Here’s the first part of our festival report on CineFilipino Film Festival 2018 in which we cover Delia & Sammy, Hitboy, Mata Tapang, and Mga Mister ni Rosario. The 3rd CineFilipino runs from May 9 to 15 at select cinemas in Metro Manila.
DELIA & SAMMY
Therese Anne Cayaba’s ‘Delia & Sammy’ asks thought-provoking questions about forgiveness amidst senior-life crisis. You know it ends up affecting when you start to care for its obnoxious lead characters.
What I worry the most about Therese Anne Cayaba’s Delia & Sammy is that viewers might easily associate its unlikable leads to the whole experience and dismiss the film with utter dislike or hate. For one thing, it’s best not to view its leads as two protagonists trying their best to evolve from their obnoxious versions of themselves. Trust me, this will be a struggle. Delia and Sammy are in fact, the antagonists from someone’s storybook and this film tells how villains end up in life once the curtain closes.
Delia (Rosemarie Gil) is a manipulative washed up ‘80s actress who uses her skills to take advantage of people and get them to do tasks for her, mostly for free transport services. His husband Sammy (Jaime Fabregas) is even worse. He’s a philandering, cantankerous, chauvinistic homophobe inflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. The two are entering a phase we call “senior life crisis” (yes, seniors have issues too) and as Delia finds out that her days are numbered by a stage three cancer, she must find someone to take care of her husband.
Getting into the mix is an unsuspecting, freshly-minted village guard Roger (Nico Antonio) who reluctantly takes them to the hospital when in reality it’s the start of a long road trip to Baguio. The poor fella has to endure mean-spirited comments from the two elders. If I am sitting with them inside the car, I would willingly jump out of the door. Thankfully, I am just a viewer from my side of the screen and I get to see this dynamic play out comically.
And so as they reach their destination, we only discover even more reasons to hate this couple. Most of the historical conflict here are just mentioned in passing and Sammy takes the biggest hit: how he is rude and selfish to his own family, how he used to leave Delia for other girls, or he used to beat up his nephew for showing gay proclivities, and so on. It’s sad because his Alzheimer’s spares him from remembering his past mistakes and Delia carries him as her cross throughout this journey.
We all know these wedding vows by heart, “…through sickness and in health, ‘til death do us part.” but as seen in the film, nothing gets more real once you hit the ’60s. I’d like to fancy this as a geriatric version of the Antoinette Jadaone’s recent Never Not Love You (except not only millennials but a greater demographic can learn a good deal from here). Delia and Sammy are very flawed and broken characters, if anything they showed little growth right until the very end. But as we witness their faded love turn into a matured companionship for each other, will this be enough to absolve them from all their sins? Who are we to say that they don’t deserve forgiveness? Or does old age makes it easier to forgive someone? It throws a lot of gray questions.
Delia & Sammy is anchored by a strong cast performance that makes you feel invested in their struggle. It knows when to be funny but once it starts to gets down to its emotional core, you will start to empathize with them, or maybe even love them, the very thing you find to be struggling at first.
Written and directed by: Therese Anne Cayaba
Starring: Rosemarie Gil, Jaime Fabregas, Nico Antonio
Runtime: 90 mins
4 out of 5 stars
Hitboy fails to sustain its message mainly because of its clumsy tonal shift. To be fair, I get what the film tries to achieve – to juxtapose the corresponding level of gravitas present in the nature of work of hired assassins vs. crime syndicate overlords. The film perceives the former with a sinister matter of life and death while the latter is clearly presented as all fun and games (or at least what its second-act humorous approach tries to show).
The first act falls on the spectrum of a dark gritty drama, something that treads on the familiar themes of Eduardo Roy’s Pamilya Ordinaryo and Brillante Mendoza’s Kinatay. We are presented with a poverty stricken teenager Alex (Adrian Cabido) who finds himself entangled on the world of organized crime to pay off his debts. As far as I’m concerned, this kid is already far too corrupted from the beginning of the film: as ordered by his boss, he unflinchingly injures an old man with a stone (like he must’ve done it a couple of times before) and he steals an unguarded bicycle along the way just because he feels like it. Of course, poverty is to blame but when it comes to justifying why he chooses crime as a way of life, he responds with, “because there’s no other easy way.” Clearly, there is little moral dilemma on his part. This is just another huge rock on the road that he needs to get past to survive another day.
Hence, the film comes out as manipulative because it goes overboard on squeezing sympathy from its viewers when you have little amor for the boy from the very start. Alex bears the world as he needs to support his pregnant teenage wife, his crippled father and his impressionable younger brother who is also on the verge of going after his path as well. Well, this should be a free pass to commit more acts of murder.
The film then shifts its focus to Alex’s ruthless boss, Ricky (Soliman Cruz) and we get to understand the inner workings of this crime syndicate. Without spoiling anything, the film attempts to transcend to black comedy territory starting off with a scene involving two imbecile karate stuntmen and a sharpened Mongol pencil. But even that genre requires some high form of art. This one is outright cringey, it physically hurt my senses to watch this particular scene.
