Kicking off 2018’s festival circuit, Sinag Maynila has just come to a close with Joselito Altarejos’ Tale of the Lost Boys winning Best Picture. All entries have previously premiered or have been showcased outside the country, so it’s exciting to see them finally be given a platform through a well-established local film fest.
Without further ado, below is Sinephile’s ranking of how the five full-length films fared:
Starring: Tippy Dos Santos, Toni Moynihan
Directed by: Yam Laranas
Synopsis: A young woman wakes up in a hospital and claims to be someone murdered two months ago. She seeks to unravel the facts behind her death and ultimately prove her identity.
My take: Typical of Yam Laranas’ other films, Abomination is shot really, really well and has a crisp, sharp feeling to it. I also liked how Toni Moynihan (aka Maritoni Fernandez) and Tippy Dos Santos played around with their tense mother-daughter relationship. Was pleasantly surprised to see O Shopping’s Justine Pena in a supporting role! But the movie suffers from its confusing non-linear plot (placing “2 months ago” and “Present Day” every other sequence is never a good sign) and underwhelming, predictable twist.
4. El Peste
Starring: Mon Confiado, Jean Judith Javier, Alvin Anson
Directed by: Richard Somes
Synopsis: A pest exterminator falls in love with the wife of his client. Amidst a house infested by rats, the two engage in an illicit affair.
My take: The premise of El Peste is as absurd as the sleazy movies in the late ‘90s, which some articles claim it pays tribute to. I do see some similarities, down to the overall campiness of the material (spontaneous dancing scene, anyone?). But in truth there’s nothing truly sexy about it, and based on the casting, production design, and make-up, it seems like a deliberate choice. Is the movie trying to say something more? I don’t think so, so it might as well have pushed the boundaries of the erotic thriller to give justice to its R-16 rating.
3. Tale of the Lost Boys
Starring: Oliver Aquino, Soda Voyu
Directed by: Joselito Altarejos
Synopsis: A Filipino mechanic and a Taiwanese medical student develop an unexpected friendship in Taipei.
My take: While growing up in two different countries and cultures, Alex and Jerry are more similar than they appear, both struggling to be accepted and understood amidst their uncertain futures. It’s refreshing to see a platonic, queer friendship depicted onscreen. My only problem is that the film doesn’t really tie loose ends or give us any cathartic conclusion for the characters we eventually care about. But hey, at least it stays true to its title.
2. Melodrama / Random / Melbourne!
Starring: Celina Yuen, Bridget O’ Brien
Directed by: Matthew Victor Pastor
Synopsis: A young filmmaker produces a documentary about gender politics between men and Asian women, while facing discrimination herself.
My take: This avant-garde film is unlike anything else to grace Filipino theaters in recent years — the karaoke breaks, online video segments, “client” interviews, and overall meta structure contribute to a bold and youthful aesthetic. But despite these stylistic choices, what’s commendable is its firm grasp and assuredness in tackling such a sensitive subject matter. Never thought pencils could kill!
Starring: Allen Dizon, Angeli Nicole Sanoy
Directed by: Ralston Jover
Synopsis: A deaf-mute man works on his second lease on life but is haunted by the ghosts of his past.
My take: Allen Dizon won two international acting awards for this film, which are very much deserved. While his character is not exactly rootable for going to very dark places and making some irresponsible decisions, he succeeds in making the audience understand each and every emotional turn. He is ably supported by Angel Nicole Sanoy who gives a tour-de-force breakout performance. Thematically, the movie sets itself in the present milieu where EJKs and bombings are common. The banality by which the characters are subjected to these threats is quite unnerving and disturbing. It’s all integral to their day-to-day experience, but should it be?
Do you agree with the rankings? Which film are you most impressed by? Sound off in the comments below.