Apocalypse Child

apocalypse-child-poster-fbApocalypse Child is the story of surfing instructor and Baler native Ford (Sid Lucero), who is apparently the son of famed director Francis Ford Coppola. At least that’s the story, nay the urban legend even, in town.

By Mario Cornejo (writer-director) and Monster Jimenez (writer-producer), Apocalypse Child was an official entry to the QCinema International Film Festival Circle Competition just last month. It went home with four awards including Best Film, and Best Director for Cornejo. I was already eyeing to see this during the festival but alas my schedule got in the way. So when they held a charity screening at Rockwell earlier this week, I immediately grabbed the chance to catch it. I must admit: I came for Sid Lucero (I’m a huge fan!) but I stayed for the beauty of Baler and the mysteries that surround it. I’ve only been to Baler once, but this film is tempting me to go back.

Some, after watching the trailer, might dismiss this as merely a surfing movie, but it is much more than that. It isn’t even just the story of Ford. The people around Ford also get their space to share their own tragedies. Chona (Ana Abad Santos) is Ford’s mother who firmly believes that Francis Ford Coppola is Ford’s father, and is determined for father and son to meet in the future. However the truth is much bleaker than that. Fiona (QCinema Best Supporting Actress Annicka Dolonius) is Ford’s girlfriend, in town to tend to her dying grandmother. Ford’s childhood friend Rich (RK Bagatsing) left Baler for several years but has now returned to fulfill his duty as newly-elected congressman. He and Ford were as close as brothers before but time, distance, and conflicts happened, causing a rift in their relationship. If that’s not enough tragedy for you, he also has a damaged eardrum preventing him from surfing ever again. Serena (Gwen Zamora) is Rich’s fiancee, but spending time with Ford during surf lessons might give her second thoughts about her relationship. Jordan (Archie Alemania), Ford’s close friend, is the fifth wheel paving the way for comedic moments in the film.

I can’t say this enough, but Apocalypse Child is a visual and aural (thanks to Up Dharma Down’s Armi Millare) feast. Sid Lucero really fits the bill as the laid-back, carpe-diem-believing surfer. When the scene requires intensity and passion, he gives in spades. (I think I blushed a little during that scene.) Annicka Dolonius deserves the accolade as she shines in every scene that she is in. I have to give props to that scene when Fiona ambles to Ford’s house and asks him to hug ang console her for the last time. Pretty intense. I’m not too familiar with RK Bagatsing’s filmography but I’m looking forward to see more of him in films like this. On the flipside, I am familiar with Gwen Zamora’s work as a TV actress, but this film showed a new side of her. Archie Alemania is in a lot of films lately (my first reaction to seeing him on screen was siya na naman?) but his every-man character works perfectly in this film providing the comic icebreaker for when times might get overly dramatic. Finally, I have to commend Ana Abad Santos’s performance as Chona. I love how at the beginning she was just being Ford’s cool young mom and then slowly unraveling to a woman who has gone through a tragic childhood and coping. I was at the edge of seat in that scene where she was recounting the events leading to Ford’s conception at her young age of 14.

Here’s hoping there are more screenings (or even a commercial run) in the works soon. In the meantime, here’s the trailer for Apocalypse Child:

Have you watched Apocalypse Child? What did you think of the film? Are you, like me, wanting to return to Baler, feel the sun, surf the waves, and immerse in the town’s culture?

Dayang Asu (Dognation)

Dayang Asu (Dognation)
Dayang Asu (Dognation)

Inspired by true events, Dayang Asu (Dognation) narrates a disturbing reality inherently familiar to us all. We live in a society that has corruption as an integral part of its system from the richest of the rich to the poorest of the poor. Perhaps some are innocent, but most of us, one way or another, have taken advantage of someone. A close friend, a student (teacher), a boss (an employee) or a traffic enforcer. The sad part is we don’t feel guilty about it, for in our own version of the truth, we are just surviving. Our moral grounds are subject to our personal needs and desires. A dog-eat-dog world ‘ika nga.

