I don’t usually watch films from the Metro
Manila Film Festival (MMFF) because most of them are not that really
interesting. When I say “not really interesting”, the movies are either
recycled plots or unending sequels (read: Shake, Rattle and Roll nth entry;
Enteng Kabisote + Agimat + Tanging Ina + whoever they could choose to
collaborate with). Last year, Albert Martinez’s Rosario and the animated film
RPG Metanoia were the only films that piqued my interest. The rest were
forgettable. Sorry. Anyhoo, this year, I thought I’d catch Brillante Mendoza’s
Thy Womb—it would be the first time a Mendoza film would be screened in mainstream
cinema, so I’d better check it. Plus, the movie reaped awards and praise from
international film critics so, why not. When I saw the trailer of Mark Meily’s
El Presidente, I thought it might be ok. It is topbilled by Laguna Governor
E.R. Ejercito (last year’s Asiong Salonga), which is kinda ~lame, but
nonetheless, I’d still give it the benefit of the doubt. Hahaha.
The plan changed when we were given
complimentary passes for this year’s MMFF. I thought of giving it to others,
pero sayang naman ang chance to see all these films for myself and eventually
critique them properly, instead of judging them by their trailers alone. There,
so I resolved to watch the seven films—it wouldn’t hurt, I guess.
First up, Brillante Mendoza’s Thy Womb.
|Official Movie Poster. Thy Womb is directed by |
internationally acclaimed director, Brillante
Mendoza. It is topbilled by Nora Aunor,
Bembol Roco, Lovi Poe and Mercedes Cabral
(Photo from Interaksyon.com).
Hmmm. The movie’s trailer did not fail to
entice viewers from admiring the beauty of Tawi-Tawi’s natural landscapes and
distinct Badjao culture. There’s so much color on my laptop—I was ready to
watch it on the big screen. There wasn’t much story outlined in the movie’s official
trailer except for the small scenes showing Nora Aunor assisting pregnant women
in giving birth. The rest were introductions for its cast of characters—there’s
Bembol Roco, Lovi Poe and Mercedes Cabral.
Fast forward to December 26. After cleaning
up our office desks and readying it for 2013, we decided to check out Thy Womb
(Sa Sinapupunan is the official Tagalog title of the movie) at Eastwood. That
would be me, Ate Anna, Ate Fina and Kuya Paulie plus Ate Belle. Because we have
our compli passes, we only paid 10 pesos. Hahahaha!
So, how was the movie? I thought it was a
good film. It was my first time to watch a Mendoza film so there are no points
of comparison in terms of laying the groundwork for the story and directing.
But I guess it was a nice initiation to Mendoza’s movie style. The film’s
beauty is firmly grounded on its cinematography—Tawi-Tawi’s splendor is a
perfect backdrop to this bittersweet story. Shaleha (Aunor) is the town’s
resident midwife—she and her husband, Bangas-an (Roco) would travel using their
trusty motor banca from one island to another, assisting pregnant women give
birth. His husband is eager to have a child but ironically, Shaleha cannot bear
one. In her attempt to make her husband happy, Shaleha goes on a quest to find
the perfect women to bear their child and eventually complete the family they
have always dreamed of. When they find the woman (Poe), she wants Shaleha out
of the picture. The choice then lies with each of the movie’s central
characters—which would they choose to give up in order to gain another thing
they’ve always wanted? For Bangas-an, it’s a choice between a happy and simple
life with his wife or his lifelong dream of becoming a father; and for Shaleha,
it is between allowing his husband the happiness he had always longed for or
the love he has for the man he vowed to be for the rest of her life.
The film’s leads, Roco and Aunor, give us a
restrained performance. There are lesser dialogues, allowing these seasoned
actors room for more raw and emotionally-charged performances. Aunor never
fails to amaze us every time her face registers onscreen—there’s sadness and
resignation in her face, but her eyes light up with hope especially on the film’s
final scenes. It’s hauntingly beautiful as Shaleha finally fulfills her odyssey—there
were no tears and words but the silence is enough to tell us that our central
character finds joy amid the sacrifices she made.
|Philippine's Superstar, Nora Aunor portrays the role of Shaleha, a Badjao midwife who goes |
on a quest to find his husband a wife that would bear their child (Photo from Inquirer Entertainment).
Before the movie started, I was counting the
people who entered the theater house—we’re a little less than thirty, and the
audience composition are either old people, curious young professionals or
eager foreigners. During the course of the movie, there were moments where I
was yawning because some of the scenes were shot too long. I was trying to
think why the director chose to use such a method; this might have been the
primary reason why viewers tend to veer away from this movie. And then again,
after chewing on message the film was trying to convey, I felt that it succeeded
in giving its viewers a glimpse into the lesser known lifestyles of our
brothers and sisters in the South. As said, much of the film’s run were
dedicated to longer shots of the everyday lives of the island’s natives. The beautiful seascapes of this island is both
poignant and perfect as it juxtaposes itself to the poverty-stricken lives of
our fellowmen—they live in houses built in stilts by the seashores, enduring
the downpour from the skies as well as the almost usual gunshots from military
men that guard its lands.
In sum, this quiet movie taught me a lot of
things. For one, I have to find time to visit Tawi-Tawi. I have to see and
experience the island for myself. Of course, I would need company. Hehe. It
would be better to travel there with friends, basically for security purposes.
And of course, for picture taking. But more than the travel come-on, the movie
allowed me to appreciate more Mindanaon culture, particularly Badjao. If I’m
not mistaken, much of what I know from Badjaos are from Cesar Montano’s
Muro-Ami (1999 MMFF entry) and from the beggars that ask for alms in the
streets of Cubao and Avenida. Both sources provide us a bleak picture of Badjaos;
Thy Womb is a subdued lens on these people’s lives. The movie doesn’t only
entertain, it informed us—it taught us things that were somehow foreign to us
before, and I think it is good.
Finally, the movie pushed me to support local
films that are normally snubbed by our popular culture. It saddened me to hear
that Thy Womb was pulled out in several movie houses to give way to better-earning MMFF entries. The festival was primarily created to incentivize
movie producers and creators to craft films that are “artistic depictions of
both this country’s stories and history,” and not really to use art as a means
to milk profits for their gigantic production houses. I think it’s high time
that we demand more quality films from these movie outfits. After all, movies
are a reflection of the people’s real lives. If we continue to churn films that
don’t challenge our minds to think and reflect on our values and principles as
well as our sense of history, we’re doomed to our intellectual deaths.
Enjoy the most from this year’s movie
Labels: Brillante Mendoza, feeling profound, Filipino pride, local movie industry, MMFF 2012, movie review, Nora Aunor, third world problems, thy womb, tourism, women empowerment, WoW PHL