February 17, 2020 (6:15 PM)

9 min read


GRATITUDE. Directors give credit to the people behind their films and share their inspirations for the production during the Mugna 2020. Photo by Jeni Anne Rosario

Held for the first time at Cinematheque Davao, this year’s Mindanawon Ug Nasudnong Adbukasiya (MUGNA) film fest screening gathered more students and viewers than usual. The said filmfest, which was traditionally held at the University’s auditorium, was hosted by the Ateneo Culture and Arts Cluster (ACAC) last February 12.

Six media literacy-themed short film entries were screened: Humanities and Letters (HUMLET) cluster’s ‘Sino Ang Pumatay Kay Crispin?’, School of Education’s (SoE) ‘Gafadlug’, Social Sciences cluster’s (SS) ‘Tabula Rasa’, Business and Management cluster’s (BM) ‘Kada Tuig Nalang Ta Sig’ Tan-aw Ani’, Accountancy cluster’s (ACC) ‘Masid’, and School of Engineering and Architecture’s (EA) ‘Gaba’.

The annual film competition is part of the University’s Festival of Excellence. Major awards will be given during the Artistry and Awards Night on February 22.

Sino Ang Pumatay Kay Crispin? – HUMLET

Photo taken from Ateneo Culture and Arts Cluster (ACAC)

There are questions better left unanswered. HUMLET’s short film entry, however, glares at that sentiment with a dubious eye, of cards and gun. Its titular questions its subtitles.

Sino Ang Pumatay Kay Crispin? (directed by Andrei Francis Arrocena and Abigail Monteagudo) plays out like a live-action short film adaptation of the anime Death Parade. Its Decim now resembling a manic Baron Geisler-turned-Joker guy (Jed Chio) hallooing at the camera, stating the rules of his death show. He introduces us to Rudy (Dominic Morales), Pepsi (Krizza Kaye Saceda), and Toto (Monteagudo). It appears the screenplay (Jannies Shyne Briones) seeks to revive Balagtasan, the characters speaking in rigid verses. They pulled it off in a way that perhaps Rio Alma would have been proud (knowing he once likened Balagtasan to FlipTop, to the ire of Anygma). The stanzaic script reminded me of the climax (of the climax) of last year’s Pamalugu. Also, a short film that raised my eyebrow in its undaunted use of long verses for a very long take even when film, a largely visual medium, was their chosen art form. Briones’ verses, however, would be proven to be less tedious to listen to as it’s employed for dialogue. I am aware those sitting closer to the speakers would agree even more.

With a laudable circus-themed single set and a laborious continuous shot, this reverse whodunit might be treading a familiar path and may have a standard twist, yet the constraints it boldly chose worked because it knew what it wanted to be—already good—but even better, it attained it.

If my editor would allow me, I want to share a poem by e e cummings which parallels the short film.

when god decided to invent
everything he took one
breath bigger than a circustent
and everything began

when man determined to destroy
himself he picked the was
of shall and finding only why
smashed it into because

Tabula Rasa – SS

Photo taken from Ateneo Culture and Arts Cluster (ACAC)

“There’s something wrong with this school,” one character typed on his phone. The short film was shot in AdDU. Hmm.

Tabula Rasa tells the story of Sam (Samuel Lafuente), a university newcomer, who finds himself in a school full of students with blindfolds. It seems these are freebies you obtain once you get to sign the class attendance, handed to him by an unnamed beauty (Elyza Mahinay). Shortly after, he encounters (you guessed it) the gal without the McGuffin, Milly (Kimberly Cautivo), and we pick up by this time that putting it on is up to them. Directed by a trio (Jacqueline Laurente, Maegan Sang Tian, and Aiman Ulanday), the short film, with a title meaning ‘mind in a blank state’ (like an infant), boasts an excellent cast. Lafuente’s subtlety, Cautivo’s dedication, and Mahinay’s allure are all noteworthy.

This is a student short film. It’s about them, peopled and starred. (Lead actor’s name didn’t even change.) With that declaration, one could then figure Tabula Rasa’s highs and lows. One line spoken by Milly, with surprising conviction, stuck in my brain like a gum: “Pagmata!” (“Wake up!”) And she’s right, we should. College is also about learning to wake up to the realities of the world we live in, not solely about ourselves and our future boring jobs.

