Astig (GB Sampedro, 2009) August 8, 2009Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Cinemalaya, Indie Sine, Noypi.
English Title: Survivors
Directed by GB Sampedro
Cast: Dennis Trillo, Sid Lucero, Arnold Reyes, Edgar Allan Guzman
Boy Abunda and his garish league of stars penetrating Cinemalaya is like Mother Lily asking John Torres to make a film with Regal with all artistic freedom. It simply doesn’t work. One way or the other there will be conflicts of interest, and there will be questions that will mock its integrity. Nonetheless I fully understand that a festival like this is also a business. Monetary issues should be taken care of to sustain its activity, but I’m sure it can be attained without sacrificing its very vision. Right now, for all it’s worth, Cinemalaya just betrays my hope for a tradition of quality. Bit by bit it is starting to shelter itself from criticism, and probably from now on I will just be the cheerful and optimistic attendee who is just glad that a festival like this is happening every year, and promises to be with it through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, from its hopeful birth to its unfortunate death.
As expected Astig rakes in the most earnings in this year’s fest, thanks in part to the numerous showbiz personalities who appear in cameo, and to its producer who, as his job, plugs the film in his daily, weekly, and primetime programs. Its commercial viability is unquestionable. Its four main actors are considerably famous in their field. It is visually pleasing, tightly narrated, and edited with intensity and right pacing. But what gives? Granted it is well-made, it is still as horrible as the idea of its producers wanting to represent us in Cannes next year. It is as horrible as the idea of turning this festival into a religion whose surface is all too calm but inside there is that human evil waiting to erupt anytime. Astig is less a film than a two-hour commercial of frenzied testosterone overflowing everywhere, in complete accordance with its producers’ idea of the role of the gay community to stupid straight men.
How lucky GB Sampedro is. He gets a grant from Cinemalaya and he receives further support from Boy Abunda, who in turn secures that his film will be immensely known to the public. Thirty seconds, twenty seconds, or even ten seconds of talk time is an absolute blessing of publicity. Does every filmmaker get that chance? No. Does he get the “euphoric feeling” of being called “independent”? Yes. For his film to have its premiere in the festival is delightlessly cruel to his contemporaries.
Sadly, Cinemalaya is not anymore standing on its feet. It had its time, and as it turned out, it’s not this year. It is still missing that important bullet to prove that immense difference between “digital” and “independent”, the proof that its means is only a way of reaching its more important goal, to make way for stories that express a unique vision, a Filipino experience that is worth telling, and not just turd copycats of overused themes. Every independent movement in music and cinema does not avoid cages; in fact they live inside them. But they know when to slip through their cages and how to do it. It spreads itself; it sets an example of freedom within freedom, and camarederie among peers that it sincerely enjoys. In its selfish claim for the rebirth of Philippine cinema through digital films, I hope its meaningful enlightenment comes near before a film like this gives it another stroke.