Monday, August 8, 2011

Expresso in the name of Festivals: Ang Babae sa Septic Tank Parody

"Itong frontal nudity, Check! Itong sex scene na may actual penetration, Check na check! Gagawin ko ang lahat… wag nyo naman akong palusungin sa tae.”

The attention grabbing line of the hilarious Eugene Domingo in the Cinemalaya 2011 winner Ang Babae sa Septic Tank. One would wonder, will she do it and be shown on screen? :)

I was invited by my sorority sis Emyat to watch the movie. "The movie is hilarious sis!"she assured me. I went without any idea what it is all about except that it won awards.

From Cinemalaya's website, here's the synopsis of the movie:

"It chronicles a day in the life of three ambitious, passionate but misguided filmmakers as they set out to do a quick pre-prod at Starbucks, a courtesy call to their lead actress, Eugene Domingo, and an ocular inspection of their film’s major location, the Payatas dumpsite. Director Rainier (Kean Cipriano), Producer Bingbong (JM de Guzman) and Production Assistant Jocelyn (Cai Cortez) are well-to-do, well-educated film school graduates who are dead set on making an Oscar worthy film. They believe they have a winning script, the energy and the drive to make their dreams come true. Like most filmmakers they know, they have devised a screenplay that will show the real essence of our culture: poverty. In the course of one day, they brainstorm and exhaust all possible treatment of their project: the story of Mila (Eugene Domingo), a mother from the slums, who out of desperation to survive, has sold her child to a pedophile. As they discuss the possible executions of the story, the movie-within-a-movie gets reborn in Jocelyn’s imagination several times. As a gritty no frills neo-realist film, as a glossy musical, as an over-the-top melodrama and as a docu drama using non-actors. For their last task of the day, they visit the dumpsite for the first time. As filmmakers gunning for authenticity, they get excited with the ”beauty” of the squalor around them. Soon enough, they are faced with reality as they come face to face with the real effects of their chosen subject. Babae sa Septic Tank is a comedy about misguided ambitions, the art of making art and the romanticization of poverty."

Coming from the writer of humorous Here Comes the Bride and Kimmy Dora, this is humor on another level. A parody. Uge (Eugene Domingo) played a larger-than;life version of herself. She played a caricature of herself; a celebrity who wants to do " something for the soul", an actress who wants to make a movie that will not earn her lots of money. This is a parody of many celebrities who feel that they are worthy of being called as "actor" when they appear in an “indie” film regardless of how bad the material is.

The story revolves about three friends who goes through story-telling process of wanting to tell a story about poverty but knows nothing about the subject itself. Poverty is how they see it in "indie" films. Poverty that abounds "indie" films and being picked for international festivals because that's what the festival organizers wanted to see.

As Cris Martinez said in one of the interviews, the idea came up when he do rounds of "100" (another indie movie he directed) about a 100 things a middle class woman wants to do before she dies. The woman was played by beautiful Mylene Dizon, lives in a posh condo and owns SUV. The audience abroad was surprised to see "beautiful" things about the Philippines. They expect movie of poverty porn! It's the movies that filmmakers do because it's those kind of movies being picked up.

Harsh reality here is, you'll never make it here in the country not unless your film/s is screened abroad!

And Babae sa Septic Tank showed these ironies. Budding filmmakers dream of making it big by writing about poverty. Except they really know nothing about poverty, Poverty for them is like what they see in the news and "indie" films they wanted to emulate (or even surpass! Oscar material, they say!). These people who talked about poverty in the comforts of Starbucks, whose problems are about iPad charger and fellow directors who made it to Venice festival yet could not differentiate "expresso" from "espresso", new famous director colleagues making the rounds international festivals abroad yet doesn't know where Vesoul is. What these filmmakers want is just to be famous abroad. To f*ck with poverty and depression of the poor!

The movie started with seriousness that you'll ask, "did I come to the right movie?" but as the story unfolds, the moviegoers howled with laughter at the right parts and feel silent while pondering at the parts that made us wonder, "what is the state of the Philippine cinema? What is "indie"? " Indie films wanted to break away from commercialism of mainstream movies only to be trapped by new set of conventions.

Maybe we should no longer ask what differentiates "indie" from 'mainstream'? But rather filmmakers should ask, "what makes a good film"? We have to make compelling stories; good films that our audience can truly think AND enjoy! Babae sa Septic Tank is one of those films.

PS. I hope more Cinemalaya movies will be shown nationwide! Hail to the rebirth of Philippine cinema. Hail to more thought provoking films! :)



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