Category: Film Reel

The Kite Runner

I woke up today with a gray sky outside my window. It isn’t raining, and I bet it’s not gonna rain until tonight. (Oh well, the rain just poured as I typed down those last words. Fine.) Grey skies remind me of sad departures, though I bet, too, that no one’s gonna leave soon. (But just as the rain poured as I just said that it’s never gonna rain, I’m not so sure now if no one’s really gonna leave because I might be wrong again. Oh well.)

It’s been three days in a row that I woke up with an itch to write. My mind’s trying to squeeze something out from my system. And so I guess I’m back to my not-so-olden days when writing was my catharsis whenever I feel like something’s not right with me.

Without having eaten my breakfast yet, and without going out of my room to check who’s downstairs, I turned on the PC, watered my plants in my Zen Garden, collected coins with Stinky, and left the game. Then I played some alternative music, opened a blank Microsoft Word 2007 document and faced the usual blank screen and the blinking cursor.

Funny how I didn’t find it difficult to stain the blank screen with words this time though I don’t have a particular topic to write about. Pardon me for such crappy writings these days. These are the days when I merely heed the writer’s call in me and just keep writing. These are the days when, despite having nothing in mind to write about, my hands and my head are on the move to write.

I watched a film on VCD last night. The Kite Runner. The story, which is set in Afghanistan, is about inseparable childhood best friends, Amir and Hassan, who were torn apart by a fateful act; a fatal mistake that caused a rift in their friendship. More than 20 years later, Amir embarked on a dangerous journey back to his homeland to redeem himself by displaying ultimate courage and devotion to his lost friend. Hassan died in the latter part of the movie and the story afforded a little twist towards the end of film.

Gray skies are dominant in the film. After all, the film is set on a desert country. And the characters in the film fly kites on gray skies…

The Kite Runner’s redeeming value implies that “there is a way to be good again.”
That although we couldn’t erase and correct the errors of our past, we still have the chance to redeem ourselves from those errors. There is a way to be good again. Those who have lost important persons in their lives because of grave mistakes they wish they shouldn’t have committed could relate to the film, and could find solace in the truth that there is a way to be good again; a way to rise from the ashes to redeem themselves and those who are valuable to them.

Gray skies remind me of sad departures. Grey skies are for flying kites. And gray skies now tell me that there is a way to be good again.

***

Posted on Facebook on June 26, 2010.

Philippines’ Cinemalaya: Indie no more?

The success of the 8th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival is yet another milestone for the country’s indie film industry. The festival’s endurance to withstand controversies for eight eventful years is an achievement in itself, add to that the kind of films the festival has produced over the years that gave the country much recognition from international award-giving bodies.

However, the festival seemed to have taken a dismal turn for the last couple of years.

Because of the prestige and recognition that indie talents and filmmakers reap here and abroad, mainstream movie producers and talents were lured into the scene and inevitably altered the indie landscape.

True to the name that this 8th Cinemalaya carries, mainstream talents went in full force to invade the supposedly independent film festival. Industry bigwigs and renowned personalities  including Dennis Trillo, Ronnie Lazaro, Luis Alandy, Dawn Zulueta, Alessandra de Rossi, Mylene Dizon, JM de Guzman, Jodi Sta. Maria, Zanjoe Marudo and Rez Cortez, among others, joined the battle for recognition against nearly anonymous talents. Even Ananda Everingham, leading actor of 2004 horror film Shutter and one of Thailand’s most popular actors, had his shot at the festival in the entry, Kalayaan.

Last July 29, the festival has given its awards for various categories, and, quite unsurprisingly, seasoned actors, actresses and directors bagged some of the major awards. Eddie Garcia won Best Actor for “Bwakaw;” Joross Gamboa won Best Supporting Actor for “Intoy Syokoy ng Kalye Marino;” while Judy Ann Santos, Agot Isidro, Iza Calzado and Janice de Belen all won Best Supporting Actress for “Mga Mumunting Lihim.” This film, directed by no less than Jose Javier Reyes himself, won Best Screenplay.

Before Coco Martin and Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros happened, it was indie film talents who go into the mainstream for a shot at fame – which was a normal and understandable course. But things suddenly went in reverse. Perhaps, everything that’s free and independent is bound to be invaded.

This sudden twist in Cinemalaya, when left unmitigated, might prove detrimental to the interest of budding indie talents and the film industry in general.

The Indie Invasion

Cinemalaya  exists to help budding filmmakers improve their craft and express their vision and artistry without the shackles of commercialism. It exists to provide a venue for young filmmakers who work on a budget to showcase their artistry and be given a chance to be recognized.

It is also where young and promising actors and actresses who aspire to make it big in the mainstream industry are given a chance to show the world what they got, in hopes that they be discovered by major filmmakers.

Unlike commercial movies, indie films are often limited in terms of marketing, distribution and funding. Because of this, one might wonder as to why industry giants who already made it big in the movie scene are still going indie, and hence, joining indie festivals such as Cinemalaya.

