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Were you able to catch koloWn’s exhibit at the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex last month?

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How long would you stay idle in the midst of crisis?

Visitors of the Cultural Center of Philippines (CCP) last September and October likely took notice of the handful of art pieces scattered throughout the CCP Complex: Interactive art installations, miniature exhibits crammed into previously unused and empty phone booths, mall advertisements loudly touting “50% off!” sales, and even art displayed in trash bins were just a few examples of the works of elusive Cebu-based street art collective KoloWn as showcased their latest exhibit titled “Low Pressured Areas.”

The works, dispersed across the CCP, were not put on exhibit as most traditional artworks are — prominently lit and on full display. Instead, many of KoloWn’s works seemed as if they weren’t actually supposed to be there.

Visitors did not seek out KoloWn’s exhibits so much as stumbled upon them in places where they were least expected — unused telephone booths, empty hallways, trash bins, and among other artists’ works.

This is characteristic of KoloWn, which primarily exhibits their works outdoors in urban locations, encouraging people to engage and interact with their art as they come across them on the street.

With “Low Pressured Areas,” KoloWn reimagined the CCP Complex as a “pseudo-city”: Its halls taking the place of the streets of Metro Manila and Cebu.

The exhibit led viewers to consider how they could be “active citizens” in a country that is plagued by a myriad of social issues.

At the CCP’s front lawn stood Freewall, a sign bearing a URL link which, opened on a phone, allowed viewers to interact with an image of the CCP.

Modern Dilemma, an interactive art piece based on Arturo Luz’s Black and White (which hangs directly above), allowed viewers to rearrange its pieces.

Other works directly confronted social ills. Looped, a human figure wrapped in barricade tape, greeted visitors near the Little Theater entrance; bringing to mind the multitude of extrajudicial killings in the past year.

Throw Up, a cat’s head made of torn paper bags and covered in images of public figures such as Tito Sotto, Imelda Marcos, and Mocha Uson, sat in a trash bin on the third floor.

Addiction, a series of banners like those found at mall sales, addressed rampant consumerism and our fixation on material possessions.

Hello Garci, found on the upper ground floor, reminds viewers of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s alleged rigging of the 2004 elections.

Unlike any other art exhibits where you are prohibited from being in contact with the works, Low Pressured Areas encourages the people to interact — to connect with the society they belong and take part in finding solutions to the issues the plague the country.

The people are caged within idleness and apathy, oblivious of the constant pressure on human rights and democracy, especially the various minority groups fighting for their ancestral lands where many have fallen to unjust killings. Despite the rising turmoil within our own land, several had remained apathetic since they are not “directly” affected.

All these low pressured areas are within your area of responsibility. Will you take your stand or just turn your backs to the people who need you the most — your fellow Filipinos?

by Carlo Miguel Benedicto 

Photos grabbed from KoloWn’s Facebook page

 

 

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Metamorphosis, a film that challenges the conventional

Tiglao tells this story through the never-before-seen character of a Filipino intersex teenager, and he tells it almost flawlessly, with the scenes that make you nostalgic, like you’ve been there before—a sort of déjà vu.

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Screengrab from Metamorphosis Trailer

As a coming-of-age film that probes more extensively into the adolescent psychosexual conflict, J.E. Tiglao’s Metamorphosis is dangerously daring. The film stirred a wave of controversy when the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) classified it as X-rated for exploring intersexuality, later on, it was reclassified into R-16, permitting its screening in local cinemas. 

It opens with a scene at a waterfall in a 1:1 aspect ratio and ends in the same setting, where we find the protagonist, Adam, exceptionally portrayed by Gold Azeron, no longer irresolute. Supporting actress Iana Bernardez, who plays Angel, complements Azaron almost naturally—Adam isn’t without Angel, vice versa. However, the gorgeous visuals of Metamorphosis overshadow the disarray that’s often ignored in the film.

Tiglao tells this story through the never-before-seen character of a Filipino intersex teenager, and he tells it almost flawlessly, with the scenes that make you nostalgic, like you’ve been there before—a sort of déjà vu. Apart from the brilliant footwork of Tey Clamor, the film’s cinematographer, the musical score by Divino Dayacap, from the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music, gave the film its oomph: as if the music understood the complexity of emotions portrayed, and the aesthetics with it.

Tiglao almost easily got away with poor writing by compensating for the other elements in the film. Instead of sustaining its relaxed delicateness, it lost its momentum when Adam’s exploration into his intersexuality was hastily overturned by uncalled-for predatory themes, and sexual awakening was realized by means of harassment.

The film relied heavily on aesthetics while leaving the plot unsustained and undernourished. It undermined the audience’s capacity to understand beyond the script because there was very little depth to it—the metaphors were surface-level and revealed themselves too easily. Some scenes appeared to over-explain themselves because expository writing was brought to an excess. Nevertheless, the film communicated what it sought to: the magnitude of embracing your own uniqueness in pursuit of self-acceptance.

Perhaps one of the most moving scenes in the film was when Adam’s father, a conservative Catholic and a pastor with a strongly-held vision for Adam to reverse his intersexuality – an “Ok, boomer” moment – abandons his unyielding bigoted principles at long last, giving Adam the autonomy to decide on and for his own. Here, the conservative adult matures with the troubled adolescent—and it is this shared acceptance that is unique to Metamorphosis.

Although the film suffers from tacky dialogue and some questionable subplots, it does exactly what a coming-of-age film is supposed to: the audience becomes an echo chamber, where we feel for the protagonist while accompanying him into growth and resolution. 

