The independent cinema of the Pangasinan province, Philippines

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Anacbanua: A hometown film heaped on with international praise by Resty Odon

It’s hard to believe that a film would make my unprepossessing hometown in North Luzon its subject (er, at least in part). It’s even harder to believe that the filmmaker of such caliber could be from the town itself. The part hardest to believe may yet be that the film is an internationally award-winning film. It has been recognized in film festivals abroad after it received accolades in the Philippines.

However, as Filipino self-appreciation goes, it’s no surprise that no one I know back home has watched or even heard of the film.

Bayambang, Pangasinan’s native son Christopher Gozum’s much-lauded film Anacbanua (2009; English title: Child of the Sun) is by now preceded by its own reputation, so writing about it this late will be a major challenge. But as far as I know, no one has written on the subject with a hometown perspective yet, so I thought I’d do the honors, being a fellow native.

Anacbanua follows the path taken by a disillusioned poet who has been an overseas contract worker in Saudi Arabia and has come home to perhaps recharge at his old place. With the sudden transplantation, he finds the whole place shorn of its former essence, lamenting the loss of its soul everywhere. Soon, it becomes apparent that this is one of those arthouse films that are plotless and mood-based or impressionistic. ‘Worse,’ it employs no dialogue but an unforgiving monologue in several traditional Pangasinense poetry (by Santiago Villafania, among others). (The film has English subtitles.)

Clocking in at 104.33 minutes, this slow-moving, meditative film unravels the uniqueness and richness of Pangasinan culture. Black-and-white images of Pangasinan icons – Lingayen City Hall, bagoong-making, green rice fields, salt-making, dalikan (clay stove)-making, San Roque Dam, Agno River, fishing, brick production – are gently introduced one after another. The montage makes this particular viewer feel at home, if not yearn for Calasiao puto and bocayo (balls of young macapuno coconut strips preserved in brown sugar) for snacks and home-style pinakbet (vegetable and pork dish in bagoong) with sauteed buro (fermented fish) on the side.

Ironically, these cultural icons are mostly used in a moving chiaroscuro of sacrifice and impending demise, to depict the death of language, if not an entire culture. With a touch of folk goth, this results in high, unrelenting seriousness. But this tone is most apt, for the film treads on a highly volatile ground. It minces no words in accusing an unnamed culprit as an imperialist mass murderer – of language and an entire way of life, that is.

The old Pangasinan province is named here in its putatively original name of Caboloan (a mass noun referring to a certain species of bamboo (bolo bamboo), which used to be found in profusion in the town’s vicinity). The result is a vision of an Edenic place under the Northern Luzon sun.

If no one I know has ever heard of this film at home, I can’t blame them, for the reason may well be valid: In the words of a younger former schoolmate whose opinion I sought: “It’s too artsy for me!” This, even while knowing the director, a B.A. Film and M.A. Theater Arts graduate from the University of the Philippines (Diliman), in person. Consider this line from the film: “They lost the salt of their imagination.” And this line: “My demesne is the Parnassus of the Muses.” Add to this the employment of theater-grade metaphors, and turning off mainstream audiences is ensured.Then again, maybe it’s the people who should be blamed for their closed-mindedness, aside from the social conditioning of the formulaic market.

As little arthouse films go, Anacbanua doesn’t have the historical and geographical sweep of Hollywood movies, no big-name stars of incandescent Eurasian beauty, and no major commercial backing. But of course, that’s the whole point of this film, which is born of fierce, unapologetic independence.

In other words, Anacbanua is too sensitive to the touch, even among locals, even though its subject is one that cries out with an urgency for, at least, a focus group discussion and, at most, a national legislative debate. The young (33 years old) Gozum supplies the most pressing need of highlighting this urgency.

By giving voice to a truly marginal subject and, worse, to one fast fading in the ethnic-cultural ICU, Gozum’s breakout work is important, for it is no less than a national breakthrough: It is reportedly the first film from Pangasinan, in Pangasinense language, no less, and a previously unimagined, highly contextualized one at that. With or without all that recognition, Anacbanua is one highly original and heroic work that should set the tone for other such works that may potentially cover the rest of the archipelago’s astoundingly diverse (over 120) regional languages, with each of their own associated fast-dying ways of life.

