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Gayuma (Cesar Hernando, 2015) October 31, 2015

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian cinema, Noypi, QCinema.


Written and directed by Cesar Hernando
Cast: Benjamin Alves, Elora Españo, Phoebe Walker

Over the weeklong run of the QCinema International Film Festival, a strong opinion among many festival goers, discussed in hushed tones or mentioned indirectly in social media, is that Gayuma turns out to be bad, or very bad, depending on how the judgment is told and how the assessments become more specific. There seems to be an agreement on the film’s inability to tell a good story, or to tell a story in a good way, as it relies on a trite narrative, incredible plot points, dated references, ineffective music, laughable dialogue, and several other elements that further emphasize its larger-than-life thinness. These claims, unfortunately, are well founded, and all its displays of art knowledge feel completely conspicuous, making the viewing experience switch between wincing and resignation, until the overall feeling becomes nothing short of unpleasant.

With its large doses of sex and ludicrous storyline, Gayuma is reminiscent of Seiko-produced movies in the 90s, which means, for an open-minded viewer, it can be strangely watchable. The consistency is enough reason to be engaged. Obvious are the efforts put together to sustain interest and make it intriguing, as scene by scene the visuals are consciously being mounted to look artful. The music, berserk and ostentatious, is thought to heighten the emotions, but it succeeds only at drowning the film further. One feels sorry about the fact that while the story being undernourished can be forgivable, as execution could do a lot of wonders, more regrettable is how the many talented artists in the film, the numerous big names lending a hand to complete it, are unable to be of any saving grace.

There is absolutely no problem with the idea of mixing genre elements with conventional art-house touches, how a ghost story can be told alongside Marcello Mastroianni or Michelangelo Antonioni, or a how a mysterious past can find its place in the lives of students in a state university, even in the guise of sexual exigencies. The UP Fine Arts Building, especially for non-Fine Arts majors, has always had this inexplicably enigmatic vibe that draws visitors to it, a sense of adventure in its seemingly commonplace surroundings. But Gayuma, in all its good intentions, is unable to keep up, its old-fashioned stubbornness — many, many things in it helplessly revealing a script written a long time ago — has not worked in its favor.

As biases should not always be seen in a negative light, it’s only fair to admit the source of reservation: Cesar Hernando, acclaimed production designer and mentor of countless film people, at 69 years old, is the director of Gayuma, and this is his first feature-length. How can one disregard such valiant soldier? How, in light of his dedication to helping the careers of young directors for decades, can one be oblivious to this time when he finally takes the leap? Of course, one can separate judgment of work from respect for the filmmaker. Gayuma clearly suffers from the weaknesses and excesses than can be associated with a debut work. In the basic, most constructive form of criticism, unkind words are better said than kept. But can this short review be any clearer in its predisposition that no matter how much of a letdown Gayuma is, the writer’s stronger sentiment is that Hernando, now finally coming to terms with first-film hitches, makes another feature, and another one and another one? He has completely earned being given the benefit of the doubt.



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