic cinematography, Director Carlo Obispo lets us immerse in the depth of the characters’ expressions, which speaks louder than any dialogue can. He demonstrates that even a complex plot and ambitious camera work cannot evoke emotions the same way that the casts displayinnocence and sincerity.
As the story shifted from the bigger picture of the underlying social issue, the film simply envelops its viewers in the spirited sense of rural life. Purok 7 examines the typical and mundane matters of life, and transforms it into something exceptional and universal against the backdrop of nostalgia for the idyllic times.
Directed by: Chito S. Roño
Written by: Rody Vera
Starring: Jhong Hilario and Dick Israel
A gripping outcry on the tyranny of the majority, Chito Roño’s Badil unravels a stunted society where democracy can be sold for a thousand pesos or more.
The film follows Mang Ponso (Dick Israel), a political operator and a man of extensive influence as he keeps guard over the committed voters by making the rounds in town. He doles out cash to the town locals with attached stickers of Mayor Del Mundo’s name, corrupting the recognized Filipino values of pakikisama and utang na loob. As Lando (JhongHilario) takes over the campaign duties of his afflicted father, and as the second half of the film gently reveals its fangs, we discover the worst of patronage politics with Lando throttling the motorcycle engine and roaming at nightfall. With brutes and bruises, the film turns into a spine-chiller as Lando unearths the opposition’s undermining move that he has resolved to dismantle.
Director Chito Roño goes straight to presenting the exploitation of the Filipinos with Jhong Hilario’s intuitive performance, as obscure as the nature of Philippine politics. His tight-lipped character further amplifies the echoes of perverted truth. Badil opens a window to awareness by stripping the film of long-winding conversations, and settling on the deafening outcry of secrecy and silence instead.
As the approaching presidential election pulsates, Badil goes beyond a plain exposition of reality by unmasking the ruckus behind the slogans “Vote Wisely” and “Don’t sell your vote.” It will take you on the road from dusk to dawn,and make you see how in the dead of the night, everyone becomes a prostitute to grassroots politics.
Sine Pop-Up is a monthly independent film exhibit open for anyone interested. The next screening will feature the same set, Purok 7 at 11:30 a.m. and Badil at 1:30 p.m., on Sunday, February 21 at Robinson’s Place Imus Theater 1 and Robinson’s Place Manila Theater 3, Midtown Wing. Tickets are available on the same day at the theater entrances for 200 PHP each, which allows access to the two films for a single show.