Metamorphosis, along with its stillness and vulgarity, makes for an ample directorial debut. The “I” in LGBTQIA+ rarely gets talked about, but Tiglao changed that by giving us Metamorphosis: it contests machismo without overemphasizing the feminine, it astounds without unnerving, and most of all it is unrestrained. Metamorphosis, even with its sloppy writing, is sufficiently beautiful—it questions and challenges the conventional, and it does it without fear.

 

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Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo: An Endless Cycle

Falling in love in this generation is like using a trial and error method that gets you nowhere. In the emergence of dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble and websites like Omegle, finding a prospective partner has become fairly easy but also quick to lose.

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Screengrab from Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo official trailer

Labels. There is a silent debate going on about whether labels are important or a factor for complications. Though there is a need to define relationships to know where to draw the line between friends and lovers, it is often terrifying to know what the truth really is. The word ‘commitment’ may seem an intimidating word for some, but it is also loved by many. 

Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo is one of the entries for the Cinema One Originals 2019. Written and directed by Denise O’Hara, who won an award for Best Director in this year’s Gawad Urian for a movie called Mamang, a film about dementia and the struggles of remembering one’s life. 

The film festival ran from November 7 until November 17 in selected malls and microcinemas. Starring Jane Oineza and JC Santos as Alex and Carlo, the story portrays the characters’ struggle in the process of falling in love, falling out, being confused, and being sure at the same time. 

Falling in love in this generation is like using a trial and error method that gets you nowhere. In the emergence of dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble and websites like Omegle, finding a prospective partner has become fairly easy but also quick to lose. 

Alex, played by Jane Oineza, is a woman with big dreams and ambitions, eager to prove to the world that she is more than just a pretty face. Carlo, played by JC Santos, on the other hand, is your typical go-with-the-flow kind of guy who works in the field of graphic design and freelance work. The story progresses as the two create something that neither of them knows what is and what to call. 

By slowly cracking her shell and breaking down her walls, Carlo manages to see the parts of Alex that no one really sees. Underneath her cold gazes and intimidating aura, lies a sappy and marupok girl. One night, after planning and talking about the design for Alex’s upcoming project, a cockroach scare prompts a rush to the bedroom; ensuing a somewhat emotional conversation that turns the atmosphere into purple and red hazes. 

After that night, awkwardness sits between them in the office. Alex, trying to figure out what happened, asks Carlo directly; as to his reply, along with the words “Masaya pa rin naman ‘diba?” creates a questionable feeling both to the characters and the audience. 

Stemming from the title itself, the movie—from start to finish—draws a problematic and complicated cycle that reflects dating and almost-dating. The dialogues lacked a bit of emotional appeal and the concreteness of thought cannot be easily grasped. The movie has a back and forth sequence, showing the past and the present, how the moments came to be, what arguments were thrown out to get to the scene where they chase each other in the sidewalk with pain and hesitation in their eyes. 

Cinematography-wise, the color palette of the film shifts along with the emotion that is being presented on the screen, making up for the lack of substance in the exchange of dialogues. It is a mess, paralleling to Alex and Carlos’ relationship, the shaky camera angles and the abrupt shift from one scene to another provides support in pulling off the movie’s complicated narrative. It could have had more backstory and fewer gaps in the storyline but it somehow works as it leaves you hanging and still questioning what happened. It keeps you in the cycle even though you have stepped out of the cinema already. 

Filled with contradictions and trouble waiting to happen, O’Hara’s work garners attention from those who are in the same position. The film dwells on complex-minded characters, pretty much like our generation, and their decisions on whether they should leave or keep fighting for something that is vague. It is a ticking time bomb of tears and regret or maybe, just maybe, something magical and worthwhile. 

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Tia Madre, psychotic yet serene

Tia Madre seemingly portrays a fragmented storyline needing more fortifications—leaving the audience more confused than impressed. While the story can sometimes be disordered and inconsistent, the character-centric story invokes superb acting.

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Tia Madre
Screengrab from Tia Madre’s Official Trailer

Rising director Eve Baswel arrives with her first-ever horror feature film, Tia Madre. This 15th year of the Cinema One Originals, the film entered the list of finalists gracing Filipino screens with her daunting horror film.

Opening with a puff, Emilia, actress Cherie Gil’s character, smokes in a faraway forest—setting the film’s ominous atmosphere. Her daughter Camille, played by child-actress Jana Agoncillo, follows her everywhere. Spurned by a former lover, Emilia is driven to depression, smoking and alcoholism. The move to an old house prompts dark changes immediately noticed by her daughter.  

Hyper-active and imaginative, Camille’s budding interest in Filipino mythology, especially in among the engkanto, prompt her vivid mind to one wild conclusion to the next. With the abuse that Emilia inflicts upon her daughter, Camille starts to associate the aggressive characteristics of her mother to an engkanto, blurring the lines between hallucinations and reality. 

Overall, the film has great cinematography. To an extent, some effects and musical scores undermine certain scenes, trying its best to convey terror and complexity. At certain points in the film, Tia Madre seemingly portrays a fragmented storyline needing more fortifications—leaving the audience more confused than impressed. While the story can sometimes be disordered and inconsistent, the character-centric story invokes superb acting. 

Jana Agoncillo’s portrayal of eccentric and peculiar Camille is a gem alongside veteran Cherie Gil. Despite its flaws, the film has the uncanny ability to get under the skin—making the audience anticipate more. 

Baswel’s directorial debut was worth the build-up. One of the eight films for Cinema One Originals’s 15th year line-up, Tia Madre is screened in selected cinemas including TriNoma, Glorietta, Gateway, Ayala Manila Bay, and Power Plant Makati through November 7 to 17. 

Additional screenings also commence at Evia Lifestyle, Cinema Centenario, Cinema ’76, Black Maria, UP Cine Adarna, FDCP Cinematheque Manila and Vista Cinemas in Iloilo.

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