Tuesday, 13 May 2008

55th Sydney Film Festival: 4-22 June 2008

The Sydney Film Festival is one of the longest running film festival in the world and was established in 1954. The festival showcases contemporary Australian films as well as international cinema.

This year there are two Philippine films, both by director Brillante Mendoza. Unfortunately both are not included in the Sydney Film Festival's (SFF) inaugural "new directions in films" Official International Competition. All twelve were "selected for their original, 'audacious and courageous filmmaking'."

Films by Brillante's are:

Slingshot (Tirador)

"Filipino director Brillante 'Dante' Mendoza's sixth feature film in two years plummets headlong into a Manila slum, the camera hot on the heels of a police raid in a truly extraordinary opening sequence. Achieving a perfect interplay between the flexibility of digital shooting, the labyrinthine architecture of the squats and the multiple stories of the gang of hustlers and thieves it follows, the true brilliance of this film is to be found in its seamless staging."

Director: Brillante Mendoza, Scriptwriter: Ralston Joel Jover, With casts: Jiro Manio, Kristoffer King, Coco Martin, Nathan Lopez, Jaclyn Jose, Country: The Philippines, Language: Tagalog, Year: 2007 Duration: 86 mins Distributor: SourceIgnatius Films.

Another synopsis from the Victorian Film Festival 2008 describes the film as:

"A tribute to the real potential of digital cinema, Slingshot is a slum epic on steroids. It weaves stories left and right into a shocking tableau about life for the lowest of the low in the Philippine’s poorest and most crime-ridden districts.

National elections are coming up so in the usual attempt to appear “tough-on-crime”, The Big Boys have been sent in to crack down on the local squatters, thieves and miscreants who litter the film like broken bottles. And since no sweep is ever a clean sweep, the cops’ brutal shock-force tactics quickly ripple outwards with jagged repercussions. Starting from the film’s amazing night time raid and climaxing with a candle-lit vigil by those insulted by the empty words of the politicians, director Brillante Mendoza uses the camera’s apparent attention deficit disorder to maximum effect, investigating lives at every turn and blending their true fictions right onto the city streets of Manila for a rich and incredibly immersive feel.

Much of this effect might have been entirely impossible to capture if not for the ease of shooting made possible today. Mendoza is not only clearly aware of the technological revolution happening in his hands but he is able to seize it so well that he brings back to life the ensemble-cast movie on a level not seen since Robert Altman’s finest films."

Foster Child

11th June, 11.45AM State Theatre Market Street

"The impoverished Manlangqui family provide a foster home for the gorgeous, abandoned three-year-old John-John. While motivated in part by the subsidy this brings them, the genuine (and differing) emotional connections each family member forges with the child are revealed when he is abruptly removed from their care and given up for international adoption. Elegantly shot on 35mm and making great observational use of locked-off camera, the indelible Foster Child was made prior to Mendoza's kinetic Slingshot, and while both films are set in a Manila slum, they are stylistically very different. Foster Child benefits enormously from being seen after Slingshot, as the enclave of care and support sustained by the family is rendered all the more powerful when haunted by an awareness of the surrounding environment." CS

Director: Brillante Mendoza, Writer: Ralston Joel Jover, Producer: Robbie Tan, With casts: Cherry Pie Picache, Eugene Domingo, Jiro Manio, Kier Alonzo, Country: Philippines, Language: Tagalog, Duration: 98 mins, Distributor: Ignatius Films CanadaWorld Sales/Australian distributor Ignatius Films Canada.

Richard Bolisay's acerbic review says:

"As for the film, it feels like Mendoza is trying to hit multiple birds on different trees with one stone. Familiarity is a factor here: we see these things every day, every waking day of our lives, not the foster care idea but poverty itself... International audience is lauding Foster Child for its Third World-liness and pathos.

"A friend asks, if you experience poverty every hungry day, then why watch it? Why does it have to invade our solemn hours of entertainment, when we must laugh and feel good because we paid for it?"

As a result of my "research" (err.. Googlesearch), I found that there are so many more Pinoy indie films out there. For example see this 2007 review by Francis Cruz. Very fascinating reading really and these guys (together with Richard Bolisay) are doing these on their blogs!

I wish that these Pinoy independent films be distributed via DVD. I am sure there will a lot of overseas Pinoy and non Pinoys who love to see these films and will purchase a copy. Just make sure it is of good quality, DVD-wise and close to or as cheap as the pirated copies. But for now I need to fork out AU$17.00 to see Slingshot.

Also see ABS-CBN's Boy Villasanta's article on Brillante's bid for Cannes 2008, with his film "Serbis" (Service).


chard bolisay said...

Hi, Mario, super thanks for the heads up. I wish to see Slingshot too, but it was only shown here once, and unfortunately the schedule didn't quite allow me to go. Also, in behalf of our local filmmakers, I thank you for your interest in Philippine independent cinema. We really need that. :) By the way, where are you from?

chard bolisay said...

(Haha, sorry stupid question). I know you're from Australia. But I just saw Ed Aragon and Jim Paredes on the sidebar so I thought you grew up here in the Philippines.

JayAshKal said...

That's ok Chard... I did grew up in Pinas and very much Pinoy.

Keep up educating our Pinoy movie goers.

Where can we purchase this indie films? I am trying to look for distributors on the net. I think I am not the only looking for legal copies.

chard bolisay said...

Oh, distribution is another huge problem that we have here. But I believe some are already available in VCD and DVD format--locally. I'm not really sure about foreign distribution. But I tell you: Good luck. Haha. Bootlegs are the best though. :)

JayAshKal said...


Maybe this is a great opportunity for a local company (doing pirate DVDs/VCDs?), have all these movies (notable ones as well as popular ones) on DVD and sell them on the net. I bet a lot of our overseas kababayan's would love to buy and support. I also think if they are priced, for example at US$10.00, there is no point in pirating or copying them. Just my two centavos/enterpreneur idea.

FilMasons NSW said...

At the recent Cannes Film Festival, Brillante's film did not win and was panned by both critics and moviegoers:

"And as in every year, there were a few howlers that left audiences baffled about their selection, including Serbis, a Filipino picture set in a porn cinema, and French drama Frontier of Dawn which Variety magazine called "a risible slice of pretentious hokum".(http://au.news.yahoo.com/080525/2/17054.html)

From an AFP report. At least he got a mention, although an "unfavorable" one. But still a publicity nevertheless.