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Ded na si Lolo (Soxy Topacio, 2009) February 27, 2010

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Noypi.

Written and directed by Soxy Topacio
Cast: Manilyn Reynes, Gina Alajar, Elizabeth Oropesa, Roderick Paulate

It doesn’t come as a shock because it happens every single year, but it is just absolutely unbelievable that in the press release of the Film Academy of the Philippines, announcing the result of their deliberation, there is no mention whatsoever why Ded na si Lolo was chosen as the country’s entry to the Foreign Language Film category of the Oscars. What’s more infuriating is that the press release goes on telling trivial stuff, the stuff that gossipmongers will be happy about: which films it ran in competition against, the final voting score, the submission requirements, and the members of the committee who made the decision. These are things reserved at the bottom of the inverted pyramid, and what the members of the FAP do, every pitiful year, as if their choice is too tragic to explain, is to leave the topmost part empty. Couldn’t they at least be fair with these films? Would a short note hurt their egos and credibility that much? Since when is judgment deemed immaterial? Every year we decry our failure to enter the competition, but the failure really lies in our ways, in our irresponsibility. Not only the FAP mistakenly glorify the Oscars, they also purport that it is merely a pie in the sky, just an annual flight of filmmaker’s fancy.

If I were in the committee, this is what the press release will be like (though I’m sure, when the press people receive it, it has already suffered a massive overhaul):

“What I don’t get is caricature for the sake of caricature; that while it proudly wears its being Filipino on its sleeve, I can’t help but feel that it is the only commendable quality it has: pride. Other than that there is none. We’re so used to noise that when the roles change and we become the observer, that culture of shouting we have does not seem too flattering, isn’t something that we must be proud of. Calling it overboard does not qualify as criticism. Calling it over-the-top is like calling Ebolusyon a long film. What doesn’t go without saying is the overstatement of farce; entertaining, yes, but redundant too, which towards the end becomes tiring and inefficient.

“Topacio dignifies television. And that is apparent in his staging of scenes, how one by one, the siblings take their turns in passing out, how one cry is louder than the other, how the story reveals an ugly memory of the family’s past one after another. There is nothing wrong with that. But that admonition of subtlety only works on two conditions: 1) if it’s on TV; and 2) if the material is good.

Ded na si Lolo feels episodic. Like the structure of soap operas, it needs to push its point more and more until it reaches the climax, under the spell that it will be striking if done that way. Topacio gets carried away like his actors, thinking there is a commercial gap to save his lapses. The material is intended to be a lampoon, but it isn’t exactly the kind of lampoon that is praiseworthy. The superstitions are there to make us feel guilty that we forget them, but that’s not really the point. The superstitions are there to reflect our lost ways. But two hours of pointing out these superstitions, wouldn’t that be enough to drive the point home?

“The film refuses to be taken seriously. It barely allows itself to be taken for granted. It’s fair to middling. I am appalled that we’re submitting this.”

Go on, print that.



1. Wilfred - February 28, 2010

I, too, was surprised when I found out about our Oscar submission. IT was a good family film, but it is not competent enough to beat the others.

2. sunshine - March 1, 2010

i saw this because of the great feedback i heard – that it was the best among the Sine Direk films. and i guess because i was a great fan of Roderick Paulate.

i was extremely disappointed though. 10mins through the film, i wanted to put it on mute because of the irritating noise (i just watched via screener). not even Paulate could save the film. you’re right on saying that Topacio dignifies TV. and i think that’s the last thing any filmmaker should do.

3. lanie bautista - April 26, 2010

i beg to disagree with your observation. i believe that the film is one of the best indie films out there. being a filipino living in the us, it is just tiring, infuriating and nauseating how much of the films entered by the philippines in foreign film awards are the poverty porn movies of directors such as brillante mendoza. when i saw “ded na si lolo” and found out that it was entered in the oscars, i thought that finally, we have directors who chose to do a simple story, in a plot that filipinos are familiar with, and presenting the filipinos in a comic way, instead of directors like mendoza who pimps the filipino poverty and destitution, refusing to see what is good in us, and then believing that their movies are aimed to show the social cancer in our society (who are they kidding by comparing themselves to rizal. rizal’s novels were never read by the masses who started the revolution because they were written in spanish. how can the masses read them, when they could not even read).

of course, the oscars, being the political body that it is, would rarely give an award to foreign films that are categorized as comedy. but does it matter? actually, we shouldn’t even bother joining such international awards if it means we pimp our own country. the problem with us filipinos is that we are so hungry for international recognition that we tend to show only the dark side of our people.

ded na si lolo is a good film, and even filipinos who are highly educated can appreciate that. nasa panlasa lang yan. if you like to know why i think it’s a good film, just read my post about it,


4. Richard Bolisay - April 26, 2010

maybe that makes a lot (or a fraction) of difference. you’re a pinoy living in the US; and we are pinoys living here in the Philippines. location, time, changes, elections, immediacy.

i think this mentality on festivals is a dangerous thing. does making rounds in festivals abroad make a film worthy? or is it just affirmation? or pride? mind you, i also follow film festivals. but i get hooked on them mainly because of interest, and they’re fun. and of course winning the oscars does not make a film better/worse for what it is.

you said, “In my opinion, “Ded na si Lolo” is a good Filipino film because it does not romanticize death, and it didn’t dwell on poverty.”

what’s so wrong about dwelling on poverty? what’s so wrong about romanticism? we are poor! we are hopeless romantics! aren’t those enough reason to make a film? poverty porn is such a catchy term but it’s just that, films about the poor. and it is popular and it exists because we are poor. so again, what’s wrong with showing them?

to be honest, the films of brillante mendoza and jeffrey jeturian, which you mentioned specially in your article, are nothing compared to what happens in real life. you want nice-looking and feel-good movies, stripped of truth and ideology, cleansed with religion and political fairness, reeks of love and inspiration, well that’s not where these people are. might as well not bother to take Philippine cinema seriously.

there’s always a producer like Star Cinema anyway. Ded na si Lolo is just a poor soap shot poorly, written poorly, and directed poorly. the amusement and the happy life you are saying in the film are there, but it just fell awful short. too overblown that it eats itself, it isn’t so nice to recommend.


with your statement that it is one of the best indie films out there, how do you mean? which films is it of the same league?

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