Direk Sigfreid: Giving political movie a twist
Jerry Donato (The Philippine Star) - May 15, 2016 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Politics as a movie theme is close to the heart of indie-mainstream director Sigfreid Barros Sanchez. That’s why when the opportunity to helm Magtanggol came, Sigfreid was 100 percent sold on the idea. After all, the storyline — which gives viewers a slice of local politics and differentiates a statesman from a traditional politician — allows him to step into his college life again as a politically-oriented student.

“I studied political science when I was at UE,” shared direk Sigfreid. “When I left school, I began to get into filmmaking. Thus, I’m not new to the political genre — yun ang una kong pinag-aralan bago ako nag-pelikula.”

Looking back, Sigfreid’s first professional screenplay was also of political theme for Viva Films’ Alas-dose, starring Cesar Montano and Christopher de Leon.

“An explosion happens every 12 hours,” he recalled of the 2001 film. “The character is making a political statement. When I looked back to my first movie and this one (Magtanggol), which I also co-wrote, nakita ko na may comparison ang dalawa. It felt like I went back to the first mainstream film I wrote.”

In every project, Sigfreid always challenges himself to bring something new to the film genre and to the narrative approach.

“Almost all my films — from my first movie for Cinemalaya — are always of different genres,” he said. “For my first film Las Ponggols, I did a black comedy. For the first Cinema One Originals, I did mockumentary, Anak ni Brocka. I always want (the experience) of watching Filipino movies two steps higher and to offer (moviegoers) a new genre aside from the usual action and comedy.”

Magtanggol, Sigfreid’s latest directorial outing, promises viewers the same thrill of watching genre-defining movies.

“When I first heard the story from the producer, I (learned) it was a whodunit,” remembered Sigfreid. “I can’t recall of a local movie with a whodunit theme. The closest I can think of is the Aga (Muhlach) movie na may bulaklak na nilalagay. Pero alam mo na agad na si Aga ang pumapatay. In this movie (Magtanggol), you are clueless of the perpetrator’s identity. It tickles the moviegoers’ imagination.” This is what Sigfreid tries to achieve as author of his work and he is doing it for his audience. It also speaks of his stance as a storyteller of words and moving images.

“It is exciting when you hear a new genre, new theme and new way of storytelling,” said Sigfreid. “Parang ang sarap pakinggan, parang ang sarap gumawa ng ganung klase ng pelikula. It feels good to play around the (political) theme of this movie.”

 

 

The political family of Magtanggol is headed by Juan Magtanggol Sr. played by Joonee Gamboa, who finds a matriarch in the person of Grace Magtanggol (Dina Bonnevie). They have three sons (Tom Rodriguez, Ejay Falcon and Albie Casiño). Among them, it’s Sen. Juancho Magtanggol Jr. (Tom) who is in the frontline of championing the rights of Overseas Filipinos Workers (OFWs), particularly those who have experienced abuses in the hands of their employers. Nengneng (Yam Concepcion) is one of them who seeks for temporary shelter and solace in the Magtanggol household.

“Before a person chooses a leader, he should look for someone with (exemplary) leadership qualities,” said Sigfreid of the messages the movie puts across with the moviegoers. “The Magtanggol family can be likened to the Rectos. They are nationalistic and have a straight political perspective. (The Magtanggols) have no bodyguards, hindi nagpakasasa sa pera and they sing the national anthem (Lupang Hinirang) at home every morning.”

Although the presence of Magtanggols is dominant all throughout the screening time, the movie remains a story of OFWs and resonates all their struggles and sacrifices.

“The movie teaches them to fight back,” said Sigfreid. “However, it doesn’t promote vigilantism. Some characters promote the legal means.” 

At the end, abused OFWs have the choice to run after those who have violated their human rights. This is a way to empower victims and to stop this cycle of maltreatment. “Everyone has an OFW relative,” concluded Sigfreid. “We all have relatives who work abroad. The (movie) ending (presents) the twist (to the story) and explains why the (main) character is fighting for (the plight of) OFWs.” Then, it is a case of neatly tying up the loose ends.

(Produced by Felix and Bert Film Productions, Magtanggol opens May 18 in theaters nationwide.)

 

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