The parade of films for the 46th Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) continues. One feature simply wouldn’t do to showcase all the diverse films that the festival has to offer. Thus, The LaSallian presents the second part of the MMFF 2020 review.
Suarez the Healing Priest, Sarah
Writer-director Joven Tan’s Suarez: The Healing Priest is a biopic of Fernando Suarez (John Arcilla), the Filipino priest who rose to fame for his supposed faith-healing abilities. The film strays from Tan’s usual comedic territory and delves deep into the complexities of Suarez’ healing crusades—the dangers of hope, the allegations that threaten him, and the disapproval of the very institution he serves.
Tejay Gonzales’ cinematography boasts of simple yet powerful visuals bolstered by the use of symbolism and colors that give the film a compelling structure. Arcilla’s impeccable acting is undeniably one of the commendable aspects of the film, outshining the rest of the cast.
However, despite the charming cinematography and a strong performance from its lead, the film still falls short in establishing a connection with the audience. In painting Suarez as saintlike, the film loses its nuance. Although Tan skillfully depicts the life of Suarez, much is to be improved to leave one impressed.
Mang Kepweng, Pat
Much like its prequel, Mang Kepweng: Ang Lihim ng Bandanang Itim is centered on the adventures of its titular character, the albularyo with a magical red bandana. Directed by Topel Lee, the movie is highly reminiscent of the action-comedy films of the 70s. It bears textbook filmography with the characters focus on delivering quick, snappy, and sometimes blunt humor to the audience. The heavy use of CGI and vlog-style gag sound effects, however, adds a distinct sense of modernity.
Vhong Navarro, who reprises his role as Mang Kepweng, stands out with the whimsical portrayal of his character. His dynamic with Ryan Bang (Janwick) and Ion Perez (Einstein) made for humorous and sometimes introspective scenes for Mang Kepweng himself, which were among the most memorable ones in the film.
Behind the deflated jokes, however, the film’s plot fails to shine. The storyline itself is nothing special, with several plot points compromised for the sake of its gags, and some were even irrelevant to its overarching plotline. This made Mang Kepweng: Ang Lihim ng Bandanang Itim all the more predictable, with only its raw comedy carrying the wonders of the film.
Pakboys Takusa, Bianca
Director Al Tantay’s Pakboys: Takusa is composed entirely of pure unfiltered machismo and an excessive lack of substance. Its plot—if you can even consider it as such—revolves entirely around four married men’s efforts to keep their womanizing hidden, while their wives conspire to uncover their affairs. This pads most of the film’s nearly two-hour runtime until a bumbling “villain” is lazily inserted two-thirds in to generate some form of contrived conflict so the men can save the day.
The film overall lacks any positives. It relies on its leads’ (Janno Gibbs, Dennis Padilla, Jerald Napoles, and Andrew E) comedic reputations, but disappointingly fails to produce any quality laughs. The script is rife with Boy Bastos-reminiscent jokes that have such blatant disregard for sensitive matters such as infidelity, transsexuality, and suicide. The movie steamrolls over these with all the grace of a drunkard stumbling home, earnestly believing that the off-color jokes can still have audiences in stitches as it would have once had in, let’s say, 1973.
Moreover, the shoddy camerawork and cheap-looking green screen tricks are not doing the film any favors, either. With a story straight out of your grandfather’s dusty attic, mediocre performances, and less-than-average film direction, it’s definitely difficult to find anything redeemable about Pakboys: Takusa.
The Boy Foretold by the Stars, Jamie
Dominic (Adrian Lindayag), a closeted gay teen longing for romance, consults a fortune-teller to prove that Luke (Keann Johnson), the troubled boy he meets in their school retreat, is his soulmate—even if it takes more than magic to triumph in love.
The film displays the fallibilities of first love through cutesy texting montages and bluish schema. Johnson is entrancing beside the vivacious Lindayag with his musical numbers and confrontation scenes. The film’s cinematography and soundtrack give the perfect blend of sheerness and poignancy, setting the stage for the main leads’ palpable chemistry while delivering hard-hitting lines.
But the essence of this film is Director Dolly Dulu’s dive into homosexuality’s biblical definition without besmirching religion as the main root of homophobia—instead limning faith’s impetus to examine cultural and sociopolitical prejudices.
However, its depiction of queer struggles is still sparse, lacking nuance and resounding conclusions. Despite this, in its lightheartedness and sincerity, The Boy Foretold By The Stars is still a beautiful addition to the growing number of queer love stories in media.
Fan Girl, Andy
Previously helming modern romance classics like That Thing Called Tadhana and Never Not Love You, writer-director Antoinette Jadaone’s Fan Girl is a dark deviation from her usual kilig fare. Detailing the events after an obsessive fan girl, Jane (Charlie Dizon), decides to stow away at the back of her idol’s (Paulo Avelino) pickup truck, this well-crafted film sharply critiques the bogus facade of celebrity worship.
Fan Girl effortlessly breezes through its constant tonal shifts, creating a chaotic universe eerily resembling real life. Contributing largely to this feat, Dizon’s nuanced take on the titular fan girl unveils a young woman on the verge of adulthood. In stark contrast, the convincing sinister persona that Avelino embodies for his turn as an alternate version of himself reinforces the film’s cynical view on fame and the patriarchy. The use of intimate shot composition coupled with occasional in-the-moment handheld camerawork, along with character-driven editing cues, lets the two masterful lead performances shine amid the film’s organically heightening stakes.
But the film’s undeniable highlights are its directing and writing. As an elevated and thoroughly thought-provoking exploration of a modern Filipina’s societal struggles, Fan Girl cements Jadaone as one of the great talents currently gracing Philippine cinema.
With its bold and diverse lineup, this year’s MMFF enters new territory while retaining its classic elements. This direction promises exciting things for the festival as new players enter the game and viewership shifts with its digital transition. With that in mind, the 46th edition of the MMFF will go down in the books for keeping the magic of movies alive during these unprecedented times.