Good films

The Metro Manila Film Festival selection this year has been a pleasant surprise. For the judges to have done away with awful romantic, formulaic films, to have finally gotten rid of the recurring Filipino-Chinese family-problem themes (after, what, six or seven sequels?), to have censored supposedly funny superhero films whose only redeeming quality had been the large, gaudy entourage during the Parade—they have finally realized (or they’ve done so long ago, but only had the guts to do something about it now) that Filipinos, too, take pride and joy in watching sense and intelligence and good humor. Id est, good films worthy of our 200-plus-pesos tickets and a little less than two hours of our time.

I pleasantly whiled away time at the local cinemas and didn’t mind the long queues—I had, after all, a book, which temporarily removes any need for human company. This is how I prefer to watch movies: alone, lest I disturb the people around me. I have coffee or tea in between movie breaks, so I’m able to watch the next film in line without so much as a yawn.

I haven’t really favored the dichotomy between “indie” and “commercial”—they’re all films, and if they’re good, they’re good, regardless of who had produced them. There are awful indie films and commercial films; there are pretty good ones, too.

Die Beautiful
was hilarious and depressing at the same time. The crowd in the cinema howled in laughter. The man beside me, a college student in shorts, couldn’t restrain himself—I surmise that popcorn must’ve exploded from his nostrils. For a film that shows gay people in loud costumes, the movie surprisingly offers a sensitive approach to understanding the LGBT community: that they struggle with mockery and hatred; that they yearn for so-called love that society refuses them; that they are human beings, too, sinners like all of us—yet another testament to Pascal’s statement that there is a God-shaped vacuum in every man that only God can fill. They fill it with romantic love, ambition, and vices; only to realize that these cannot give them lasting joy. We Christians will benefit in watching the film, if only to realize that there is an entire community before us that needs the gospel. There are expletives, references to homosexual sex, but overall, these have been included in the script with restraint and care.

Saving Sally was a delight to the eyes. Ten years in the making, the animated film is worth the wait. The conversations are carried on in English—Filipino English, not the forced “Americanized” accent—that actually sounds normal. There’s not much to the story: a boy falls in love with a girl and saves her from her evil parents. But the novelty of seeing walking monsters, the house on top of a steep hill, the school whose fa├žade resembles UP Diliman’s Quezon Hall, was fun.

Seklusyon was scary. Four would-be priests, a girl who spews what looked like abodong pusit paste and who performs miracles, a beautiful but indifferent nun beside her—all these in scenes shown in sepia tones—made for a startling experience. Of course, the doctor in me made me diagnose the illnesses of the sick (“Ah, acute symptomatic seizure, probably secondary to a primary seizure disorder, rule out metabolic causes” when a 20-year old man was brought to the albularyo girl). Watch this with friends who hate horror; they won’t be sleeping after. But I suppose no film, in my experience, has scared me more than Sadako.

Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank Part 2 was a riot. Eugene Domingo is one of my favorite actors: hey, I watched Kimmy Dora Part 1 thrice, in cinema! Oh, how that lady can act! She now has a Spanish assistant who fetches water for her and serenades her with his guitar. The humor is intelligent, which doesn’t diminish it at all. More, more movies please, Eugene! And that ending!

Go, watch. These are good films.

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