There’s definitely pressure when you’re the first film screening of a festival, as you’re gonna be the benchmark for everything else that follows. John Denver Trending has that distinction for this year’s Cinemalaya, but I’m happy to note that it successfully held its ground — and might I say it’s probably one of the best ones to come out of this batch.
With all of this JoshLia and BeaRald brouhaha that’s flooding our feeds, plus the history we have of bashing and judging people in social media, there is an air of relevance that’s undeniable to JDT. There have been much lighter explorations of this subject (see Jason Paul Laxamana’s So Connected), but this one takes on the extreme opposite direction.
In fact, the whole film is so uncomfortable to watch that you just want it to end. You hope to see John Denver and his mother (played by Cinemalaya legend Meryl Soriano) receive their vindication. But their distress just goes on and on in a spiral that deepens and worsens to a dizzying degree. In the process, we question the reliability of the truth and the inadequacies of the system that searches for the truth.
The visceral feeling of wanting to do something about this injustice is exactly what the film is aiming for and is able to achieve — I haven’t experienced that churn in the stomach since Benedict Mique’s ML in Cinemalaya 2018. And perhaps that’s the exact jolt we all need to realize that every click has real, tangible consequences.