As a Bicolano with a full-time job in creatives and whose brother is involved in visual effects, I have a soft spot for Ani. The filmmakers – a bunch of talented people outside the industry – making it onto the Cinemalaya stage is in itself an accomplishment. I was moved by their speeches during the gala screening and was rooting for them to succeed. While the effort is admirable, unfortunately, it still needs a lot of work.
The problem lies in how tedious and overstretched the story is, filled with needless subplots and dispensable characters. You can remove the whole school saga without affecting the outcome. The robot making contest. The irritated father. The robot-fighting visions. All those unnecessary. Having too much to tell is risky business, and in Ani’s case it digs itself into plot holes.
Even the main tale itself moves too slowly – testament to this is the full opening sequence. As much as I adore Anna Luna (and I am a huge fan!), she didn’t have to sing the whole song. There’s no reason to thrice delay Mithi from sleeping. There are more efficient ways of driving story bytes across, and the frustration that builds from not doing so will test even the most patient of viewers.
Its spotty production design and inconsistent Bicolano dialogue don’t do it any favors either and give the impression that the world of Ani is not fully realized. It lacks a grand, meticulous vision, which is integral for the audience to immerse into the fantastical.
The last thing I’m intending is to discourage these promising filmmakers, but I hope this becomes a learning experience for them. I am still rooting for them to come back with a bang! Being the first science fiction film in Cinemalaya is no small feat. Let’s make it a bigger feat next time.