Festival Report – Cinemalaya 2017, Part 3

We wrap up our coverage of this year’s Cinemalaya with reviews of Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha, Sa Gabing Nanahimik ang mga Kuliglig, and Baconaua

by Philbert Dy

ANG PAMILYANG HINDI LUMULUHA

 

Mes de Guzman’s Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha begins with semi-animated prologue that explains the legend that fuels the plot of the movie. There is a famous family in a certain town known for never weeping. It is said that if they stay over at someone’s house, the residents of said house will find something that they’re looking for. Cora (Sharon Cuneta) is a woman who feels abandoned by her family. With the help of her housemaid Bebang (Moimoi Marcampo), she looks for the mythical family, hoping that her own family will come back to her.

 

 

There are certainly funny bits in this movie, the whole thing getting a lot of mileage out of the strained relationship between Bebang and Cora. But it all feels terribly sloppy. The narrative just has giant holes in it. It doesn’t really feel like the filmmakers knew what kind of story they wanted to tell. Instead, it just sticks together a bunch of sitcom-like scenes that mine humor from how stupid the characters can be. There is some compelling absurdity in some of the humor, hinting at layers that are immediately evident, but as a whole it just feels like a low effort work from a filmmaker who has previously shown so much more.

 

The story surrounding the film, of course, is the participation of Sharon Cuneta. To that end, she’s fine in the movie, but it doesn’t really ask a lot of her. The movie is all too conscious that it has Sharon Cuneta in it, and it basically skates on her presence. And the filmmaking doesn’t really do her any favors. The sloppiness of the editing gets in the way of some of the punchlines, and her big dramatic moment is marred by uninspired lensing.

 

Rogue Recommends?: For Megastar diehards only. And even then, you might not be happy with how the movie treats her.

 

SA GABING NANAHIMIK ANG MGA KULIGLIG

 

A murder takes place in Cuyo, Palawan in Iar Arondaing’s Sa Gabing Nanahimik ang mga Kuliglig. The killer is Magda (Angel Aquino), who has just discovered that her husband has been sleeping with best friend Dolores (Mercedes Cabral). Magda confesses the murder to Father Romi (Jake Macapagal), who then keeps to the seal of the confessional. The movie then follows the investigation of the murder, in which Dolores’ husband Hector (Ricky Davao) becomes the first suspect.

 

 

The movie puts together plenty of striking images within its rather unusual 4:3 frame, but it doesn’t always help. In some instances, the primacy of the image can get in the way of the storytelling. It can make the story feel distant and inert, the character and their emotional states reduced to visual abstractions. And the story that the movie does end up telling is already pretty unfocused. It starts out seeming like it’s going to be about Magda’s guilt, or about Father Romi’s increasing complicity in her crime as he refuses to share her confession. But neither character really factors into the second half of this movie, which finds a completely different focus in Hector and his son.

 

The elements of an interesting little story are certainly present within the film. But it doesn’t really turn into anything compelling. For the most part, it feels like the audience is left waiting for the characters to catch up to what’s already been revealed. This makes the films multiple interrogation scenes feel interminable, in spite of some strong performances from the actors involved.

 

Rogue Recommends?: There’s probably an argument to be made for the merits of this picture, but it isn’t going to come from us.

 

BACONAUA

 

Joseph Israel Laban’s Baconaua begins with a quote from the book of Revelation about the sea turning red. This is represented in the movie later on, when thousands of apples appear one morning along the shores of this one island in Marinduque. Divina (Elora Españo) is a young woman who tries to take of her two younger siblings following the disappearance of their father at sea. She struggles to keep the two safe from threats from within and without.

 

 

The movie is very dark, both thematically and literally. It studies characters who seem inured to the possibility of death, their livelihood necessitating some acceptance of nature’s inherent cruelty. The film lends itself to postcolonial and feminist readings, the various elements of the story pointing at forms of oppression that have become internalized through systematic abuse. But this all gets too tedious before one can really get to any substantial interpretation. The movie keeps the main character a passive presence, either not knowing or not really doing anything about what her two siblings are up to.

 

And yes, the film is literally dark. The images are desaturated and low-contrast, and generally set at night. In some sequences, it can be hard to make out anything in the scene. It’s a valid choice, but in this case, it does amplify the tedium. When the apples first show up, it’s hard to even what they are. The opening quote talks about a sea turning red, but what we end up seeing are lumps of black floating in gray water. It doesn’t really work.

 

Rogue Recommends?: There are interesting glimpses of a very specific way of life, but as a whole the movie is just tedious and repetitive.

 

SHORTS A

 

The Shorts A program opens with the condensed strangeness of Carlo Manatad’s Fatima Marie Torres and the Invasion of Space Shuttle Pinas 25, which is really just a depiction of elderly desire couched in odd sci-fi elements. It doesn’t really do much more than build up to one really silly joke, but it’s cute enough for what it is. Carl Chavez’s Sorry for the Inconveniece becomes a study of attitudes of masculinity as it follows a teenager who comes home beat up and attempts to address his problems as directly as he can. It’s a pretty smart film that benefits greatly from an excellent silent performance from Ronwaldo Martin.

 

Che Tagyamon’s rotoscoped animated film Lola Loleng is a little gem of a short that depicts a young girl’s relationship with her senile grandmother. It’s really lovely all in all, and it’s going to be worth looking out for the director’s name over the next few years. Glenn Barit’s Aliens Ata is a perfect little short film. It’s a story that plays out entirely in top shots, taken from a drone floating over the characters, witnessing a little family drama that involves bikes, tragedy, and the drama implicit in any home where one of the parents works abroad. It is succinctly beautiful, its means of shooting becoming much more than an empty gimmick.

 

Juan Carlo Tarobal’s Islabodan uses comic book storytelling for its tale of rival scavenging gangs on the UP campus, splitting up the frame into several different panels, and drawing the eye in a pretty unique way. It’s fun and inventive, even if the whole thing doesn’t really work out. The last film in the set is E. del Mundo’s Manong ng Pa-aling, which tells the story of an aging fisherman on the verge of retirement still grieving a great loss in his life. The underwater photography is beautiful, and the ideas presented in the story are strong, but the rhythm feels off, and the emotions of the story don’t quite land.