Ang Hupa, Cinemalaya and the indie films
“Binulong sa akin ng Diyos: ako ang magliligtas ng aking Bayan.”
Words that reverberates throughout the brave four-hour-and-thirty-minute film “Ang Hupa” by Lav Diaz which is a mix of sci-fi and horror “about death of a dictator, the death of morality, the death of truth.” It is the opening film of the 2019 Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
The film is set in the year 2034 AD. Southeast Asia has been in the dark for the last three years, literally, because the sun hasn’t shone as a result of massive volcanic eruptions at the Celebes Sea in 2031. Madmen control countries, communities, enclaves and bubble cities. Cataclysmic epidemics razed over the continent. Millions have died and millions have left.
The country is run by a dictator President Nirvano Reyes Navarra (Joel Lamangan) with the help of Lt. Martha Oficio (Hazel Oriencoo) and Marissa Ventura (Mara Lopez). The story follows the lives of Hook Torollo, Sr. (Piolo Pascual) a former soldier working against the Navarra government; and Hammy Rios (Shania Magdayao), a high class escort plagued with personal tragedies.
A review noted that the film ranks as Diaz’s most straightforward and politically charged film to date, with his script spelling out everything he wanted to say in the clearest of terms. The president spews polished but delusional nonsense about his entitlement to power, officials dismiss “the discourse in truth,” while intellectuals lament the Philippines’ transformation into a “nation of forgetting” (the title of a book written by one of the characters).
The drama escalates within the nexus of power, leading to an endgame driven by mutiny, murder, mob violence and regime change.
I have always been a fan of Cinemalaya since it started 15 years ago.
The Cinemalaya aims to encourage the creation of new cinematic works by Filipino filmmakers – works that boldly articulate and freely interpret the Filipino experience with fresh insight and artistic integrity. It also aims to invigorate the Philippine filmmaking by developing a new breed of Filipino filmmakers.
Some of the past winning films in the New Breed category include Pepot Artista (2005), Tulad ng Dati (2006), Tribu (2007), Jay (2008), Last Supper No. 3 (2009), Halaw (2010), Ang Babae sa Septic Tank (2011), Diablo (2012), Transit (2013), Bwaya (2014). The winners for the Directors’ showcase include Donor (2010), Bisperas (2011), Posas (2012), Sana Dati (2013) and Kasal (2014). The recent winners in the Main competition include Pamilya Ordinaryo (2016), Respeto (2017) and Kung Paano Hinihintay ang Dapithapon (2018).
My passion in watching Cinemalaya films perhaps is an offshoot of my exposure to experimental films during my college years in the late 80s and 90s at the UP Diliman where I saw several highly sensitive and political films. The then UP Film Center served as a venue to screen films free from censorship as some of them were even banned from commercial viewing.
Some of the films I saw include Lino Brocka’s Maynila, Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (1975) and Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim (1985), Ishmael Bernal’s Himala (1982), Mike de Leon’s Sister Stella L. (1984) and Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Karnal (1984) whose daring works portrayed revolt, labor unionism, social ostracism and class division. The 1970s, 1980s and 1990s were turbulent years, producing more serious topics following the chaos of the Marcos regime.
Some films of Experimental Cinema of the Philippines (ECP) categorized as “bomba” or “pene” film that had grown more pornographic and taboo were likewise screened.
Decades before the word “indie films” become a trend, I had the opportunity during my college days to meet and see the works of alternative or independent filmmakers who are products of film schools where students are exposed to art films without “the compromises of commercial filmmaking.”
Now called Cine Adarna , it is one of the movie theaters that showcases local independent films, short films, international art films and cultural documentaries, accompanied by talks and forums featuring the film’s director and producers.
I always talk to award winning writer Ricky Lee during Cinemalaya on his thoughts on the future of young movie makers which is essentially captured by his speech at a commencement exercise: “Magkaroon ka ng boses. Ng opinyon. Mundo mo ito. Di ka parang hanging nagdaan lang. Mag-iwan ka ng marka. Huwag kang matakot magkamali. Kahit mabigo ka, huwag kang mag-alala. Sa paulit-ulit na pagkabigo ay mas matututo ka. Para kang sinusulat na nobela na kailangang paulit-ulit na i-revise. Hanggang sa kuminang.”
Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email [email protected], or call 09175025808 or 09088665786).
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