The Indiestream: The lens of that “cheap cam”

By PINK-JEAN FANGON MELEGRITO

Blurred shots from digital video camera. Themes coming from the outskirts, railroads, bay walks. People are stories themselves. Alternatively, sometimes just like a TV commercial. Parcel by parcel, bit by bit, you get to know them.

That is how Emmanuel Dela Cruz and Raymond Lee put premium life on screen. The two have been sparring partners for quite some time now since they have established UFO Pictures together with three other screenwriters and producers from both worlds of television and commercial films.

In cooperation with the UP College of Communication and the Arts and film-enthusiasts organization Sineklab-Baguio, UFO Pictures have offered screenings of their two highly acclaimed independent films- Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros) and Sarong Banggi (One Night).

Lee and Dela Cruz also shared some of their experiences of transitioning from commercial film productions to independent low-budgeted films.

Sharing of story ideas and inquiries on the FAQs of indie filmmaking enlightened both the audience and the duo.

Living the L(one)ly Night: Sarong Banggi

Another busy Manila night encroaches one woman into perhaps the most extraordinarily unbelievable and unforgettable moment in her life.

Jaclyn (yes, played by Jacqlyn Jose) is an old prostitute, who describes herself as 25 years old to ‘virgin’ customers through text messaging; checking back reality, she already seems to rather have 25 years of experience instead.

Meanwhile, pressured by his buddies, birthday virgin boy Nyoy (Angelo Ilagan) passes through one of Roxas Boulevard’s pedestrian crossing while his taste of ‘life’ waits on the other side of the highway.

The musical theme is very redundant that even a day or two after you’ve watched the film, you still hum in your head the Bicolano lullaby Sarong Banggi. It is one of the film’s most effective tools to make the audience never forget what the film is about.

Unfolding the compelling end of the story, both the audience and the actors unite their feelings in awe. It was undeniably one of the cleverest treatments for unfolding truths and surprises in a film.

Maxi with wings (pun intended): Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros

Scattered used diapers, tin cans, plastic wrappers, and, of course, human feces – this is the actual image of Manila, the other side belonging to the urban poor.

Maxi (played by newcomer teen actor Nathan Lopez), gaiting his way home from the market, picks up a fallen orchid from a passing funeral car. I guess, someone picked up the beauty among the dirt. And Maxi has yet to realize that his life is going to be a ride far from a boat floating in a river of flowers.

It is the hodgepodge of human exposition that life is not a bed of roses. Actually, like set in the film, life dances to a broken piano as played by a drunken man (played by Pepe Smith, the film’s musical director also).

Police corruption and drug dealing seem to be still imminent in the present urban poor way of living, although perhaps to some people these are cliché issues that can never be resolved.

As Maxi was going through his adolescence and discovery of his first love (honest police newbie Victor Perez, played by Jr Valentine), he also questions his concepts of truth and justice. Would he hide his family of hoods (Soliman Cruz-father, Neil Ryan Sese and Ping Medina-brothers) as they live off everyday from stealing? Or would he pursue his unrequited love for the policeman hungered to ensnare criminals?

The only thing missing is the premise how Maxi was accepted by his family as an out-and-proud gay cross dresser. Well, giving credit to the writers and creative team, perhaps their point is to eliminate in always rationalizing the idea of homosexuality, that for once, a homosexual is accepted just like that. (If only the real world evolves that way…)

I have seen Maxi grow, blossom with his newfound wings for survival- determination of what he wanted, sure of what he is. As the film is also growing on its own, Maximo is the official entry of the Philippines to the Oscar’s 2007 Foreign Language Film-Independent Script category.

So, it seems that to see through cheap lenses of cameras pays off grandioso. #

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