Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for another Alternative Media article!
This time, we will discuss three local films that, in my opinion at least, is worth a look for many of our moviegoers out there. After all, I’m sure a lot of you are tired with the way I like to criticize local media to no end without at least including at least one positive thing about our own works. Well then, in this article, I’ll be showcasing movies that we can take at least a little pride in or, if not that, see as something that is a step in the right direction for the Philippine film industry.
So okay, keep your popcorn and soda close at hand because the movie has started. Also note that movie piracy is illegal so if you are caught with any kind of recording device, we will unleash the two-man nightmare that is Jose and Wally. So okay, keep quiet and behave, the intro music has just kicked up.
#3 RPG Metanoia
Coming in first at number three is RPG Metanoia, what is quite possibly the Philippines’ very first 3D animated feature film. The film is, of course, not without its flaws but since it is probably the Philippines’ first stab at the genre, it’s probably not that surprising that the production team stumbled here and there. Also note that not even the Pixar films are completely free of flaws as even international blockbuster Frozen had its share of animation bloopers.
Anyway, the story focuses on a young gamer boy named Nico and his friends who play an MMORPG called Metanoia. Unfortunately for young Nico, he seems to be focused almost completely on Metanoia to the point that he neglects his social life. While the film does focus quite a bit on the game world of Metanoia, it also showcases the various outdoor games that Filipino children enjoy before the advent of online games such as Patintero and Tumbang-Preso. RPG Metanoia definitely creates a feeling of nostalgia for many Filipinos, especially those who grew up around the 80’s and 90’s and enjoyed the outdoor games mentioned therein.
On the other hand, the overall film feels like it borrowed a little too much from other games and, to me at least, it seemed a little too much like the .hack series. Also note that, being a gamer myself, my experiences with MMORPGs are quite different from what is portrayed in the film. For one thing, while foreign players were included in the film, they had little interaction with the heroes save for being rivals in a few dungeons and providing last-minute assistance near the end. In my experience, there are usually a lot of foreigners in MMORPGs who, more often than not, you will be forced to interact with on a regular basis. Also note that, unlike in the movie, not all of the players will be children and, in my gaming community alone, there are only at least 30% of the population who are minors or at least below 18. Now yes, I understand that the production team probably had a limited budget and an ever-looming deadline, I think RPG Metanoia would’ve been more interesting if, somewhere in the movie, the protagonists will be forced to team up with a Singaporean high-school girl who can do an impressive but extremely creepy “possessed girl” impression on voice chat, a 27-year-old Dutchwoman who complains to and about the game developers a little too often and a surly retired British royal marine.
#2 Abakada… Ina
A truly solid entry when it comes to portraying the lives of common Filipinos and the challenges they often have to struggle with.
As a side note, I find this film more than a little similar to Minsan May Isang Puta by fellow Get Realist Mike Portes (which was later adapted in to the film Ganap na Babae) in that it portrays the plight of the modern Filipina and what they have to struggle with in our society. Unfortunately, I have yet to see the film myself and plan to write a review similar to this one when it finally comes out. Anyway, back to the film!
Abakada… Ina tells the story of Estella, an illiterate woman seeking to make a living as a market vendor. Along with her seaman husband Daniel (who also has his share of challenges at work), they struggle to raise their children together amidst a life of poverty. Overseeing their family is Miling, Daniel’s mother and an overbearing mother-in-law to Estella.
The film centers on illiteracy which is all too prevalent among impoverished families today and the consequences that come with it. We are shown early on in how Estella gives up on her schooling and how her life is later on ruined because of her decision to abandon her education. This is all summed up in a scene where the young Estella hurls one of her slippers away in order to make an excuse to not go to school anymore.
Abakada… Ina portrays the consequences of being illiterate realistically and painfully at that. We are shown in various scenes how Estella wants to teach her children to read but finds it difficult to do so as she herself can only read at a very basic level. One particular scene involves Estella being unable to identify a zebra to her daughter and simply calls it a “beautiful horse” with stripes. In one of the film’s darkest scenes, Estella almost accidentally kills her own daughter by giving her the wrong medicine as her own illiteracy prevented her properly identifying the medication she was supposed to giver her own daughter.
An indie film directed by Eddie Garcia and starring Lorna Tolentino as Estella and Albert Martinez as Daniel, Abakada… Ina certainly doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to portraying the hardships of impoverished Filipinos. Compared to films like the sequels of Tanging Ina (well, at least the first one wasn’t too bad), Abakada… Ina provides a good insight to the day-to-day lives of many illiterate and impoverished Filipinos as well as expounding on the importance of receiving a good education.
#1 Heneral Luna
Coming in at number one and showing you that we certainly saved the best for last is Heneral Luna.
A historical biopic about the life of General Antonio Luna, the film tackles the time period after the Spaniards finally lost hold on many of their colonies such as the Philippines. The film shows how Emilio Aguinaldo is willing to cede authority of the Philippines to the Americans who seem to be quite pleased to claim another piece of territory in Far East Asia.
Unique to most other historic pieces out there (I’m looking at you Aguinaldo), the film pulls no punches in portraying realistic characters. While the feel and vibe of the movie is quite epic, it’s quite pleasing to watch very “human” characters act realistically instead of being the whitewashed “theme park” portrayal that is often the case with many historic characters. The characters, especially Antonio Luna himself, are portrayed warts and all as his pride and ill-temper are showcased firsthand, showing that while he may have had good intentions, one cannot deny that he also had failings as a human being.
Indeed, thanks to this film and the insight it provided, I can see why Antonio Luna is both loved and hated by his own people. Much like Napoleon of France and perhaps with a little bloodlust like General George Patton of the United States, the man was truly a proud soldier and commander for his country but, at the end of the day, his own hubris and impulsiveness essentially doomed his career. Indeed, the film even leads up to his untimely assassination and the mystery regarding his murder is never answered. Was it the American who had him killed for the threat that he was or was he instead backstabbed by the Filipino officials who saw him as an obstacle to their plans?
Heneral Luna is definitely one of the FIlipino films that I would recommend to all my countrymen and even my foreign friends as it presents a very unbiased image of a historic figure. As I have said before, even the much exalted Abraham Lincoln wasn’t entirely against slavery and even the nearly deified Mahatma Gandhi was more than a little negligent of his family and this film clearly portrays General Antonio Luna as a brave but flawed man whose own pride and anger sealed his own fate. No man (or woman) is perfect after all and even alleged “heroes” and “saints” will have their own share of issues and I can say that it is more than pretentious to assume such titles when one is clearly undeserving of them.
Heneral Luna is already out in theaters at this very date so I strongly suggest you buy tickets now before the cinemas move on to other films. You really don’t want to miss this chance to see this historical movie of historical proportions!
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