"New Filipino Cinema" spotlights the island nation's burgeoning, work-in-progress filmmaking scene
Their aristocratic pretensions are a far cry from the rowdier real life captured or depicted in other YBCA selections. A bizarre footnote to the United States' complicated, incriminating relationship with the Philippines is documented in Monster Jiminez's Kano: An American and His Harem (2010). Its subject is a Yankee Vietnam vet whose military pension allowed him to construct a sort of one-man imperialist paradise centered around his penis. Whether he was a gracious benefactor, a bullying rapist, or both is a puzzle only clouded further by contradictory input from former/current wives and mistresses (even while he's in prison), stateside relatives who recall a childhood ideal to shape a sociopath, and the authorities who've lately kept him in prison.
War is ongoing, marriage an impractical hope in Arnel M. Mardoquio's impressive Crossfire (2011), whose young lovers in southern region Mindanao must dodge government-vs.-rebel-vs.-bandit guns as well as a rural poverty sufficient to make our heroine vulnerable to being offered as a lender-debt payoff. Their plight is starkly contrasted with the spectacular scenery of countryside few tourists will ever hazard.
Its atmospheric opposite is Lawrence Fajardo's Amok (2011), whose thousand threads of seemingly free-floating narrative depict life dedicatedly melting down all race, age, class, and economic divisions during a heat wave passage through one of Manila's busiest intersections. What birth and development keeps apart gets nail-gunned together, however, once this string of naturalistic vignettes hits a plot device that delivers deus ex machina to all with no melodramatic restraint. Fate also lays heavy hand on the junior protagonists of Mes de Guzman's At the Corner of Heaven and Earth (2011), a crude but honest neo-realist drama about four orphaned and runaway boys trying to eke out a marginal existence in Nueva Vizcaya.
Should this all sound pretty grim, be informed there's lots of levity — albeit much of it gallows-humored — on the YBCA slate. Jade Castro's exuberantly silly Remington and the Curse of the Zombadings (2011) finds the funny in homophobia as its crass young hero (a farcically deft Mart Escudero) is "cursed" by an angry queen he'd insulted to become gay himself; meanwhile somebody goes around their regional burg assassinating cross-dressers via ray-gun. Plus: zombies, and the proverbial kitchen sink. Also on the frivolous side is Antoinette Jadaone's mockumentary Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay (2011), in which the titular veteran screen thespian struggles for recognition after decades playing bit parts and occasional showier ones, notably as witchy folkloric "aswang" attempting to suck the lifeblood from newborn babes. (See aswang-related coverage in this week's Trash column, too.)
Yet those are but moderately playful New Filipino Cinema exercises compared to the determined off-map outrages practiced by Mondomanila (2011). This gonzo eruption of spermazoidal huzzah! by multimedia Manila punk underground mover Khavn de la Cruz seeks to leave no societal cavity unexplored, or unoffended. Opening with an infamous quote from Brokedown Palace (1999) star Claire Danes, who characterized Manila as a "ghastly and weird city ... [with] no sewage system," it delivers both fuck-you and fuck-me to that judgment via 75 minutes of mad under caste collage. There isn't much plot. But there's variably judged arson, pedophilia, yo-yo trick demonstrations, poultry abuse, upscale mall shopping, voyeuristic pornographia, Tagalog rap, rooftop drum soloing, and limbless-little-person salesmanship of duck eggs.