Thursday, January 05, 2012

2011: Philippine Shorts

2011: Philippine Shorts

Criminally overlooked perhaps because their commercial value is limited, short films are like really effective pick-up lines. Within a matter of a few carefully selected words, emotions are captured, leading to what the pick-upper hopes would be a night of satisfying orgasms (or delectable conversations, depending on the moral barometer of the suave pick-upper). Limited to a running time of less than an hour, short filmmakers have the daunting task of creating worlds, forwarding ideas, convincing cynics, and expressing long-repressed feelings, while establishing an aesthetic and motivation that would set them apart from other audio-visual campaigns.

Raya Martin’s Ars Colonia, which was commissioned by the Hubert Bals Fund, was shot in hi-8 analogue video. Starting with the image of the silhouette of what seems to be a Spanish conquistador backdropped by an a mountainous isle surrounded by raging sees, the film suddenly explodes in what is either a blazing battleground or a fireworks celebration (the dazzling visual of colors bursting resulted from Martin drawing over the actual film with markers of various colors). Also shot in analogue film, Gym Lumbera and Timmy Harn’s Class Picture features various schoolchildren whose yearly class photographs are being taken in the beach. The film, beautifully faded like a memory stored for decades and suddenly rediscovered, evokes the fragile pleasures of reminiscence. Martin’s Ars Colonia, Lumbera and Harn’s Class Picture, and Shireen Seno’s Big Boy has turned analogue film into time machines, transporting viewers to places and events remembered from a respectable distance.

Jon Lazam’s Hindi sa Atin ang Buwan (The Moon is Not Ours) was filmed from a consumer-level video camera. A sequence of images of travel connected by ingenious editing (at one point, the moon bursts into fireworks before putting the audience within the alienated safety of the interior of a taxi with the unnamed protagonist in a moment of longing), the short converts the randomness of vacation shoots into a document of the heartbreak of distance, starting from rapid movements and ending in solemn quietude, as if to visualize what a sigh of romantic ache would sound in a silent film.

In Walang Katapusang Kwarto (The Endless Room), Emerson Reyes mercilessly focuses on the faces of his two outstanding actors (Sheenly Gener and Max Celada) who portray two lovers wasting idle time after what is presumed to be a bout of intense lovemaking. By invading the private spaces of his performers, Reyes concocts a document of voyeurism, where the audience takes intense pleasure in listening to the humorous banter of two persons engaged in an illicit relationship, the same way these two persons take intense pleasure in invading into the private lives of their neighbors, who we will only know through the way they shut their doors.

Filmmaker Jerrold Tarog was commissioned by an advocacy foundation to create a documentary on the Agusan Marshlands, an area in Mindanao that is famed for its various animal and plant life. Neither familiar nor armed with any emotional attachment with the place, he conceived the assignment as an adventure, seen from the eyes of his avatar, Gaby dela Merced. The result is Agusan Marsh Diaries, a delightful documentary that could have been just another tourism ad but ended up as an experience like no other. Unlike Tarog, Cierlito Tabay and Moreno Benigno do not have the task of reinventing the wheel. Undo is a documentary like any other. The only difference here is that Tabay and Benigno’s subject, an artist whose drug addiction is funded by his art and whose art is fuelled by his drug addiction, is more than enough to carry the film. Knowing this, Tabay and Benigno fills the minutes with only the subject, drowning it with his art, his life, even his music.

The stories and messages conveyed by the short films released in 2011 are all diverse. Their methods of conveyance are to say the least, intriguing. From Marianito Dio, Jr.’s Sarong Aldaw (One Day), which tells the all-too-familiar tale of young man leaving the provinces for Manila with immense lyricism, to John Torres’ Mapang-akit, which recounts from visual and aural textures of salvaged footage from another film the tale of a man who is seduced by an aswang, to Chuck Hipol’s Man of the House, which conveys the skewed image of the perfect Filipino through the ads that these families consume, to Nica Santiago’s Awit ni Maria (Song of Maria), a gorgeous tale of a man who falls for a prostitute and lives that admiration through the music he imagines for her, to Jason Paul Laxamana’s Timawa (Free Man), which weaves together fashion photography, filmmaking, impossibly beautiful people and the theme of marital infidelity to come up with a comedy with Lynchian awkwardness, these shorts are not limited by the stories they attempt to tell. Instead, they create stories from the way they tell stories, adding layers upon layers, creating a treasure trove of information within the very short span of mixing creativity, indulgences and everything else that make films more than just a succession of moving images.

Below are eleven notable shorts released and seen in 2011:

1. Ars Colonia (Raya Martin)
2. Hindi sa Atin ang Buwan (The Moon is not Ours, Jon Lazam)
3. Mapang-akit (John Torres) 
4. Class Picture (Gym Lumbera & Timmy Harn)
5. Walang Katapusang Kwarto (Endless Room, Emerson Reyes)
6. Sarong Aldaw (One Day, Marianito Dio, Jr.)
7. Undo (Cierlito Tabay & Moreno Benigno)
8. Awit ni Maria (Song of Maria, Nica Santiago)
9. Man of the House (Chuck Hipol)
10. Agusan Marsh Diaries (Jerrold Tarog)
11. Timawa (Free Man, Jason Paul Laxamana)


Anonymous said...

gusto kong mapanood yung agusan marsh diaries ni jerrold. naikikuwento lang sa akin ni sherad yung lugar dati. gusto ko tuloy bumisita. - john

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