Through the limiting, if Pyrrhic, victory of the ruling ‘empire’ and, if I might add, the natives’ neglect of their own heritage, these islandic linguistic cultures are largely unexplored subjects in the national imagining, which is a reflection of the very sad poverty of the ruling, and exclusionary, Philippine mindset despite the staggering wealth of material outside the center.

Needless to say, with Anacbanua, Gozum has won over at least one town-mate.

*Article published at on October 16, 2012


Tuhog Bilang Estetika by Rolando B.Tolentino published at

Tuhog Bilang Estetika ni Rolando B. Tolentino
Rebyu ng Lawas Kan Pinabli (Forever Loved, Christopher Gozum, 2011)

Interesante ang ginagawa ni Christopher Gozum: mga pelikula sa Pangasinese; sa katunayan, sinasabing ang kanyang unang pelikula, Anacbanua (2009) ang unang pelikula sa wikang ito—pinagsanib na mga tula, voice-over, basag na naratibo, at shots ng ordinaryong buhay. Itong sumunod ay ang Lawas Kan Pinabli, black-and-white, pinaghalong interviews sa mga OCW sa Middle East sa dokumentaryong stilo, at paglalakbay at dramatikong sandali dahil may hinahanap roon ang lalaki.

Hindi pagpapatakbo ng fiksyonal na naratibo ang tinutuhog ni Gozum, tulad ng maraming indie filmmakers. Konseptual ang mga pelikula: nagtatahi’t naghahabi ng mga stilisadong eksena (black-and-white, grainy shots, repetisyon, voice-over at katahimikan, gamit ang rehiyonal na wika) dahil may nais bigyan-diin na konsepto hinggil sa formasyon ng identidad at pagkatao, komentaryong sa buhay at panlipunan, o sa masalimuot na afekto ng fragmentasyon at alienasyon.

Sa isang workshop sa kritisismo sa sining, sinaad ng arkitekto na “tuhog” ang tila estetika ng mga artista—sa limitadong resources, nakakayanang gumawa ng mas malaking resulta’t dating. Nagustuhan ko ang kanyang sinabi at inisip kung ano ang aplikasyon nito sa pelikula.

Ang produktibo sa pakikipagtunggali ni Gozum sa pelikula ay ang paggamit ng Pangsinese at ang karanasang isinasaad ng wikang ito para maging dalumat ng mas malaking bagay at karanasan: unibersalidad ng pagkatao sa materialidad na karanasan, tulad ng lalaking naghahanap sa ibang lugar ng makakatumbas sa kanyang pagmamahal; karanasang pambansa, tulad ng mga OCW na nagkakaroon ng iba pang relasyon sa kanilang paglalayag sa ibang bansa; karanasang rehiyonal, tulad ng paghalaw sa titulo mula sa folk song ng lugar, ang humahabi sa kwento ng pagbabago; o personal, tulad ng karakter sa pelikula na hinahanap ang sarili sa pamamagitan ng pakikipanayam sa kahalintulad na identidad (kapwa OCW).

Mahalaga ang ganitong mediasyon ng filmmaker hinggil sa wika, lalo na itong hindi pa nabibigyan ng kultural na artikulasyon sa pelikula. Wala nang Ilokanong pelikula, o sa marami pang wika sa bansa. Wala pang pelikula sa Waray, Sambal, at Chavacano. Sa katunayan, sa paisa-isang pelikula hinggil sa katutubo (Aeta at Palawanon, halimbawa), mas nabubuo na nitong media ang nosyon ng pambansang pelikula.

Mahalaga si Gozum sa nosyon ng pambansang pelikula dahil naipapasok niya ang mga aspekto ng karanasan ng rehiyon at rehiyonal na wika bilang bahagi at katuwang ng formasyon ng bansa. Ang marami sa kanyang kahanay sa indie cinema ay sa direksyon ng karanasan ng laylayan ng sentro (tambay, mamamatay-tao, tirador, at iba pa), na ang partikularidad ay may direktang akses sa pagkabansa. At kung gayon, mas madaling mahatak para sa isang global na art film market.

