The QCinema International Film Festival ended its most commendable run last week but the films that we had seen are still very much talked about in coffee shops. We can only hope that next year’s edition would be as audacious and relevant as Diokno’s Kapatiran, or as fresh and unrelenting as Cruz’s Sleepless. Here’s what we heard these coffee lovers say about each competition film from #QCinema. It appeared that not one saw Cesar Hernando’s Gayuma. And we don’t think they ever played Patintero, or ever came out of the house to play. Millenials!
Perhaps based on a news report in 2012 when a rebel group was alleged to have ransacked a relief center in Davao during the aftermath of Typhoon Pablo, Iisa, a film written by Arnel Mardoquio narrates the melodrama of a motley crew of rebels bound by both personal and sociopolitical struggles. What seem to be problematic in its presentation are the many suffocating concerns of its politics, including whether a mother, guided by years of Marxist principles, would end up throwing everything out of the window by misappropriating revolutionary funds for personal use. No matter how critical her dilemma is, one may have to question the found reality employed by the filmmakers, among other things.
Expectedly, the wicked twist in the end demands more astonishing reactions from those who are humorously familiar with Jett Leyco’s sensibilities as a filmmaker. In Matangtubig, we are situated at the center of a possible double teenage rape-murder, but we can’t seem to place our curiosity and empathy properly. Like the ensemble of equally beguiled small town characters, we are left hanging in vain for a satisfying resolution no matter how challenging it may have seemed. But the uncertainties kept our thirst for at least a semblance of logic or a version of expanded reality unquenched; ultimately delivering end results that did not come clear and easy to s̶w̶a̶l̶l̶o̶w̶ follow.
Patintero: Ang Alamat Ni Meng Patalo
A film about children is almost always a charmer, and naturally a crowd drawer. In Mhyk Vergara’s Patintero, the lost children and the silly game they play take a new form through delivering a story that seems familiar and nostalgic. Patintero shows a child’s transition to adulthood by showing how she is toughened by bullying, abandonment, and tragedy. Audacious and gracious enough but it felt like the form overtook the substance. It becomes more enamored with intermittent pseudo-melodrama musings blunted by its postmodern choices.
Apart from the splendor and brilliance of its cinematography and editing, Mario Cornejo’s Apocalypse Child significantly poses a premise that questions the infamous paternal origin of a troubled individual while commenting haphazardly on what makes a man chooses the path he leads, no matter how dubious its intersection is. As much as we want to get involved with the main character, we are not as hooked as we expected. The idea whether a revered Hollywood filmmaker fathered a Filipino child does not give us full resolve. Maybe because, the narrative is more fixated with the polyamorous exploit of the protagonist in question. And we had one too many already.
Lem Lorca’s exciting candor as a provincial filmmaker comes full circle in Water Lemon, which we could only hope he had written himself as well. Lilit Reyes’ screenplay though is well-built and pulpy, but we cannot seem help but do a little nitpicking on how the characters of Meryl Soriano and Alessandra De Rossi were seemingly underwritten, when the Lou Veloso character could only have had just one scene, but everything about his Lolo is signaled and telegraphed eloquently.
Prime Cruz’s Sleepless is our most favorite film of the year – maybe because the film tackles themes and topics without having to, quite literally, romanticize them for our own amusement. We realized we like it like that and more. Sleepless did not fall prey to over dramatics, even if it’s a route often proven effective and most convenient. We can’t help but root for characters that are not necessarily moral leaders, nor bearers of curious cases – because they are so real, and the portrayals are so sincere and unapologetic. This is the kind of film that targets the expediency of a genre, but it teaches us that like most European filmmakers, we can also create and challenge forms even in the simplest production.
Easily, a film that consistently challenges the norms of the cinema today automatically becomes the powerful voice that orders the day. Completed through interspersed found footage, staged documentary videos, and the strength of cinematic pictures – Pepe Diokno’s Kapatiran successfully expressed his authorial estimation of the nation society in focus. Even in their quietude, Diokno’s racking images speak louder than any sociopolitical film with polished narratives.