The film was supposedly an entry to Cinemalaya two years ago but, due to funding issues, production stopped. (Googling, I found an old trailer of the previous version of the film, which had an English title that I loved: “In Pampanga, We Eat Dogs”. I wish I knew about this film sooner. Tsk.) Fast forward to now, the script found its way to Cinema One Originals and last November 10 (gala night), it officially premiered. I attended the gala night and even joined in during the Q&A. I don’t usually participate in Q&As but, that night, I was so elated by the film I just had to confirm my thoughts. I asked if an alternate ending was considered, even though I absolutely loved the ending. What struck me was how passionate the director Bor Ocampo was with his response. No wonder the film was so powerful. More movies please!

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Junjun and I 😀

Beautifully shot in the province of Pampanga, the film introduces us to Tonton (Junjun Quintana) a diligent out of college youth working for his father, Peping (Ricky Davao), a good son and kuya to Jeljel (Inna Tuason). He also cooks the best kalderetang aso (well, according to his father). Working alongside Tonton in the quarry are three other men whose names I don’t recall, except for Bor (if I remember correctly), who is named after the director I guess.

Peping and his men are tasked by the mayor to cook him kalderetang aso for his birthday. Side note: When I was 8, I witnessed my pet dog, Douglas, killed, cooked and eaten. 🙁 As they complete this task, they are exposed to different scenarios displaying their lack of moral judgment and revealing their corrupt selves. One particular scene (that is part of the trailer) is when Peping’s driver backs up and hits a parked jeepney. Obviously, the jeepney driver is not at fault, but Peping is able to turn the tables around, just like that. Like cancer, the film slowly destroys each character. (And I now realize that the pace of the film is a figurative device. WOW!) Scene by scene, we discover how broken the system is.

Not that I need to mention it, the performance of the cast is outstanding. Ricky Davao and Junjun Quintana are not native Kapampangan speakers but their performances are as authentic as it gets (at least to a non-Kapampangan speakers’ ears, like mine). Ricky Davao is a veteran to these types of roles and, as expected, he delivers. He always does. Junjun Quintana, one of my faves, has always been a reliable actor. More projects for this guy, please! Elora Españo of Ninja Party, also has a small non-speaking role. I actually didn’t realize it was her until I read the programme.

As an audience member during the gala night commented, the cinematography is nearly perfect. The buildup is slow but certainly not dragging. Everything is intentional. There are no unnecessary shots. Transitions are smooth like the one where the camera pans out to an aerial shot of the city hall transitioning to the scene of the governor’s children playing with a remote-control helicopter. Writing this down now also makes me realize how many figurative devices are in the movie. *sings* It’s all coming back to me now… 

More importantly, the film delivers a message which is still very much relevant today. In elementary, we are taught to always follow the rules and always do the right thing. The real world, however, hinders us from doing so. Nakasanayan na eh. We justify the little things we do to the point that they become our truths. The cycle goes on.

The challenge lies in our hands. Will we ever break this cycle?

Dayang Asu (Dog Nation)
Director: Bor Ocampo
Cast: Ricky Davao, Junjun Quintana, Inna Tuason, Lui Manansala, Bernard Laxa, Elora Españo
Synopsis: “Amidst legalized corruption, a son proves to his father that he is fit to survive in a dog-eat-dog world.”

Catch Dayang Asu and the other films in Cinema One Originals Festival 2015 until November 17. #C1Orginals #KakaibaKaBa

UPDATE: Albert Banzon was awarded Best Cinematography for Dayang Asu.

Remember Her Name: Lilia Cuntapay

“Kilala mo ba kung sino si Lilia Cuntapay?” 

Lilia Cuntapay (KOON-tah-pie) may be an unfamiliar name, but if you grew up watching the earlier movies of the Shake Rattle and Roll franchise, her face has haunted you at some point in your life. So you better remember her name.

Now an award winning actress (Cinema One Originals 2011), Lilia Cuntapay stars in Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay (written and directed by Antoinette Jadaone), a mockumentary of her journey leading to a fictionalized awards night. Along the way, we discover the story of the woman behind the mysterious persona we’ve grown to fear. Her motivations and aspirations. Her professional ethics. The highs, glamor, and prestige. The trade-offs, sacrifices and disappointments.

What does it take to be the most iconic bit player of Philippine horror movies?

I was lucky enough to have caught the movie (together with Dagitab) in a special screening in Teatrino last January 17, 2015. The movie surpassed any of my expectations. Each scene was effectively executed. It garnered genuine laughs and tears (at least from me). More than a comedy, (also according to the makers) the film is an inspiring tale of an underrated personality who values her craft more than anything else.