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Katips says don't dream it's over A Katips says don't dream it's over  

BLITZ REVIEW - Juaniyo Arcellana - The Philippine Star
Katips says don't dream it's over A Katips says don't dream it's over   
Writer-director Vincent Tañada stars in the movie musical Katips (center) along with Jerome Ponce and Nicole Laurel Asensio (photo below) in the lead roles.
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There are thousands of untold stories of a yet unfinished revolution, and writer-director Vincent Tañada has quite a few in his counter-musical of the underground scene, set during the height of martial law, Katips, which has its moments driven by a nascent indie vibe.

Tañada himself plays the lead character Panyong, reporter for the anti-establishment paper Bayan while manning the frontlines of strikes and other mass actions. Last seen by this reviewer also playing a struggling writer in the Elwood Perez film Otso nine years ago, Tañada comes across as a Filipino version of Roger Daltrey, lead vocalist of rock band the Who, in all his Dionysian presence and holding and bending of notes.

The movie benefits from its being faithful to the zeitgeist of the times, from set and production design very ‘70s (afro hairdos and psychedelic posters, angular conversations on angular staircase) to language that was a cipher of the era: erpats, badaf, photo enthusiast, words rarely used these days. It sees things with a child’s eye, thus making it easier for the songs to segue in between the necessary dialogue and plot twists, almost to the point of oversimplification of a mass movement as complex as that of the Philippines.

For all its warts, Katips bravely stays the course through the music, which might have been better served consulting veteran activist musicians such as Jess Santiago and Becky Abraham, even Paul Galang, but the gung-ho approach by librettist and composer can only rub off on the actor singers, who deliver despite the almost rudimentary, barebones accompaniment.

Granted, the revolution was never just song and dance, and this is stressed in the rape and torture scenes toward end, when the military tries to grind underfoot the people’s movement. Adelle Ibarrientos as Alet, last seen also in Otso, has an understated turn as Tandang Sora-like figure for these modern Katipuneros, and incidental love interest of the fist-waving Panyong in the midst of all the chaos.

There’s a thoroughly entertaining number of Metro Aides, led by the character of Lou Veloso, father of the photo enthusiast, never condescending but adding a touch of humor and conviviality. Veloso is known to play seemingly minor but pivotal roles in films that are virtual echo chambers of history, as he did in Mike de Leon’s Citizen Jake.

Clearly a highlight was the parallel romances of the kasamas, which in the song that could have the title Sa Gitna ng Gulo has the screen split into four, the actors alternating and complementing each other’s sung lines to make the picture whole, indeed how love can blossom in the least of places such as barricades and the bramble of ideology.

Also noteworthy is the song Manhid as rendered by Panyong in the best Daltrey like demeanor, he can muster a la the Who’s How Many Friends Have I Really Got?, after Alet sounds him out for being unfeeling and selfish. It’s the same song that plays as credits roll, and one can only imagine how the song could have turned out with, say, Nitoy Adriano on lead guitar.

The activist professor’s daughter Lara (Nicole Laurel Asensio) and her rebel squeeze Greg (Jerome Ponce) have their worthy exchanges too, their comic repartee a welcome foil and counter to what would otherwise be too grim and determined proceedings.

Mon Confiado as the fascistic military man and Dexter Doria as conscientious nun further boost a generally nondescript cast bent on overachieving.

Much has been made of the scene where the Collegian is seen having the same office as clandestine publications such as Bayan, with a netizen reacting that maybe the scriptwriters know something we don’t? This is probably what is meant by seeing things with a child’s eye, and where artistic license has little room for distortion and/or propaganda. Confounding, too, is how comrades don’t know whether a kasama survived an ambush or shootout despite the passing of years considering the tightly knit community of the underground.

Katips may seem slim pickings compared to its more illustrious rival in the opposite cineplex that benefits from free tickets, but the modest, midsized crowd on a weekday consisted mainly of young volunteers of an ever-evolving movement, who could ill afford to dream it’s over.

VINCENT TAñADA

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