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Massive Attack in Confessional (Jerrold Tarog and Ruel Dahis Antipuesto, 2007) July 26, 2008

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Cinema One, Cinemalaya, Indie Sine, Noypi.
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Directed by Jerrold Tarog and Ruel Dahis Antipuesto
Written by Jerrold Tarog
Cast: David Barril, Publio Briones III, Owee Salva

In the tradition of brave young cinema, Confessional screeches its staggering drive into a tunnel of guileless collisions – – from personal, political, social, and traditional maladies to ephemeral and quizzical assassinations of truth – – it crashes the windows of passive resistance, of passive lies, and of passive power tripping, and in lieu of the linear, overused approach, it whips with dynamic excesses and colorful appendices that set the subplots in motion – – its kinetic energy rips the veins of our eyes in a sudden U-turn crash – – blame those pink fences and concrete barriers – – and in ugly kaleidoscope the hopes of our land form shapes of madness and fear.

It is a failed documentary in Ryan Pastor’s idealistic eyes. He leaves his work in Manila and travels south, accompanied by his girlfriend only in the cabin, as she dumps him when they get off the ship. A relationship that only the two of them can understand, he continues and searches for the subject that will bare the unique Filipino culture according to his standards. His cover of the annual Sinulog Festival in the lively streets of Cebu is filled with humorous, thought-provoking interviews that range from a nun who shares her short stint as an actress, much to our surprise as we see her alluring teenage pictures, to a performer whose queer personality is somewhat obvious then afterward, when Pastor asks the question, we are likewise left in doubt, wondering whether her supposed way to earn a living is indeed true. And then he meets Lito Caliso – – the trapo whose honesty almost kills him with insatiable fear of the unknown – – and the turn of events leads him to an extraordinary curb of fate, the face-off with a filthy past, and in the end all he cares for after the bloody self-serving interview of his subject is the shot – – that frigging final shot – – the avenger points his gun toward the camera then escapes, as if overcame by fear, by an invisible force of defeat – – the lies eating the truths, the truth swallowing the lie.

Tarog’s Astig precedes the screening of Confessional in Cinemalaya; like its inspiration, Astig touches on regional differences – – on how in this archipelago of 7,100 islands there exists a far-fetched understanding of oneness, nationality, and belongingness to the same race – – this crash of cultural upbringing aggravated by history and politics, the crossing of virtual borders, the invasion of communal space, the light and darkness – – the evil inside the modern man masked by good intentions. Tarog enjoys confrontation with truths, for only by lying one can face them, as ruthlessly delivered in his award-winning short, Carpool. The element of surprise in his films is always present; it leaves a feeling of delight after the twist is loosen out – – the punch line that every one finds himself laughing at – – because it entails harsh consequences.

It is wonderful that some of the most beautiful films in recent years are done by first-time full-length filmmakers, in their mid-twenties or early thirties breaking in amid the pressure dictated by festival grants and lack of sufficient funds. Done in a meager budget, Tarog and Antipuesto shot Confessional for roughly around one million pesos ($23,200), quite heroic you would think – – but if you consider John Torres’s Todo Todo Teros whose expenses only amounted to five thousand pesos ($116), it is already ambitious. Money, however, does not account for everything; the hardest situations give birth to limitless discoveries, breathing new life to struggling young ones who are waiting to be pushed from the edge – – down to the farthest grounds of unspoken dreams and fulfilled promises. * * * * *

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