Kada Tuig Nalang Ta Sig’ Tan-aw Ani -BM

Photo taken from Ateneo Culture and Arts Cluster (ACAC)

If SS cluster’s about blindfolded crowds, BM’s about TV-hypnotized audiences. Kada Tuig Nalang Ta Sig’ Tan-aw Ani (We Keep on Watching This/These Every Year) utilizes a single-camera setup, showing us nine or ten faces looking at an off-screen (out of the shot) TV. We can’t actually see what they’re watching, but only guess from what we hear from the colloquies transpiring. Each rant on showbiz, religion, politics, social issues sputtered by ignorant, insensitive, self-incriminating, and hateful mouths. And we’re listening, perhaps making rants of our own. But before we, the real audiences, could do so, a narrator reflects on all of this with exasperation.

During the screening, director RR Lopez admitted the limited preparation his team had in making this short, so one might easily dismiss Kada Tuig as a hastily made cliché. But if we’ll give it a chance, we could see Lopez and Zach Pantaleon’s work like a hazy mirror, reflective of our dispositions as consumers of broadcast media. We’re confused and irritated at times, grabbling for truth and sensibility at what we’re watching on TV, YouTube, and phone screens.

Don’t tell me you haven’t felt that way before (even once). What issue/s ticks you off? Don’t know? Here’s an easy test: upon reading the short film’s title, what show/s were you thinking?

Gafadlug – SOE

Photo taken from Ateneo Culture and Arts Cluster (ACAC)

Separating itself from the rest of the competition, SOE’s “Gafadlug” (translated as “progress”) is an eye-opening look into the lives of AdDU Lumad students who are forced to integrate themselves in a technologically-developing environment, in order to cope with the demands of education. Shot like a mini-documentary, Gafadlug extends beyond the plights of Lumad students as it explicitly conveys how the communities the adolescents left are still lagging behind in things such as social media. 

Looking at the bigger picture in this issue, the Lumads have not always been given the opportunities that people from urban cities and towns possess. Amid all the injustices and unequal treatment that they recieve from ‘outsiders’, the Lumads of today continue to be resilient in their search for progress. The short film simply captures the hope of our indigenous peoples to get along with the times and to experience technology the same way as many people do who reside in cities such as Davao. 

Gafadlug may not have the fanciest filmmaking techniques among all of the entries, but its poignant message is made all the more resonant through the testimonies of AdDU Lumad students. 

Gaba – SEA

Photo taken from Ateneo Culture and Arts Cluster (ACAC)

Boasting some impressive camerawork and cinematography, SEA’s “Gaba” is a sharp critique of Duterte’s ongoing drug war and extra-judicial killings in the Philippines. With dark hues and shadows injecting every frame, the short film may have been inspired by the look of crime-thrillers where vigilantes stalk the night protecting civilians from dangerous criminals. However,  Gaba’s central plot is far bleaker as common people are caught in the crossfires of criminal activities and end up losing their lives in the process.

In some ways, Gaba is reminiscent of local movies like BuyBust, minus the gratuitous action-violence featured in that film. What the short film offers is much more grounded and small-scaled with its execution. Whether one supports Duterte’s administration or not, one cannot deny the grave repercussions that have resulted from the brutal justice enacted by those on the seats of power. 

Perhaps more so now than ever, Gaba drives home the point that Filipinos deserve a life free from the usual pitfalls of violence and chaos. Through focused filmmaking, the artistic minds of Gaba are clear and concise in their way of storytelling without having to deal with so much bloodshed on screen. 

Masid – ACC

Photo taken from Ateneo Culture and Arts Cluster (ACAC)

A series of close-ups and camera angles showing human expressions mostly fill the running time of “Masid” which is basically a toxic tale of conveying a fake sense of self through social media. Masid carves itself as a deceptive melodrama set in the confines of a school where two students devise plots and fabricate stories to satisfy their personal agenda. 

The film is aptly named Masid because there’s more to the protagonist, Sally, than meets the eye. One has to observe closely at someone before getting a sense of who they truly are; a lesson of which is very much true in the real world. 

Although minimalistic in its design, the short film is effective enough to drive audiences through twists and turns, lies and fabrications. It makes us think that we are rooting for a person to do the right thing, but eventually, all of that is thrown away the minute he or she shows his or her true colors.

Once you get past the highfalutin script,  Masid serves as a precautionary tale for people to ponder upon the things they do and say in a digital field like social media. For all its gifts, the Internet sure does bring out the worst of us. 

End the silence of the gagged!

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