One of the film’s few saving graces is Mon Confiado playing a fictionalized gangster version of himself as a competing syndicate overlord that becomes the next target of Ricky’s operations. Poor Alex gets trapped in the crossfire-or should I say, egotistical pissing contest, between two warring crime syndicates. This young pawn must pick a side or he will get trampled. The film, however, most certainly tramples on his character as it proceeds even more to its insensitive comedy featuring Confiado and his dimwit goons. It is actually funny and I let out a few amount of good chuckles this time. But once you remember that this is supposed to be serious, and Alex’s life is at stake, oh boy, this is wrong.
And so all these clashing tones makes the film look like a rough draft of two tonally different stories so painstakingly sewn together. The ending’s payoff involving a black pigeon would’ve been really cool on paper but it never comes to life in execution. Hitboy could’ve and should’ve been a socially relevant film, but with its ill-fitting comical aspects poking fun at its subject matter, maybe we should not take this one seriously at all.
Directed By Bor Ocampo, from a screenplay by Mark Gregory Bayani
Starring: Adrian Cabido, Soliman Cruz, Mon Cofiado, Rosanna Roces, Rea Molina, Juan Miguel Salvado, James Lomahan, Arrian Labios, Nichol Martinez, Isaac Aguirre, Tony Leyba, DMs Boongaling, Jovelito Avelis, Teresita Manuud
Runtime: 100 minutes
2 out of 5 stars
MATA TAPANG (BRAVE EYE)
Rod Marmol’s ‘Mata Tapang’ comes out as a collective and cohesive eulogy that you can take in wholeheartedly.
Make no mistake assuming that Rod Marmol’s Mata Tapang is a war film; it is anything but that. The ‘war’ or should I say, the ‘bloody encounter’ only happens in the opening sequence and the aftermath leaves Luis “Hardrock” Batobato (Edgar Allan Guzman) as the lone survivor among his troop. However, he leaves unscathed as he loses his left eye but inexplicably gains the ability to communicate with his dead friends’ souls in the process. (To what we call as having the ‘third eye’ or in his case, still a ‘second eye’ as one character muses). Hardrock is tasked to put a closure to each one’s unfinished business.
As the film delves into a character study, the premise branches out to themes of sexuality, religion, acceptance, national duty vs. family, all wrapped around the virtue of undying brotherhood. It comes out as a collective and cohesive eulogy.
On a philosophical note, Mata Tapang has a lot to say, some may be controversial but as a whole it works because the film brings you face to face with mortality and the unabashed realizations a soul comes up to after death. Hardrock deems himself unworthy of getting a second shot in life. He does not fear death, but can he turn it into a driving force to finally set his priorities straight? The film sublimely throws a rhetoric to its audience as well: If you die today, can you say that you have lived your life to its fullest potential?
Amidst its gloomy aspects, the film has ample comedic dynamic to reel you in to its charm. It still could have benefited to a leaner editing—there are some cringey elements that should have been best left to an afternoon TV drama but overall, with its sincere intentions, Mata Tapang is something you can take in wholeheartedly.
Written and directed by: Rod Marmol
Starring: Edgar Allan De Guzman, Ahron Villaflor, Ritz Azul, Jerald Napoles, Migs Almendras
Runtime: 90 mins
4 out of 5 stars
MGA MISTER NI ROSARIO
Alpha Habon’s Mga Mister ni Rosario is an endearing, absurdist take on romcom that almost peels off the artificial layers of its characters but not enough to make it feel completely believable.
For a comedy, Alpha Habon’s Mga Mister ni Rosario does its best to stretch its interesting premise to extreme absurdist territory. Popular actor Yogi Juan (Joross Gamboa) is a method actor who fully immerses himself into the mixed bag of roles he plays, each one proving to be more intense than the former: a beggar, a dog, a priest, a gay man and a serial killer. You see, Yogi has an obsession to leave his legacy in the world, to immortalize himself through art and the film makes sure its execution will be as satirical as possible.
His superfan-turned-wife Sari (Kate Alejandrino) has to put up with his crazy antics, repeatedly saying to herself that this is all “for the sake of art” and “because she’s a good wife.” It almost feels like a prayer to convince herself that she’s still intact with her sanity. But here’s the thing, the reason why these two gravitated towards each other, is that she’s just as equally bonkers as he is. But before they turn into something completely artificial, the film starts to peel off their facades, shed their backstories and present them as real broken people. It’s almost convincing until the third act holds back. So scratch that, these are still the same lunatic couple from the beginning.
The actor who benefits the most in this is Gamboa, as he turns this affair into a portfolio of his acting reels. Still, it doesn’t feel misplaced as his lead actress Alejandrino willingly matches his intensity. These characters are constantly tossed around the genre of romcom to black comedy to ‘almost’ psychological thriller. It is intriguing and promising but personally, I hoped the film pushed more of its psycho aspect.
Mga Mister ni Rosario indulges itself on playing a game of “two truths and one lie” so let me end this portion with the same gimmick: 1. With its endearing characters, this film comes out easy on the eyes. 2. Habon’s screenplay could’ve used a stronger direction. 3. The film ends with a satisfying conclusion.
Written and directed by Alpha Habon, from a story concept by Jan Dormyl Espinosa
Starring: Joross Gamboa, Kate Alejandrino, Kim Molina, Kiki Baento, Rap Robes, Dax Carnay
Runtime: 94 mins