One of my favorite poems is “Ode to Clothes” by the great Pablo Neruda. I like the poem precisely because of its use of a peculiar subject matter to convey a larger and more profound meaning. Its genius lies in the fact that it violates the conventions of writing odes–that it always has to be about grand subjects like stars, or oceans, or love, or something so magnificent that it is worthy of praise–and it does this brilliantly. What I mean to say is, who in the world would ever think of writing an ode to clothes? It’s fantastic.
Which brings me to Ringgo: The Dog Shooter, a film directed by Rahyan Carlos and written by Ricky Lee. The film attempts pretty much something similar to what Neruda did in his time. I mean, who would ever think of making a movie about… dog sex? It’s an occasional laughing matter among elementary school boys below the age of 10, but I’ve never imagined the subject matter reaching cinematic status. It’s unconventional; it’s eyebrow-raising; it’s… it’s weird.
In summary, the film is about Ringgo who makes a living out of dog shooting, the act in which a trained professional assists domestic dogs to mate. Eventually Ringgo meets a lesbian couple who hire him to take care of their dogs, and they all become very good friends who care enough to look out for each other. The story then revolves around the relationship of these three major characters, and we are told of their struggles, secrets, and dark pasts.
Although I found some parts of the film to be quite dragging, there is no denying that the writer Ricky Lee does an impressive job in establishing the protagonists (and antagonists) found in the narrative. How the characters would evolve during the span of the story is well-thought-out, and there is a steady build-up that ties effectively at its denouement. As expected of a veteran writer such as Ricky Lee, I have no qualms about the overall character development in the film; their motivations are properly introduced, and their subsequent actions are logical. Personally I believe this to be the foundation of every good piece of literature, and the film does a considerably good job in accomplishing this.
But more than basic character development, what I found impressive about the writing is its faithfulness to a profound theme and its pursuit in developing this central meaning. As I said earlier, I found the subject of dog mating to be initially shocking, as if the film could not be about anything else other than what I could see on the surface. But beneath this rather unorthodox layer is an intelligent commentary on the nature of love vis a vis its carnal counterpart, lust. And all elements in the narrative–from Ringgo’s habit of publicly scratching his genitals, to his brief sexual exploits, and to the undercurrents running deep beneath the lesbian couple’s sometimes turbulent relationship–functions in harmony with one another to convey a message that is at once thought-provoking and entertaining.
The film is also solid with regards to its visual aspects: cinematography and editing are of professional quality, and production design is equally great. Another thing of significance is how well the actors delivered on-screen: Sandino Martin does an excellent job at maintaining the qualities and idiosyncrasies of his character Ringgo, and Janice de Belen’s performance as Bong, the tough-talking lesbian woman, was nothing short of sublime. Coupled with a screenplay that naturally pushes its characters to come alive, the acting is an invaluable strength to the narrative, contributing much to its success.
Thus Ringo: The Dog Shooter, in my opinion, accomplishes similarly what Neruda did in his famous ode. The film is unafraid to flaunt its strangeness, and precisely, this is where it derives its poetry and its profundity on a topic that sits at the center of human experience. Hence Ringgo: The Dog Shooter is a relatable film which invites its viewers to reflect on the nature of humanness, to understand more deeply the inner longings of every person and animal, and most especially to explore the concept of love which, I read somewhere, is the greatest.
Ringo: The Dog Shooter 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. The film won awards for Second Best Picture, Best Actress (Janice de Belen), Best Actor (Sandino Martin), and Best Screenplay.