Cinema One Originals 2016: Reviews


The film started with a rapturous visual combo complete with text graphics, self-aware subtitles, and some quirky score suites to boot. Is it a rural gothic tale? Maybe, it is what their earlier audiences described: an epic mess - entertaining but an epic mess nonetheless. We are introduced with the Gagos. Four men out on a shady mission, you know- stuff - like staging a bloody rubout after getting away with sacks full of hallucinogens. Until there’s just the two of them – possible lovers, and quite possibly on the verge of relational collapse.
Then, there's Lola Magda and her sex-craved teenage granddaughter. As to how these peaceful and seedy worlds would neatly intersect is where exactly its main structural problem lies. The supposedly beautiful re-spinning of at least a small crunch at the Tarantino-madness did not possess enough narrative consistencies to earn its potentially powerful yet derivative ending.


Speaking of centerpieces, the local production of Death of a Salesman plays more a directorial conceit than a clear mirror to the marital woes that seep in after a tragic domestic incidence. “The Salesman” in the film is a high school teacher who obviously has not enough financial reliability to arrest an immediate situation like moving out of a crumbling apartment building to a much sturdier one.  Although, the wife is initially rather shown in restrained quietude, all her guards and facades went down with such an embarrassing misfortune that exposes the nakedness of her emotional state and the impending threats that haunt their connubial bliss become more apparent.  The centerpiece, therefore, is just right on the visual table – neither outlining nor speaking of the shakiness of the home they just moved in to. The ultimate scene, on the play within the film’s end, takes us not further enough to settle for contemplation – something so essentially significant that even a minor Hitchcockian student would not fail to launch a homerun.  The effect, all in the right places, is just tucked in right there in its dramatic richness, which is made more accentuated by Asghar Farhadi’s cinematic and literary dexterity, albeit presence of what could have been redeemable flaws and excesses.   


Flaws – warts and all, Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake is a much thorough glimpse into the unfortunate lives of those dwelling in a poverty stricken UK town.  Some post-truth appeal that creeps even in the modern times can’t be put to compensate in pictures.  Although revered as one of the greats to come out recently of contemporary British cinema, it is neither perfect nor canonical in its efforts.  At the titular center is an aging Daniel Blake who is in a dire Catch-22 situation after losing his job due to recent hospitalization. While the film puts so much effort exposing the almost laughable red tapes in the British welfare system, it also focuses on the almost Orwellian actions that the modern Dickensian characters have to endure if they are to survive and avoid the stone-coldness of the pre-Brexit Jobcentres or pitifully lining up food stamps.  The film’s depictions are consistently earnest and in quite extent, morbidly honest while serving as an investigative feature to social injustices at the behest of pesky bureaucracy.


Keith Deligero’s initial effort as a filmmaker takes a very promising turn in his coming of age film, Iskalawags. In fact, in his meta-playfulness, he made the lead character wear his debut project’s production shirt – even complementing it by layering it on with another production goodie – a jacket. If Iskalawags were not actually memorable, this playfulness would have meant self-glorification.
Instead of holding high the backstory of a southern female “aswang’ character, Deligero seemingly places the weight of the narrative to the object of revenge – the husband.  And just how word of mouth creates monster figures, we are situated in various timelines, places, and spaces as to how being wronged in the most vulnerable state can duplicate such twisted tales to their actual reality. Not so much following the tropes of neither horror-revenge nor avenging femme fatale films, Lily becomes an intense feast of a warped cinematic exercise with the aid of adroit editing and cinematography – something the fans of Iskalawags would have not expected.


It seems that there isn’t much to say about Samantha Lee’s Baka Bukas, except that its only resolve is to spread around that one gallivanting thought about coming-out with liberal amount of butter and some cheese, extra-lit by the candor of TVC coloring and angling.  It’s not very kind to say, but the film wallows too much on the personal level; effectively putting the wider perspective of the subject matter in the far corner settling down with uneven strokes. 
Coming out to your best friend is one thing, falling in love with them is a bigger conflict altogether – and making this a whole mush about going back inside the closet because love and friendship are two difficult things to compensate in a queasy heteronormative world, there isn’t really much into it. Except, you are hoping there’s more rooms for hope. There’s a quiet period of coping and hiding in your solitude, and more chance encounters to come after 78 days, not just a day or two. Maybe not today, but who knows what tomorrow (or 2 months and a half) will bring, no?


Another film dangling in the perilousness of LGBT territories is Petersen Vargas’ feature length debut, 2Cool2Be4Gotten. Pegged as a coming of age film, the film deeply pours out with tender and charming qualities quite inherent of the subgenre, except it’s not all that – as its narrative comforts haphazardly pivot to the dark side, sans the usual looming atmosphere, because it’s not a suspense thriller after all. Such a risqué creative choice does not really fit well to the overall dynamic of the film.

While postcolonial sentiments are clearly, and quite so, overstated – Vargas continues to foray in juvenile musings which in the grand effect is neither meditative nor ominous at all.  Carefree but deemed not too innocent; wild but not entirely rebellious. The result is a crumbling third act that elects to ignore homophobia over going through the sentimentality of unwavering memories, of portraying violence as a sort of release and escape, and of choices between what is moral and what is fairly acceptable over lapse of logic, better judgment, and visionless nostalgia.


Full disclosure, and quickly so: both the film and the documentary looked amazing.  Whether or not they are masterful is not the concern here – but how they were both crafted with meticulous eyes  and heaps of passion and energy.


In order to fully appreciate Malinak Ya Labi, one has to recognize the subjective qualities of a very composite screenplay at work in Jose Abdel Langit’s ambitiously scoped debut film.  Intricate and well-founded, Langit’s quasi-folkloric tale speaks volumes of the pesky mysticism surrounding the sociocultural outlines of the given milieu – where each character is supposed to be given a rumination through the specified locality and the reeking sleaze and decay of their assigned moral compasses.  Such a description makes the profundity of the material forthcoming of executions rifled with huge potentials, in terms of its cinematic lexicality. Unfortunately, Langit upended this prospect with slapdash creative choices, almost devoid of restraint and maturity.  

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