jump to navigation

Dispatches from ToFarm Film Festival 2017 (Part 1) July 17, 2017

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Indie Sine, Noypi, ToFarm.
trackback

instalado

INSTALADO (Jason Paul Laxamana)

One can’t help but admire the dogged efforts of Instalado to make its setting believable, introducing a time in the future when knowledge is “installed” on people’s brains the way software is installed on computers to make them highly functional. It banks on this premise not only to depict how modernity can be morally cruel but also to deliver, somewhat halfheartedly, the well-intentioned requirement of the festival to highlight the importance of agriculture. The concept is intriguing at best, especially as it adorns its physical milieu with futuristic elements (holograms, fancy paper bills, flashy diploma cards) and takes a stab at making a sociopolitical commentary (setting it in the agricultural town of Porac, Pampanga, where young ones yearn for better life through “easy” but expensive “education,” and where a group of rallyists struggle against this sweeping capitalist culture).

On paper, all of these may look promising and convincing. There is a charming childishness to its vision that makes the audience want to root for it. But the problem lies in its singlemindedness, in its copious, long-winded displays of self-indulgence that neglect the need for its high-concept ideas to be given a cinematic equivalent for them to work. Instalado lacks the production values required to render a satisfying look and feel of its ambition — even on a small scale reminiscent of good lo-fi sci-fi — which is not an issue of looking expensive but feeling impressive. This visual flatness is exacerbated by the lack of cohesion between its characters, each of whom seeming to do monologues instead of conversations. Midway through the film it stops being interesting and loses whatever that keeps it going, partly because it insists on establishment until the very end, on building its world further instead of making that world come alive through a compelling story, and partly because the film, as much as it is commenting on the brutality of present society, is detached from it and just too concerned with itself.

baklad1

BAKLAD (Topel Lee)

There are so many terrible things strewn in Baklad that at some point, instead of feeling offended, one just laughs at the inanity of it all. Everything feels out of place and sloppily put together, with the narrative being pushed forward but going nowhere meaningful, and the characters looking oblivious and acting clueless, poor souls made even poorer by the film’s condescension. The specificity of its milieu — a small community in Laguna where fish pens owned by a powerful, repulsive engineer are guarded by pubescent boys — could have worked to its advantage and turned it into a dynamic and thought-provoking drama, but the writing never allows it to evoke anything consequential, the crafting of the story shamelessly exposing outdated but still-appalling varieties of sexism and male chauvinism. The direction can only do so much, but the handling of the material is just as awful and amateurish, that instead of feeling sorry for the sad plight of the characters, one simply wants the misery of watching them to end. It is one of those cases in which someone tries to discuss social ills in the hope of bringing to light some important issues, but only ends up doing more harm by talking nonsense and being rude.

whathomefeelslike1

WHAT HOME FEELS LIKE (Joseph Abello)

One of the things that can attest to the malleability of cinema as an art form, which adds to the complexity of reading it, is the possibility of not liking the film but liking what it leaves you. An example is What Home Feels Like: It has way too many untightened screws, a creative decision that seems deliberate since it also wants to show the forged affection between a father and his family, in a way emphasizing the hollow he has left over the years of being away from home. His unawareness of this void — between his wife and him, and between his children and him — is the source of strain, and his subsequent awareness of it releases it, creating heavier drama and melancholy.

But watching What Home Feels Like isn’t exactly a fine experience: It overdoes the “subtlety” card and extends sequences and adds images that do not particularly complement its narrative, its idea of depth hinged on putting more. This results in a film that manages to get across a picture of a family set apart by emotional distance, the pain and pity that such situation brings, and a viewing torment that sees plenty of opportunities wasted because of the mistaken preference for superfluity. The drama needs more focus than tedium, more tightening than floating, but the director decides to fill the film with fluff and bloats it with unnecessary details, oftentimes resorting to predictable television devices.

There is this one sequence in which the estranged father tries to reach out to his children. He goes to his son’s room, who is hesitant to let him in, and talks to him. He says “I love you.” The son doesn’t reply. He steps out. The father then sees his daughter on her way to her room and chats with her, talks to her the same way he has talked to his son. He says “I love you.” She replies but not with the exact words. He walks back sadly. Then a few sequences later, he overhears his son opening up to his mother, crying, and telling her he loves her. Sometime afterward, he eavesdrops on a hushed conversation between his daughter and his wife, the intimacy between them, which he has never experienced since arriving home, unquestionable. One can understandably tear up upon realizing the connection of these moments, which can be quite overwhelming in their effect — and there are many in the film, to be fair — scenes that allow one to reflect on a personal level. They are scattered, and they just need some sorting out.

Advertisements

Comments»

No comments yet — be the first.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: