It’s Cinemalaya time once more. I’ll try to post my brief commentaries of the films here, starting with my Day 1 films.
Sundalong Kanin (Janice O’Hara)
The film lives up to the promise of Cinemalaya, which is to showcase outstanding works of emerging indie filmmakers. The loss of childhood innocence in war-time has been mined by many filmmakers but not nearly enough in the Philippines, and the O’Haras craft a heartbreaking yarn where kids are forced to come of age for them to survive. It is a potent argument that a period film need not require a humongous budget and big-name stars: it only has to tell an engaging, humanistic story; feature excellent acting (the four boys here are uniformly superb); and be imaginative with its visual design. A spectacular debut. Mario O would be proud.
K’na the Dreamweaver (Ida Anita del Mundo)
Pretty and big-emotioned, this costume drama is best viewed as a folktale come to life. And listening to the sounds of that beautiful T’boli language on a commercial screen in Manila is just glorious. Viewed as a contemporary piece though, the film can be accused as indigenous pageantry, with all characters costumed in the finest t’nalak as their daily wear (most T’bolis nowadays only wear their traditional garbs on special occasions and usually just wear shirts and blouses bought from town centers, though still accessorized by tribal ornaments), and do lots of ethnic dancing and swordplays. By focusing on the fairly predictable tragic love story of the lead characters (and not even enough of the dreamweaving process), the film wastes a massive opportunity to highlight issues that are more relevant to the lives of present-day T’bolis, such as their gradually diminishing land and natural resources due to the encroachment of lowlanders and their commerce.