MOVIE REVIEW: Ku’te (2016)

To be honest, I genuinely don’t like saying bad things about any topic even if I find it absolutely undesirable. Of course, there are some exceptions when it is for the common good that you would say something distasteful, but it’s just that I believe that the world is already full of negativity and I wouldn’t want to be one to articulate another pandora’s box into existence. Thus, I always make it a point that if ever I do have to say something bad, and it is needed for say, a movie review, then I would have to balance it with all the positivity I could grasp. But of course, I don’t want to force it; I don’t want to say something nice just for the sake of saying something nice. So what if there’s no choice but to write negatively about a movie for online publishing? Then I decided that I would have to make it short if I can’t avoid it being bitter.

Ku’te, a film directed by Ronaldo Bertubin, is today’s pandora’s box. If I really have to say anything good, perhaps it would be that it’s a movie done with beautiful intentions, and it’s primarily an advocacy against ableism and discrimination towards people with Down’s Syndrome. That’s as far as I can appreciate when we talk about this film, and really, I believe that subject matter deserves more coverage to provoke dialogue. But with regards to the technical aspects of Ku’te, which any comprehensive review would have to cover, eerrr… everything is just, wrong.

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The writing is dragging, often resorting to lazy flashbacks (and a dream sequence!) in order to relay key points in the narrative. Character development is also problematic, and you can’t exactly connect with the characters onscreen. The lack of engagement to the audience makes the drama of Lenlen, the girl with Down’s Syndrome, and her homosexual brother whom she calls Ku’te somewhat hard to stomach. It’s all just crying and breaking down, and you just sit there wondering when it’s going to stop.

The cinematography and the editing are equally terrible, something I would brand as student film quality. The camera movement is rough, aimless, and lacking artistic purpose. The cinematographer can’t make up his mind if he’s going for a solid, stationary shot, or a handheld one. And he doesn’t seem to be aware that he must have his reasons for picking either. Not to mention, there’s an obvious use of AUTO mode wherein the camera’s exposure and focus settings shift automatically during shooting. It’s horribly distracting. It’s like a group project put together by a bunch of undergraduates.

Production design is also unimpressive. There’s not much attempt to creatively organize the visual aspects of the film. If there was ever an attempt to establish a color palette, it was never apparent. There was nothing eye-catching, nothing iconic, nothing worth remembering.

The acting of the major characters are generally satisfactory, but it’s the minor characters that ruin everything. You know those times when an extra delivers a line or an action that’s just so bad that it takes away everything good in a particular sequence? In Ku’te it happens quite a lot.

Again, I don’t take pleasure in saying these things, and I’m really sorry for having to be frank. But Ku’te is really a film I would not recommend. The intentions are nice, but artistically, it’s raw in a very bad way. Had they put more attention to the technical aspects of filmmaking, the film’s themes could have been expressed much better. For me, this movie is a case of sayang–when the subject matter could have been promising, but the delivery is just, off.

In all honesty, Ku’te is a film I would rather not have watched, and I am saddened by its lack of excellence. But if you ever get a chance to watch this film, then see for yourself if I’m correct about not being happy with it.

Ku’te premiered July 1, 2016 as part of the World Premieres Film Festival which will run until July 10 at SM Megamall, SM North EDSA, Greenbelt 3, Uptown Mall, Shangri-La Plaza Mall, and Cinematheque Centre Manila.

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