Kung nanggagaling sa rehiyon, kailangan naman ay itong pinakadahop (ang figura ng katutubo, batang katutubo, at mga marginalisado). Ang nagiging kumpetisyon ay paramihan ng pagkaetsapwera, at kung gayon ay mas exotikong paksa’t tema para sa art film festivals. Mismong ang formulasyon ng naratibo sa indie cinema ay naging produkto na kinakalidad na ng mga boutique producer (funders at art film festivals) sa bansa.

Ang look-and-feel ng indie films ay nakapaloob na sa hulma ng kung ano ang indie cinema: poverty-sex-violence ng abject subjects na kinunan sa idioma ng neorealismo (dokumentaryo, jagged camera, grainy, natural lighting) na a-day-in-the-life-of. Dahil dito, maraming inobasyon ang hindi ipinapaloob: aktwal na dokumentaryo, konseptual na pelikula, experimental, teasers na gawa ng politikal na film collectives, at iba pa.

Sa maikli nitong kasaysayan, nagkaroon na ng tier-ing ang mismong indie cinema: ang kapasidad nitong maggrado at mag-etsapwera ng mga produkto, o makapanlaglag ng mga hindi lubos na umaakma sa naturang template nito. Isa rin ito sa mga tinutuhog na impetus ng mga tulad ni Gozum. At ang produktibong nagagawa nito ay ang hindi pa nagagawa sa indie cinema, maging sa pambansang pelikula.

Ang nosyong ng “hindi pa nagagawa” ay mabigat na pasanin dahil nangangailangan ito ng komitment sa mga bagay: sining, rehiyonalidad, orihinalidad, kapasidad na makaugnay sa mas malalaking mga bagay, at paninindigan bilang indie filmmaker bilang tunay na may “independent spirit” (metapisikal na nosyon pero ang materialidad ay makikinita sa mga gawa).

Kaya tatagal pa ang indie cinema ay hindi dahil sa kapasidad ng nakapaloob na rito (ang mga institusyon nito) na ipagpatuloy ang karanasan kundi dahil sa mga nasa labas nito na makagawa ng hindi pa nagagawa, at matuhog ang estetika ng hindi pa nagagawa. Ito ang pagsasapelikula para sa hinaharap, na ang gawa ay pagtataya sa malinaw na posisyonalidad para sa kapakanan sa inaakdang bukas.

“Diaspora Is Such A Lonely Word” by Dodo Dayao from Piling Piling Pelikula


Lawas Kan Pinabli (Forever Loved)
Directed and Written by Christopher Gozum

That melancholia of displacement running like a hum of current throughLawas Kan Pinabli (Forever Loved)poeticizes the OFW experience partially as a maddeningly obtuse but gorgeously dreamlike reverie of transience and separation anxiety and the longing that comes from it: a man, nameless and fictional, searches aimlessly, possibly fruitlessly, for his missing OFW wife in a foreign country tellingly fraught with secret perils, the very same foreign country, it turns out, that Christopher Gozum has been working in all these years as an OFW.

Rising above one’s station is the aspirational default of the Filipino have-not, and working abroad their go-to golden ticket, the Middle East their Canaan. And the way we ritually valorize OFWs as unsung, working class heroes is not just out of how they significantly boost the economy like a periodic sugar rush but also, and mostly, for the backstory of tremendous sacrifice they go through to get where they are. Rags-to-riches is the true opiate of the masses and everybody loves a melodrama of struggle that pays off in dividends.

The bruising subversion here is in the way it dispiritingly, and shockingly, lays bare how steep the cost of that sacrifice can get, and how they often are each other’s worst enemies. It’s not all blight, no. The sequence with the transplanted rockhound is, if nothing else, soothing. And there is a bracing loveliness to everything. But, give or take one or two, the real-life OFWs in the numbing, revealing interviews that intersperse the cul-de-sac detective story, and meld ghostly narrative with brooding documentary until the joins dissolve into each other, are, in varying degrees, victims: of workplace mishap, of mistaken identity, of abandonment, of treachery, of the malfunctions in our cultural psyche. This is not the public face of the OFW-as-hero, with his head held high all robust with hope and friends with the future, but rather its evil twin, slinking in the shadows, looking away if you gaze at it too closely. Diaspora is such a lonely word and Lawas Kan Pinabli is at turns a begrudging valentine to that loneliness. Diaspora is also a necessary evil, or at least an evil we have made necessary. And the ruination of these OFWs, as well as their desperation in the face of it, is the horribly disfigured face it refuses to show the world.

