POTATO ON THE GO REVIEW (Movie):
A few months ago, I was not happy when I learned that Studio 5 (Lola Basyang) backed out from this year's 2012 Metro Manila Film Festival. If the plan was to use original Lola Basyang stories, I would have supported the film. But thank goodness, MMFF organizers announced its replacement THY WOMB (Sa Iyong Sinapupunan) and I can't help but get excited about seeing the movie!
When I saw Brillante Mendoza and the cast in a news report showing how they were well received in Venice Film Festival and the movie trailer, I just knew another gem in Philippine cinema has been produced.
Two days ago, I posted on TaDi's FB page (www.facebook.com/digitista) my priority movies for MMFF 2012. THY WOMB is first in the list, and I watched it yesterday. Lining up was not a problem because there were many seats available for the film (sad to say).
After a barrage of Hollywood movie trailers, everyone in the audience got excited as soon as the film's OBB started. And then the first frames were a bit unimpressive. I even heard women movie goers at my back saying "Nakakahilo! (I'm getting dizzy watching the scene)". But then, I hoped it was just the first scene and I expected to be really satisfied.
Unfortunately it's the opposite. Please don't get me wrong. I rallied for this film but I was just not fully satisfied with what I witnessed. Why?
Cinematography is bad. There are too much inconsistencies in terms of quality, color and composition. There were just a number of unpolished frames and scenes especially on outdoor and establishing shots, and rain scenes. I guess the cinematographer had a hard time shooting from a boat?
But to be fair, there were also several beautifully captured scenes that mesmerized the audience (e.g. Shaleha and Bangas-an on boat and about to go home, the whale shark scene). Scenes at the community though were well photographed.
And sometimes, the scene is just a dialogue between two characters, but I can notice the shake of the camera. If it's a running or walking scene, I would have understood why there are some noticeable camera movements. But as said, it's not. And the shake or movement is quite annoying.
And then I think there's a problem on the screenplay. Again, don't get me wrong. I in fact appreciated the time spent on showing the Badjao culture and tradition. It was a feast for the eyes and food for the mind. I felt proud seeing one of our country's most colorful indigenous traditions. However, I think the story dwelled too much on the backdrop / setting that the writer forgot to focus and substantiate the main plot. I support the showing of the Badjao culture and tradition but not to the extent that the film will become some sort of a travelogue. Focus! I would have appreciated if they have shown more the struggle of the couple to have a child in their house and the challenges that Shaleha faced with her life's irony.
And then, they showed some snapshots of social problems like fish kill, terrorism and militarization, the usual formula of the so-called "socially relevant" films. It was planted but it was never played up, never talked about. They just showed that the community suffers from these problems (to show social relevance?). But for me, it's not really needed. The problem with telling too many things is you'll end up telling nothing.
The wedding scene is fabulous. I couldn't be more proud seeing that wonderful and colorful tradition. But I wonder why that scene was not used for the wedding of Bangas-an and his second wife. It was the wedding of the couple's friends (I guess to weave in and show this colorful Badjao tradition). But don't you think it would be more logical, cinematic and climactic if that was used for the main characters? Direk Brillante should have used that part to show Shaleha's sacrifice. I was waiting for a similar scene for the wedding of Bangas-an and his second wife but the movie just showed the cultural wedding dance and then cut to Lovi's giving birth scene.
When the wedding offering between Bangas-an and his second wife happened, I already felt the intensity of the film. I was eager to see more. Scenes after that were fabulous! But they were just a few scenes. Direk Brillante Mendoza didn't maximize this part of the movie where he could really show the conflict, express the emotion and how the characters processed resolving the challenges in their lives. And then it was ended abruptly.
If there's a saving grace for the film, that would be Nora Aunor, the Production Design and Musical Score. They are the reasons why I was glued to every scene. Nora Aunor was brilliant! No wonder why she is hailed as the greatest Filipino actress of all time. Before, I make fun when people say "Mata pa lang ni Nora, nangungusap na. (Nora's eyes can already express the emotion.). But it's indeed true! There were no hysterical moments but Nora Aunor was able to convey the right emotion, deliver the right attack in every scene. She was so natural, she was so real. Her acting moved me many times. So she rightfully deserves the Best Actress award. I know she won too many already, but what can we do? She's just so excellent! (Bembol Roco's crying scene is commendable! Lovi Poe on the other hand had a hard time acting in the scene where she's giving birth.)
I also love the Musical Score! It perfectly suits every scene where its put. Production Design is both realistic and majestic. It perfectly captured the real situation (the poverty and the simplicity of life) in the Badjao community in Tawi-Tawi and at the same time showed our glorious heritage through the presentation of the Badjao customs and tradition.
I had high expectations but I'm somehow dissatisfied because I know the story, the movie, can do better. It has really a great potential to be a monumental film. Anyway, it's not bad at all. THY WOMB may be unpolished in some parts but it's still worth seeing. It's an eye opener, it's a bridge to our cultural differences. We rarely see films like this so I suggest we spend our money wisely, we experience this movie.
From a scale of 1 to 10 claps, I'm giving THY WOMB a big 7, plus an honorable salute!
THY WOMB is now showing and is still being exhibited at the current MMFF 2012 run (as it should be!).