The third edition of the CineFilipino festival is running through this week in select SM Cinemas, as well as Gateway, Greenbelt, Cinema Centenario, and Black Maria Cinema. Eight features and three shorts programs are available for viewing.
Bor Ocampo’s Hitboy feels at odds with itself. It introduces its main character Alex as a thief and a hustler, before revealing that he’s actually working as a hired goon for some land owners that want a farmer off their property. Alex is tasked with just injuring and intimidating the farmer, but things go awry and he ends up with two murders on his hands. What sounds like the premise for a dark, gritty drama ends up being something else entirely. The movie dives into an absurd criminal underworld, one where the biggest, most dangerous threat is the actor Mon Confiado.
This is presumably meant to be humorous, but it doesn’t really work out that way. There’s a severe clash of tones that makes it difficult to know how to react to any given sequence. On the one hand, the film is populated with buffoonish, outsized characters prone to saying ridiculous things. But at the same time, the movie goes pretty overboard in trying to build sympathy for Alex, saddling him with a precocious younger brother, a pregnant girlfriend, and a father in the hospital. It feels like there are bits and pieces missing from the picture, the stuff that would link the two sides and really make the absurdity work.
Rogue Recommends?: Confiado’s greasy performance is kind of funny. The rest isn’t, really.
Dwein Baltazar’s Gusto Kita with All my Hypothalamus follows four male characters (Nicco Manalo, Anthony Falcon, Soliman Cruz, and Dylan Ray Talon). All four float around the Recto area, and they’re all under some spell of desire. This desire manifests in different ways, the men coming from different situations and seeking different things, but the movie links them together by giving them license to projects these desires into a singular form.
That might sound a little heady, but the actual device is really down-to-earth. This isn’t really a romantic film: the movie brings focus to the odd desperation and pettiness of these men, casting their fantasies in an appropriately uncomfortable light. Recto and its environs really come alive in this film, the decay of the area reflecting the emptiness of these men’s affections. The film doesn’t consistently engage on a narrative level, the structure a little shakier than what might be needed to really get its ideas across. But these are worthy ideas, and the film’s wonderful production values make it easy enough to sit through and experience.
Rogue Recommends?: With the caveat that you might come out of the theater thinking “I didn’t get that at all.” But that’s okay. It’s all right to be confused. Just let Quiapo come alive.
Mata Tapang, directed by Rod Marmol, casts Edgar Allan Guzman as Luis, the lone surviving Marine of his unit following a violent encounter. He loses an eye, and while recuperating in the military hospital, the other members of his unit show up to him as spirits. They task him with giving them closure so that they can move on to the next life. It’s an interesting concept that leads the film into delivering some rather unconventional ideas. At its most audacious, it basically equates the heroism of soldiers with the values of the people they’ve been fighting, which includes terrorists. The movie, in its own way, also explores issues of sexuality and religion, basically getting across unusual points that people just aren’t prone to making.
It’s interesting, particularly because the film as a whole is just kind of corny. The filmmaking doesn’t really keep up with the boldness of its ideas, the presentation as a whole coming off as pretty stale. The performances feel closer to the broadness of television as well. But it’s hard to outright dismiss a film that’s so willing to say things that people might find controversial. Perhaps it even helps that it’s delivered in a package that feels so harmless. It’s not easy to stump for the film as a whole, but those ideas might be worth considering.
Rogue Recommends?: This is a tough one. There are emotional highs, and cringey lows. But there is merit to what they end up delivering in moments.
Delia & Sammy, directed by Therese Anne Cayaba, stars Rosemarie Gil as the titular Delia, a former actress known for her kontrabida roles. Sammy (Jaime Fabregas) is her senile, philandering husband. She takes care of him in spite of all of the betrayal she’s faced at his hands. But then she finds out that she’s dying, and the film becomes about her trying to find someone who might care for the old man. The film also stars Nico Antonio as a subdivision security guard who gets roped into the quest.
The film looks like it wants to be a tender movie, but there isn’t really enough tenderness in it. It builds a lot around just how awful its two elderly main characters are. There’s a lot of abuse showered on Nico Antonio’s character, and there isn’t really enough of an arc there to make it satisfying. It’s still an interesting premise, though: an elderly couple basically faces the consequences of the lack of compassion and kindness that they’ve given out to the world. If this was a black comedy, if the treatment seemed less inclined to try and make us feel some sympathy for the titular characters, it might all fit together a little better. On paper, this story has plenty of interesting elements, but the film is too stodgy to make them work.
Rogue Recommends?: Not really. There are some sweet moments, and it’s great to see Rosemarie Gil. But the movie feels miscalculated.