Film Review of Lawas Kan Pinabli by Don Jaucian from Pelikula Tumblr (2012)

2011: The Year in Filipino Films
by Don Jaucian

It’s a proclamation that heralds a new hope for the Philippine film industry: 2011 has been a pretty good year for Filipino films. Whether it’s the triumph of films like Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington over mindlessly offensive big studio productions, the success of Cinemalaya 7, or the spilling of independent filmmakers into the mainstream, these signs of life are indicative of a growing audience awareness that there is more to local cinema than formula films (read: taking a teenybopper love team to a banner movie with a title from a song that’s sure to be in every karaoke machine).

Apart from Cinemalaya, Cinema One Originals, and Cinemanila, smaller film festivals were also held this year, including Khavn’s .MOV Film Festival, which paid tribute to Alexis Tioseco and Nika Bohinc, and Sine Rehiyon, which proved that filmmaking is alive and well in different parts of the Philippines. The Metro Manila Film Festival proved to be the cinematic claptrap that it still is, with this year’s entries just as mind-baffling a display of big studio mind-fuckery as last year’s were. They also continued their indie/new breed category, which ran for almost a week but featured such hackneyed films with only one or two deserving to be seen.

The closing of Mogwai Cinematheque dismayed many, with rumors saying that it was all because of managerial dispute. But other film screening venues also cropped up, such as John Torres and Shireen Seno’s As In Shop and Jewel Maranan and co.’s Cinema is Incomplete. Both venues have no door charge and only ask you to share your love for local cinema. Up north, there’s Baguio Cinematheque, which screens both classic and contemporary masterworks of Philippine cinema.

Local films have also made it to several international film festivals. Auraeus Solito’s Busong (Palawan Fate) opened at Cannes Director’s Fortnight. Adolf Alix’s Isda (Fable of the Fish) and Lav Diaz’s six-hour opus, Siglo ng Pagluwal (Century of Birthing), both had their international premieres in the Toronto International Film Festival. Alvin Yapan’s Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa (The Dance of Two Left Feet), Loy Arcenas’s Niño and Jeffrey Jeturian’s Bisperas (Eve) all garnered accolades in several international film festivals.

The largely praised box office smash hit Ang Babae sa Septic Tank (The Woman in the Septic Tank) by Marlon Rivera emerged as, what one film critic calls, “the indie film for those who don’t usually watch indie films”. Its cinematic misgivings however displeased many, hitting all the wrong spots in a culture where envy is a common mark of trade.

This year’s crop of Filipino films certainly yielded an encouraging result, enough to persuade us to devote an entire list for them.

10. X-Deal (Lawrence Fajardo)

That silhouette of John Hall’s massive erection means serious business. After the death of agricultural bomb flicks and the rise of gay sexploitation films, X-Deal’s sexual games and statement tee-worthy one liners (“Masama bang pagpahingahin ang kepyas ko?”) give us a new perspective on the dominance and volatility of the femal psyche. And hey, it’s not every day that we get a lead character that blogs for a living.

9. Isda (Fable of the Fish, Adolf Alix Jr.)

It’s a plot that could have turned for the worse: a mother (Cherry Pie Picache) believing that the fish she apparently gave birth to is her real son, a gift from God. The film’s strange sense of humor doesn’t cloud the point that this is a mother struggling her way through the strife, battling insurmountable odds without losing her sanity in the first place. Driven by Picache’s heartbreaking performance as a woman on the verge, Isda questions the normalcies of motherhood which in the end boils down to the need to love and be loved.

8. Sakay sa Hangin (Wind blown, Regiben Romana)

Just like Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio’s sea-faring charmer, Alamar (To The Sea), Sakay sa Hangin blurs the line between truth and fiction. Romana gives us a sublimely engaging immersion to the music and rituals of the Talaandig tribe where a simple crafting of a flute or a guitar transcends the mythic and the conflict brewing around them. Sakay sa Hangin prods us to think that our country is far larger than what our school textbooks have taught us and that music will always be the universal vessel of peace.