One reason, perhaps, is their desire for artistic freedom. Unlike in the indie landscape, film directors and talents are shackled by commercialism in a bid to bag huge revenues, never mind the story’s depth, the film’s quality or the actors’ performance. In mainstream movie-making, the actors’ marketability is more important than his acting skill. In mainstream movie-making, public clamor is the top consideration in making a film, as is the case with GMA Film’s Yaya & Angelina and Boy Pickup the Movie.

In commercial film-making, revenue is everything, which is why mainstream movies are often boxed up in sophomoric love stories, odd fantasy films, chick flicks and feel-good teen movies where the leading actors and actresses are the hottest love team of the time. Which is also why reality show contestants suddenly turn into movie actors and actresses, regardless if they can act at all or not.

Mainstream movie directors are also perhaps lured by the amount of prestige and recognition that indie films get from international award-giving bodies. Kinatay, an indie film by Brillante Mendoza, won the Prix de la Mise en Scene in the 62nd Cannes Film Festival in France. Mendoza also won the Best Director award for the film, besting Kill Bill’s director, Quentin Tarantino himself. And who would forget Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, which grabbed 15 international awards including best film, best actor and best picture.

The independent film industry is where art is not merely for art’s sake. It is where the real battle of craftsmanship and artistry happens. It is where free expression takes place, albeit odd, wild, absurd or unpopular.

Admit it, with the quality of commercial films these days, there are very little chances of making it big in the international moviescape.

With mainstream personalities invading the indie movie scene, it’s almost the same with the case of doctors getting a degree in nursing to up their chances of getting a job abroad.

Indie no more

While the move may be beneficial to mainstream talents and directors, this seemingly growing trend could already be taking its toll on the supposedly independent film industry.

With seasoned actors and actresses invading the indie landscape, the margin of opportunity for fresh talents to be recognized is getting narrower and more limited. And with seasoned directors entering the indie scene, small-time indie film directors are being forced to wage war against industry giants with deeper wallets, wider networks and stronger influences.

For the film industry’s sake, get out of the indie scene. When indie filmmakers get discouraged to compete with gargantuan rivals, the industry’s chances of developing and discovering precious gems might be put in peril. When young and inexperienced talents get intimidated by industry iconics, our chances of discovering another Coco Martin might become far-fetched.

Instead of crowding the indie film industry, mainstream filmmakers should instead improve their craft and not settle for substandard commercial junkies. Mainstream movie producers should invest in good quality films – with actors, screenplays and cinematography that are worthy of international recognition. Maryo J. de los Reyes did it in Magnifico in 2003, we can do it again.

Take risks in looking for and developing fresh talents and not settle for actors and actresses who are all-face but have no talent.

The Metro Manila Film Festival is the best place to start. Stop producing films like Enteng Ng Ina Mo or any other mergers with Enteng Kabisote.

While indie film-making is not exclusive for indie filmmakers (as film-making is an art that’s open to all), Cinemalaya should give small-time indie filmmakers a level playing field to showcase their craft.

Inception

After seeing Inception on the big screen, I was pretty convinced I’ve just seen the sickest movie of all in my entire life. 

This is absolutely not your average sci-fi action film because this movie is beefed up with never-before-seen fighting scenes, edgy stunts and you-can’t-catch-me-can-you chase scenes. Going out for a bathroom break is a big no-no especially for a plot-driven film such as this; you wouldn’t want to miss an important scene, do you?

I couldn’t help but be pulled right to the edge of my cushion seat as Leonardo DiCaprio brings to the fore his A-game in the movie. The film’s cinematography; the fast-paced framing of the shots, perfect digital editing, enthralling musical scores, and Christopher Nolan’s successful direction of the scenes matched with the actors’ movie-acting prowess will make you go up in a frenzy and will take you into fits of hysteria as the story progresses.

As to the movie’s screenplay, I am pretty much convinced that Christopher Nolan is a total genius. Coming up with a perfect story concept, brewing a perfect conflict, and directing a magnificent sci-fi action film could only be the work of a wicked sick genius. The film presented a perfect conflict for me – one that breeds several more conflicts as the story advances. The story concept is so unique and intriguing; it totally blew me off as the film rolls. The story arc is remarkably mind-blowing and equally intriguing as well. Aside from the eye-popping scenes and the perfect blend of thrill and suspense, the film will surely tickle your mind to think of what’s happening and what else would happen towards the end of the movie. It also afforded a well-deserved twist at the end of the film as it carefully and successfully tied the lose knots in the plot. It also left the audience thinking about the real ending of the film as it deliberately ended the film with an intriguing image — a shot of Cobb’s wobbling top, his totem, on the table.

Spoiler alert beyond this point!

