Regal goes indie
STAR BYTES - Butch Francisco () - August 4, 2011 - 12:00am

Traditionally, Regal Films reserves its biggest films for the second week of August play date to mark the birthday of its matriarch, Lily Monteverde, on the 19th of the month.

Times have changed, however. This time around, Regal is releasing a movie that did not come from its film factory — and an indie project at that.

On Aug. 17, Regal is showing for commercial exhibition the movie Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me. Mother Lily decided to release the movie herself after watching it during the last Cinemalaya film festival.

I can only surmise that she came up with this decision after she had accepted fully in her heart that this is truly the age of independent filmmaking. Of course, without her knowing it then she set the trend when she began producing more than a decade ago those so-called pito-pito movies (made in seven days) — most of which turned out to be among the best film products of the year if not of an entire era. Trust Mother Lily and her trailblazing ways.

Maybe she also decided to release Ligo Na U because she also realized that it was a lot easier to simply distribute an already finished product that was done under the meticulous supervision of Noel Ferrer, a respected all-around (he is into everything) member of the local entertainment industry.

But for sure, Mother Lily decided to do the distribution herself of Ligo Na U because she believes in the project — having been impressed by it and seeing its potential during her marathon screenings of all the Cinemalaya entries.

Having been in the business of producing and distributing movies for decades and decades now, she knows a good film product and she obviously saw one in Ligo Na U, which is the big screen directorial debut of Erick Salud, who got his training churning out some of those successful soaps for ABS-CBN.

 Based on the best-selling novel of Eros Atalia that was written for the big screen by Jerry Gracio, a Palanca winner, Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me has a captive market among today’s youth.

The movie is about the unusual friendship between two classmates — Edgar Allan Guzman and Mercedes Cabral — who are both enrolled in a state university. Although they have regular sex, there is absolutely no commitment between them.

Although this is the perfect setup for any hot-blooded young male (no strings attached), the situation becomes complicated for Edgar Allan after he finds himself falling in love with Mercedes, a very liberated woman who refuses to tie herself down to any man. She only wants sex, but she clearly spells out that she is no paid whore, not a victim of sexual abuse as a child and doesn’t have any emotional baggage that drives her to have sex. It’s simply a pleasurable activity for her.

The movie’s theme may cause the more conservative among us to have a heart attack, but Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me only depicts the situation among the youth. I am tempted to say today’s young, but for all we know this practice had been around for generations now, except that it had to take a daring film like Ligo Na U to remind us that young people are capable of getting into a lot of extra-curricular activities parents are afraid to find out.

That is the basic essence of the movie that also gives viewers this extra bonus of getting a reminder in the most hilarious manner of how we are as a people of this country. Those very funny moments are delivered with the aid of some of the most veteran comediennes in local showbiz — Evelyn Vargas, Beverly Salviejo and Malou Crisologo — who play university professors with various quirks. Salud clearly knows how to get the best out of his actors.

There is also a laugh-out-loud sequence featuring Shalala as a pimp who is at his funniest in the part where he plays around with the Kapuso, Kapatid and Kapamilya tags of today’s three major TV networks. But a true scene-stealer who has a riotous motel scene with Edgar Allan is streetwalker Venus, played by unknown talent Julie Ann Castro who uses the screen name Maya Montemayor.

Mercedes is effective as the young woman who goes for casual sex, although I can imagine what original choice Lovi Poe could have done with the part that calls for the character to utter colegiala language. Of course, Lovi is incapable of doing what Mercedes shows in the film — and that’s quite a lot.

Watching Ligo Na U will also convince viewers why the film won for Edgar Allan the 2011 Cinemalaya Best Actor award. While he doesn’t get into theatrics, he plays out his every scene effortlessly. Even his voice-over can already make him win the trophy.

Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me is clearly Edgar Allan’s film and it is a good launching pad for this young actor touted as the new prince of indie movies. Mother Lily, incidentally, had also turned him into a new Regal baby — a matinee idol material, who can eventually be groomed into one of local cinema’s finest actors.

Again, trust Mother Lily with her instincts. She knows a talent when she spots one.

And believe me, her decision to start distributing indie films, starting with Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me, could be the beginning of a new era in Philippine cinema.

After all these years, the Lily Monteverde magic still works and works wonders. 

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