7.Buenas Noches, España (Raya Martin)

The nuances of history hide in the flickering colors of Buenas Noches, España. Its seemingly endless loop of images exacts the inherent difficulties of our past, forcing us to grapple along with its shifts and meanderings. Owel Alvero and Pat Sarabia’s skittering soundscape serves as the film’s ignition point, using a map where teleportation and Juan Luna paintings form a pocket guide to our history’s netherworld.

6. Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa (The Dance of the Two Left Feet, Alvin Yapan)

Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa glides in elegant rhythms, dispelling the shackles of gender roles and artistic notions through the subtle guidance of the poetry of dance and glances teeming with possibilities. More than an unspoken love affair between its two leads (Paulo Avelino and Rocco Nacino), what Sayaw distills is an understanding of the place of art in our society and how we form and break values and traditions based on its heavy-handed maneuverings.

5. Big Boy (Shireen Seno)

Big Boy ebbs and flows like the static hum of our own memories. Parcels of recollections flood its stream of consciousness, where faces and voices dissolve and become disembodied. What unravels is a complex mapping of our own past and how we are led, however broken-limbed, to the present. Shireen Seno’s debut film sifts through unreliability that provokes our shattered reminiscences, evoking a hazy trip into the blueprint of our dreams.

4. Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington (Zombadings 1: Kill Remington with Fear, Jade Castro)

It happened. An upending of a woolly mammoth, proving that Filipino moviegoers are capable of flocking to a film with a solid story, little known stars and non-formula shtick. Zombadings 1 is born out of a sincere desire of the filmmakers to craft a film that challenges our cinematic perceptions while mining pressing issues (gay discrimination) that are put aside by banal big studio releases where life is always fluffy and ends with the swelling of a second-hand theme song. Through the guise of comedy and horror Zombadings 1 becomes a triumph in many different ways. And most of all, it makes audiences think, prodding them to reassess their pre-conceived (mostly Catholicized) ideas about homosexuality and how gay men and women shape our society as we know it.

3. Tundong Magiliw (Tondo Beloved, Jewel Maranan)

Tundong Magiliw’s strength is its refusal to ram the shitty side of slum dwelling down the audience’s throats. As a continuing documentary, the film unfolds precariously, taking time to familiarize itself into the life of a family deadlocked into Tondo’s inescapable labyrinth. It finds life in the family’s most intimate moments, as they chuckle at Hilary Clinton’s most controversial moments and construct films of their own through covers of pirated DVDs. Tundong Magiliw shows us that there is more to Tundo than its decades-old notoriety and that these people are just like us, looking for something to hold on to in the unlikeliest of places.

2. Lawas Kan Pinabli (Forever Loved, Christopher Gozum

Lawas Kan Pinabli opens with a case of hopelessness: a statistic saying that an estimated six million documented and one million undocumented migrant Filipino workers are scattered all over the world and some four thousand more join their ranks every day. What follows is a bitter picture of the lives of overseas Filipino workers abroad. But instead of depicting OFWs in the usual light, as the new heroes of this era, Lawas Kan Pinabli shows how the hardships of some of our fellowmen abroad are mostly due to their own making.

Christopher Gozum paints two sides of the picture, presenting interviews with real OFWs (Gozum himself is an OFW working in the Middle East), detailing the ordeals that they went through, and discussions with OFW group leaders offering insights about the laws and regulations that Filipinos should abide to while working abroad, or at least in the middle east. Knowingly breaking rules and traversing ethical and cultural standards with reckless abandon, these Filipinos deal with realities that are far bigger than simply just realizing their dreams of giving their families the lives that they deserve.

1. Six Degrees of Separation From Lilia Cuntapay (Antoinette Jadaone)

What else is there to say about Antoinette Jadaone’s brilliant, meta-loving film about the most famous but nameless extra in Philippine cinema? A lot, really, especially on how it encapsulates the Filipino Dream into the life of its lead actress. But what we should mention is how it deserves to be seen by every Filipino, especially those who grew up with the toothless face of ‘Nay Lilia stalking them in their dreams after watching the Halloween edition of Magandang Gabi Bayan or re-runs of Filipino horror films.