Was Cobb able to wake up at the end? I think not. For one, the editing of the shots at the ending of the film is (subliminally) different: the shots are a bit brighter and sharper. And the shot of his kids is the same with that of his dreams: same camera angle, same quality of the shot, same clothes and same physical appearance despite his long absence.

Others would claim that he managed to wake up, arguing that Saito (Ken Watabe) might have shot him as he was trying to convince him to come back, which might have given him the “kick” that he needs in order to wake up. But I digress. First off, he was brought into a (deeper) fifth layer of dreams through a deadly stab from his wife. Meaning, a gunshot wouldn’t be enough to wake him up. Second off, he was sedated, which means that he could only be awakened through a freefall with a very intense impact.

In my point of view, the final scene shows his first stage of limbo – a taste of his greatest dreams coming to life; that is to come back home to his kids as a freeman. But this stage will soon come to pass and will turn into a nightmare.

All in all, Inception is one heckuva sick movie I would definitely recommend. Whether on the big screen or on DVD, it’s absolutely worth every penny. Buy your own DVD copy for repeated viewing in the future. After all, it’s A-okay so it’s worth keeping on the shelf. Don’t forget to turn the subtitles on!

Manila Kingpin: The Asiong Salonga Story

This post was first posted on Facebook on December 31, 2011.

At a time when nothing much can be expected from the quality of entries in the Metro Manila Film Festival, renowned director Tikoy Aguiluz and Scenema Production deliver a masterpiece that sets a higher bar for filmmaking standards in the festival.

Manila Kingpin: The Asiong Salonga Story ushers us into the Renaissance of Pinoy action films.

The movie is not “pang-Hollywood” (as some are in the habit of saying to commend a film), but in a good way. Manila Kingpin is not “pang-Hollywood” because it is not trapped under the shadows of American filmmaking — it is distinctively Pinoy; the kind that would make you feel proud of Pinoy action films again. The film is not “pang-Hollywood” — yes. But it is undeniably “pang-international.”

The movie, filmed in black and white, successfully teleports the viewers into the early days of Tondo where goons and gang lords rule the society. The film’s cinematography and production design effectively captured the tone of Asiong’s time, bringing a sense of nostalgia to old viewers and presenting a new perspective of Tondo to young viewers.

The storytelling was also beautifully crafted, presenting a balanced mixture of action, drama and a few hints at humor. Action stunts that are typically Pinoy dominate the film. The action scenes were well-sustained all throughout the film, eliminating the viewers’ chances of getting bored. When the story tends to get boring, the film presents the story in a series of staccato-like montage to provide a well-deserved breather from the intense fighting scenes and the dialogues. With high-caliber Pinoy action stars in the arsenal, such as Phillip Salvador, John Regala, Jay Manalo, Joco Diaz and Ronny Lazaro, among others, expect a different level of action all throughout the film. (The chase scene aboard a kalesa is something to watch out for!)

Everyone in the film brings their A-game to the fore. Baron Geisler also did an excellent job; and even those with minor roles, including Yul Servo, Dennis Padilla and Ketchup Eusebio, performed exceptionally well in the movie.

All in all, Manila Kingpin: The Asiong Salonga Story is an exceptional masterpiece worthy to bag much of the festival’s major awards. I’m sure that after this film, action films will get back to the mainstream Pinoy moviescape, and Pinoy action stars-turned-dramatic-actors will go back to what they do best.

Facing the Giants

Get yourself a hankie, grab your pillow, or go find some huggable companion before watching this film. I’m pretty sure (and that’s a “sure” sure) that you’re gonna have a good cry afterward.

Facing the Giants stars coach Grant Taylor (Alex Kendrick), Shiloh Academy’s high school football coach, who, in his six years of leading Shiloh Eagle’s puny bench, has never led the team to a winning season. That, and his other austere personal crises, makes giving up the best and the easiest escape. But not until some heaven-sent visitor managed to get him back to his senses and reminded him to take heart and “prepare his fields” for God’s coming rain.

Directed by Kendrick himself, Facing the Giants is a film that surely hits a soft spot in all of us. Though the film exhibited conventional camera angles, framing of the shots, and not so out-of the-usual cinematography, Kendrick gave well-deserved justice in hoisting the story in its zenith through the film’s sheer simplicity, matched with brilliant screenplay and story line. I myself had my eyes watery and felt irresistible goosebumps several times while watching the film. Find yourself crying one moment, laughing so hard the next, or cheering your heart out for Shiloh Eagles the other, for this film will surely get you to the edge of your comfy seat while watching it.

Facing the Giants is a story about trusting in the power of faith and discovering the strength to persevere; about giving God your best, and letting Him do the rest. It is about facing your giants, i.e. family struggles, personal crises, and emotional chaos.

This film really has it all so I encourage you not to miss this one. Since it’s family-friendly all the way, there’s no way I won’t recommend watching this film to everybody. Better yet, buy your own DVD copy so you can watch it again and again and find out that a new revelation is in store for you each time. It’s rated five-star so don’t miss it!