MMFF New Wave 2015: ‘Tis also the season to excercise the emotion & intellect

NEW BEGINNINGS (The Philippine Star) - December 12, 2015 - 9:00am

Like all forms of art, filmmaking has its own responsibilities. A film should not only be able to entertain, it should also be able to educate the audience. And to a further extent, it is predisposed to incite reaction or stance from the people — for them to get out of the impending obsolescence of both emotion and intellect.

The New Wave section of the Metro Manila Film Festival 2015, showing from Dec. 17 to 24, is a collective of five engaging indie films. The full-length indie film category — headed by Digna Santiago, dubbed as the “Queen of the Indie Filmmakers” because, in one way or another, the many established and greenhorn independent filmmakers have crossed paths with Santiago either to ask for her assistance or simply to seek her advice — displays art in its truest sense.

“We are proud and pleased that we have such a varied mix of entries in the Full Feature section this year. It is not really the genre that is important here but the way the stories are told. The stories the five directors tell cannot be found in the mainstream scheme of things. And that is what will be most interesting and most challenging for the moviegoers,” says Santiago, who was asked four years ago by the MMFF to join a new section for independent films. She thought it was long overdue to have an indie film section in the formerly “exclusive mainstream film festival, the most awaited festival that caps the Christmas season,” so she agreed to participate.

I must say, having watched all the indie films in the New Wave category of MMFF, that the entries show a great progress each year. Always, always, most of the competing films in the New Wave category of the MMFF leave my mind their playground where joys and tribulations are tossed, nursed and celebrated. These films see beauty in pain and pain in beauty. The conflicts and characters are real and delivered fresh from the tapestry of a filmmaker’s fertile imagination.

Take for example Ari: My Life with a King, which posits on the life of the King of Kapampangan Poetry. The film takes the audience to 25 years after Mt. Pinatubo devastated the province of Pampanga. In its aftermath is the slow death of the old-fashioned yet charming tradition of reciting poetry in public. Ari presents the lack of deference of the young to the age-old tradition of poetry or balagtasan; they yawn at Conrado Guinto’s (the king of poetry in the movie) rendition of a poem but they become alive and electrified to watch a modern dance number. Ari is directed by Carlo Encisco Catu with the heart and soul of a literary/cultural vanguard.

On the other hand, gritty and gripping is the execution of Tandem, a film about two brothers who ride a motorcycle in tandem to perpetrate robbery on the streets of Metro Manila. As their “craft” escalates to lead them to become hit men, the relationship between two brothers is also examined under the lens. Told from the perspective of criminals, Tandem is not only about crime but also about a strong bond between two brothers. That there is a tug-o’-war of morality even among thieves is displayed with clarity and conviction by lead actors JM de Guzman and Nico Antonio. The haze and chaos of city living becomes the backdrop for this action-drama helmed excellently by King Palisoc.

Toto, a film that is part-comedy, part-drama, part-tragedy, talks to the hearts of many Filipinos who have not given up on their American Dream. The film reels the life of Antonio “Toto” Estares, who comes from the Yolanda-ravaged city of Tacloban but works in a hotel in Manila. Toto knows in his heart that he will make it to the US one day and tries every possible way to secure a visa. Denied several times to acquire a US visa, Toto does not give up, revealing his obsession for his dream. To give up his dream means to give up his intent to give a good life to his impoverished family in Tacloban. Toto is brilliantly directed by John Paul Su.

The quest for peace amidst war-torn Muslim Mindanao is the subject of broadcast journalist turned director Arlyn dela Cruz in her moving film Mandirigma. Arlyn used her filled-to-the-brim mental data base to come up with a believable film that somehow mirrors the fate of the SAF 44. More than a war movie, Mandirigma is a tale of love, family and brotherhood. It’s a tale of the soldiers’ love for their country knowing that peace — that is achieved through combat — is the lasting gift they can give their country, even if it means giving their lives as well in the process.

They say a parent is the first teacher of a child at home. But if the reverse happens, expect a heartwarming celebration of love between father and son in Turo Turo. Here’s a tale that proves that education liberates people from poverty. Turo Turo is about a no-read-no-write father who is tutored by his young son to read, write and count so he is armed when he ventures into the streets to sell fishballs and scrap vegetables. Turo Turo is directed by Ray An Dulay with a heart that is ready to teach, love and care.

“We hope that the audience will find their way to any of our three theatres (Glorietta 4, SM Megamall and Robinsons Movieworld Manila Midtown) to watch these films,” says Santiago.



“We know we compete with the Christmas rush (and Star Wars) but the insights and simple joys these movies will bring will be all worth it. We actually soften the ground before Christmas itself as these movies are shown from Dec. 17 to 24,” Santiago concludes.

I have seen all the five films — Ari: My Life with a King, Tandem, Toto, Mandirigma and Turo Turo — and they hit a spot in my heart. At the end of the day, everybody ventures into a relationship: an affair with one’s culture, a solid bond with a brother or a sister, a connection or an obsession to a dream, a love for country, or a loving link between father and son. All these and more are the ties that bind the audience to the five films in competition at the New Wave category of the MMFF 2015.

(E-mail me at bumbaki@yahoo.com. I’m also on Instagram @bumtenorio. Have a blessed Sunday!)

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