Taking a chance on an actress who is used to slinking into roles that demand mere minutes (or even seconds) of screen time, Jadaone creates a fascinating study of celebrity culture and how a community builds itself around a person who has represented their dreams of making it big one day. But more importantly, Six Degrees stems from a sincere, gimmick-free desire to recognize the life and legacy of an actress who has worked out of an earnest passion for the craft that she has dedicated herself in all her life.

Honorable Mentions: Mapang-akit (John Torres), Mga Anino sa Tanghaling Tapat (Ivy Universe Baldoza), Elehiya Para sa Bumibisita Mula sa Rebolusyon (Lav Diaz), Boundary (Benito Bautista), Niño (Loy Arcenas), Busong (Auraeus Solito)

Film Review of Lawas Kan Pinabli by Noli Manaig from Closely Watched Frames (2011)

FOREVER LOVED (Lawas Kan Pinabli, Christopher Gozum, 2011). A film review by Noli Manaig published at Closely Watched Frames (2011).

Writ large is the heroic struggle of the Filipino diaspora in movies about the overseas contract worker. When the dramatization of marytyrdom is even remotely justified, expect multiple versions out of it: Bagong Bayani and The Flor Contemplacion Story, for instance. Such films tend to perpetuate myths, mostly favorable, about our so-called unsung heroes. This is not, nor should it be, the whole story. Christopher Gozum’s experimental documentary, Forever Loved, forwards a corrective to all the attractive portraits in film or in other media. Or at least, Gozum’s point is to paint a more humanized picture.

Few sources can be as reliable and comprehensive as Gozum concerning this. Himself an overseas contract worker of long-standing, he shot three years worth of footage in Saudi Arabia – its deserts, moors, cities and its Filipino expatriate community – without intention to turn it into a film. The material eventually took shape and the result is Forever Loved, a work with a fresh perspective, with a sometimes polemic and often long, discursive content.

Running 3 hours and 20 minutes, Forever Loved can be regarded as a documentary first, and a fictional/experimental film, second. The documentary footages are real-life interviews with Filipino overseas workers whose stories are both new and familiar. There is the near-rape victim, the unpaid worker, the fall guy, all reinforcing the notion of a tricky, knotty life abroad, but there are also stories from the flipside such as that of the fossil/rock collector, who seems to have found a fulfilling life in his adopted country.

The most telling segments of Forever Loved, however, lead it to credible authorities with articulate insight into the overseas worker. A Filipino journalist of long-tenure in Saudi Arabia explains how our history of colonial subservience makes us vulnerable to the abuse of foreigners. The creator of, a website that documents the Filipino experience abroad, reports a contrasting quality that is supposed to land the Filipino in trouble: his intrinsic stubbornness, a trait we have never thought exportable. Such contradictory insights hint at the complicated, checkered nature of the Filipino.

These documentary passages are framed by a fictional story about a newcomer in Saudi Arabia. He has traveled not just to take a job but to search for his wife who has gone missing for three years in that Middle Eastern country. His story takes its shape from the myth of Odyssey as well as the biblical Moses. Like Odysseus, he undertakes a far-ranging journey in the hopes of reaching his wife. Like Odysseus, he even finds a kind of Calypso in the desert. But he is also a kind of Moses, the film’s own analogy, who sadly discovers the debauchery of the exodus, that is, the crimes of the Filipino diaspora.

For every alleged case of victimization that befalls a Filipino, Gozum finds a contradictory voice, a credible statistic, to balance our vision. The facts paint the reverse of the martyr: a not-so-passive, not-so-innocent Filipino. His crimes, largely unreported or distorted when they reach our shores, abound such as drug-trafficking, gambling, and practices deemed illegal in host nations. Those who are in flight, the so-called runaway workers who often want to be repatriated, have a lot to run away for.

Forever Loved can be viewed, in simplistic terms, as two movies rolled into one. It is possible to untwine the documentary aspect from the fictive section. Each one, alone, could probably hold up to scrutiny. Together, they work in a kind of uneasy synergy that creates an eye-opening and wildly experimental film. That’s because naturalistic documentary does not traditionally mix with formal experiment. Admittedly Forever Loved is more cinematically inclusive – and therefore less disciplined – than the purely experimental Anacbanua.

