Reviewed by Samantha Se
Oro is based on the true story of a tiny village situated on an isolated island. The islands’ inhabitants make their living by extracting and purifying gold deposits that they collect from a cave near their village. This is a major source of income for the villagers’ families, and most of the men have been mining for their entire lives. The village’s peace is soon shattered by the arrival of a group of heavily-armed men that claim to be conservationists seeking to prevent further harm to the environment by preventing the villagers from continuing their livelihoods. As the story progresses, the tension escalates into something more horrifying and violent.
Oro is a powerful tale with themes of greed, injustice, and courage in the midst of great turmoil. It is the kind of film that won’t hesitate to blur the lines between right and wrong, as the film often makes you second-guess the motivations of certain characters. At the same time, Oro is a commentary on the apathy of humanity to the plight of the abused–it takes a very special kind of film to make you care so much about each of the characters, but Oro is exactly that.
But, alas, it is also a movie that shoots itself in the foot because of the hypocrisy of its own creators. At its heart, Oro is an emotional tale chock full of heart and substance. But the controversy surrounding the dog slaughter depicted in this film cheapens the value of the movie itself, which asks you to spare a thought for the lives of the townspeople while degrading the value of life at the same time. The values dissonance present in the real-world scandal of Oro and the plight of the miners in the film will make you question if Oro has taken the right way to deliver its message.
Reviewed by Cody Cepeda
The story of Trisha Echevarria (given justice by Paolo Ballesteros) encapsulates the interwoven trials and triumphs that come with her journey as a transwoman and beauty queen in the Philippines. Sometimes one surrenders to the cries of the heart to go after what they want and live the life they want to live, and for Trisha, life was never easy. She had to face challenges such as being disowned and adopting a child; she has no financial security, and the fact that she is a transwoman in a country that is still not ready to accept her as such makes her own identity her own social boa constrictor.
Die Beautiful was an honest and sensitive film. It did not resort to the usual cliches and gimmicky tropes, and doesn’t reduce the members of the LGBT into a laughingstock or the usual bakya characters seen on television. Instead, it unfolds into something heartwarming and all the more real. Beyond the dazzling gowns and make-up transformations, the film showed us how Trisha continued on amidst tribulations; she was unwavering against the curveballs life threw her and showed that beauty and love can blossom—even in the face of chaos.
Entertaining as the film may be, it provokes something else that is far, far beyond laughter. Die Beautiful engages, scrutinizes, probes, and lays bare the harsh, cruel reality that members of the LGBT community face in their daily lives. Moreover, it puts into the light just how far we have yet to go as a people when it comes to our compassion.
Reviewed by Eternity Ines
Being the only horror film in the eight film entries in this year’s MMFF, Seklusyon has had expectation upon expectation piled up on its gloomy and dreary shoulders. At first, the movie has a simple premise, a familiar one with horror movies: discover who’s from the Devil or who’s from God, then get away from it. Far away.
But as the movie builds up to its ending, it becomes clear that the movie is much more than one big scare–it is a social allegory to the horrors in society, a movie you have to bring home and mull over because it talks so much of the secluded areas of evil that we, as a people, try to hide but can’t quite manage to control.
Seklusyon haunts with its stunning cinematography. Its sepia-toned frames are perfect in matching the greenery surrounding the secluded area where the deacons are; the dark frames create the perfect mood for a hide and seek with the Devil’s “alleged” spawn, Anghela Sta. Ana. Erik Matti directs the film knowing that the audience are expecting cliché jump scares and so, puts all the shocking moments in unexpected places, frames, and shots. This proves to be effective as the expectation for a cliché jump scare only heightens the dread and fear of the real scare.
However, the movie is not without faults. The narrative of the priest Ricardo trying to unearth the mystery regarding Sister Cecilia and Anghela Sta. Ana reduces the thrill for the audience in trying to find out if they really are from the Devil, especially as the plot line doesn’t doesn’t intersect well with the story of the deacons in seclusion. The movie also takes its time to build tension, and so results in a rushed kind of ending. However, the utter creepiness of its slow start leaves viewers shivering, wondering, and covering their eyes. Seklusyon is still a great film that will scare and make you question what it really means in the world today.
Vince & Kath & James
Reviewed by Jaime Papa
Vince and Kath and James is a love story for the millennial age. It tells the story of a love triangle that develops over online messaging. The online series turned full-length movie is about as formulaic as they come, with a block headed jock, a weak-willed geek, and of course the girl in between. That does not necessarily make it a bad film, however. In fact, although it leans on every romcom trope in the book, it does so without making the film a thorough parody of itself. The film is carried by the charming performances of many of the main characters of the film that make the admittedly very predictable plot less of an issue because of their on-screen chemistry. Despite catering more to fans of the genre, Vince and Kath and James is able to provide an enjoyable viewing experience and non-fans shouldn’t feel the need to talk their friends out of this one.