It may, however, also be a simple question of unfamiliarity. Midway through this sprawling opus, the film’s interweaving of documentary and fiction assumes a rhythm we slide into, and the fresh perspective it affords about the Filipino overseas worker is wholly absorbing even if unflattering. The experience is greatly enhanced by the film’s fictional/experimental portion that shares similarities with the avant-garde work of Philippe Garrel. Indelible are the fierce and binding rhythms of Pangasinan language, mostly the poetry of the poet-protagonist, and Ran Kirlian’s futuristic synths on the soundtrack.

Forever Loved, in the end, may well be the most thorough, most textured, and most insightful study on the Filipino OCW. Perhaps such a saga of a people’s exodus is bound to unfold in many more unforeseen ways and will never see an immediate end. Gozum deserves to be commended for going against the grain, forwarding a perspective the rest of us aren’t prepared to entertain. He never loses sight of the human picture, the stories he has heard or knows first-hand. These stories, whether grounded on the real or the invented, must resonate with him, cut him to the quick, a heart that harbors the traumas of being so far from home.

Film Review of Anacbanua by Epoy Deyto from Kawts Kamote (2010)

Kawts Kamote
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Anacbanua (2009)

Direktor: Christopher Gozum
Runtime: 104 mins
Mga Nagsiganap:
Lowell Conales bilang MAKATA
Che Ramos bilang MUSIA
Tristan Aguirre bilang OGAW
Marissa Bautista bilang TAGALAHAD
Christopher Gozum bilang TAGALAHAD

Isang magandang indikasyon ng pagunlad sa pelikulang Pilipino ay ang pagdami ng mga pelikulang naisasaad sa mga lokal na diyalekto at wika. Dagdag pa rito ang walang kaparis na estetikang sadyang sariling atin.

Ang Anacbanua ay isang muling pagsilip, pagtanaw, at pagbalik sa kinagisnang kultura. Inilalahad nito ang isang paghamon sa lahat na bumalik, muling linangin, at ipagtanggol ang katutubong wika, dahil ito ang sumasalamin sa kultura at kasaysayan ng bayan.

Sa buong kasaysayan ko ng panunuod ng pelikula, ito na marahil ang pinaka-direkta, pinaka-seryoso at pinaka-maigting sa paglalahad ng kaniyang mensahe. Walang salitang nasayang. Inilahad sa buong 104 na minuto ang lahat ng nais at kailangan upang pakilusin ang nais nitong paghandugan ng mensahe.

Para sa isang makata, isa sa pinakamamahal nito ay ang wika at mga salita, at ang makitang dahan-dahan itong namamatay ay parang isang inang nawawalay sa anak. Malungkot, masakit. Ito ang pakiramdam na mapalalim ka sa pelikulang ito. Maaaring hindi lahat ay makuha ang nais nitong ipabatid, ngunit madarama mo ang kalungkutan sa bawat salita.

Isang matapang na paglalahad. Lagi kong hinahangaan ang mga film-maker na hindi natatakot mag-eksperimento. Hindi natatakot sa ano mang sabihin ng tao, ang sa kanila lamang ay maipabatid ang dapat mabatid. Mga tunay na alagad ng sining.

Posted by Epoy Deyto at Saturday, August 28, 2010
Labels: Christopher Gozum, Filipino

The A/V Club (The Philippine Star)

The A/V Club
(The Philippine Star) Updated March 19, 2010 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – ‘The A/V Club’ is a column that will rotate pieces from the views of four film critics Alexis respected and supported: Richard Bolisay, Francis Cruz, Dodo Dayao and Philbert Dy. Alexis spoke highly of these four critics.

By Francis Joseph A. Cruz

Ditsi Carolino’s Lupang Hinarang (roughly translated in English as Hindered Land), a two-part documentary about the failure of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Act, screened during last year’s edition of Cinemalaya as a work in progress. The documentary has all the ingredients for late-night editorial-political television programming. However, what Carolino does is both simple and magical. By following the farmers in their symbolic battles (the Cuenca farmers staged a 29-day hunger strike in front of the Agrarian Reform headquarters; while the Bukidnon farmers walked all the way from Bukidnon to Manila), allowing the farmers to tell or show their own stories without need of intervention, and ultimately relegating the politics to the background, she molds what possibly could be the most poignant, urgent and pertinent advocacy-oriented film in recent years. Editing hundreds of hours of footage into a tightly woven package showcases Carolino’s talent for taut storytelling and efficient filmmaking. Creating a masterpiece that moved an entire audience to sobs and tears for people whose lives and dilemmas they may hardly know or normally care about showcases Carolino’s sincerity, selflessness and compassion, three traits I wished more of our filmmakers had. The fact that the documentary is still a work in progress is quite troubling, evoking a sense that there are still so many promises of land grants that remain hindered and unfulfilled.

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By Dodo Dayao

Filipinos in High Definition (John Torres): A year later, this work-in-progress would cohere into John’s second feature, Years When I Was A Child Outside.

But who knew the resonance of seeing it in its halfway-there state, with a live score at that, would gain even more cling and force over time and overshadow, for me at least, the finished work?

This is a film that most likely doesn’t exist anymore, at least not in this form, and my love for it gains a melancholic pang out of that and that’s even before we get to the work itself — unfinished films about unfinished lives strung together into an unfinished piece as shot through with hope as it is with sadness, meditating as it does on the agonies, but more on the ecstasies, of failing beautifully.

In many ways, it is the same film. And in just as many ways, it isn’t. Unforgettable, unrepeatable.

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By Phil Dy

Jerrold Tarog has emerged as our very own version of Robert Rodriguez: a filmmaker who can write, shoot, cut and score his own films, work quickly and cheaply while maintaining a certain level of quality, all while keeping a vague notion of mainstream sensibilities in mind.

He makes a bid for commercial success this year with his third picture, and how he does might clue us in to the future of independent filmmaking in this country.

Is there a viable financial model in independent films that doesn’t preclude gay content or having a large mainstream budget?

Tarog seems determined to find out. Outside of the usual monetary concerns, the most exciting Filipino filmmaker around is Christopher Gozum.

His first feature Anacbanua (which won top prizes at Cinemanila) was the first Filipino film entirely in Pangasinense. In a poetic and visceral 100 minutes, Gozum makes a bid for the cultural preservation of his native Pangasinan, along the way documenting the livelihoods and cultural artifacts disappearing in the wake of general assimilation.

It’s worth noting that Gozum is an OFW, working as a videographer in the Middle East. Perhaps it is this situation that grants the filmmaker such a unique voice, a kind of honesty and immediacy that just can’t be found elsewhere. I don’t really know. Whatever the case, Gozum’s got plenty to say, and he’s going to keep saying it.

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By Richard Bolisay

There is greatness that goes without saying; greatness that only gets vaguer when explained, when detailed, when someone comes to its defense; greatness, considering the meaning of the word slowly becoming obsolete, that is liberating, emancipating.

For a film like Anacbanua to be made speaks of the times, of the reality that multiplies itself as much as fiction does. The young poet returns to his roots to have himself healed — to free himself from the angst that he feels, the spiritual sickness that grips him as he dreads the materiality of the mundane.

What does he find? What does he not find? What else has changed? What else can change? Filmmaker Christopher Gozum films images the way an impressionist painter dabs his brush on his tableau, not only careful to achieve the effect he wants, but also careless to discover an exciting mistake.

Remember what the pensive Emmeline Fox says in The Crimson Petal and the White? “I think we’re moving towards such a strange time. A time when all our moral choices will be complicated and compromised by our love of progress.” And if she said that in a book taking place in the 1870s, could she also say the same thing now? Now as ever?

Imagine her saying: “Love exists; and now it is as painful as death, as slippery as memory, as lonely as a falling leaf.” Yet, in Anacbanua, love exists, and it is indeed as painful as death, as slippery as memory, and as lonely as a falling leaf. It has the courage of others and the heart of just one — the dead star’s glimmer before it bids goodbye, before it succumbs to that progress. Pronouncements never really make sense upon reflection, but for the heck of it: Anacbanua not only completes a year; it crowns a decade.