Sunday, December 28, 2014

Why you should watch "Bonifacio"

My December 28, 2014 column.


Everybody in this country knows that the Metro Manila Film Festival  ceased to be a showcase of serious filmmaking a long, long time ago.  Most of those who troop to the movie houses during the holiday season do so simply because it had become a Christmas tradition of sorts.  People like me do so as a token gesture of support for the major players of the Philippine movie industry, most of which reportedly make as much money only during the MMFF.  The MMFF is mainly a commercial extravaganza, but we continue to support it in the hope that doing so will help keep the Philippine movie industry alive. 
Fortunately for me, the nephews and nieces are now all grown up.  In the last three years I have been spared the torture of having to watch the mindless and pointless comedies and/or fantasy MMFF movies that kids are naturally drawn to.  We still watch MMFF movies, but we pick the ones that try to meet some other criteria other than just making money.  These are usually the ones that are ignored by everyone else which is good in the sense that one need not have to stand in line for hours to get tickets, but in the end is quite tragic because like Thy Womb in 2012, these movies will get pulled out from theaters shortly.  
This year, we cast our lot with Bonifacio Ang Unang Pangulo and English Only, Please.   I haven’t watched English Only as of press time, so this column will be about Bonifacio.   But my daughter did get to watch English Only on Christmas day and told me it was not a complete disappointment – in short, pwede na (it will pass muster), which, quite frankly, already comprises a major endorsement when taken in the context of the general quality of MMFF movies.
But I did watch Bonifacio and while I will not rave about it, I will still go on record as to recommend that you go watch it for three reasons. 
First, it is a movie with a noble intent, which is to try to make people appreciate Bonifacio’s role in Philippine history.  I do think history has been unkind to Bonifacio and that very little is known about the tragedy that befell the hero in the hands of fellow revolutionaries.  The whole movie does suffer from the weight of its own intent – it almost looks and feels like a lecture in many parts and one half expects someone to “process” the whole experience at the end of the movie.  But if it gets people to ask questions about what really happened to the national hero, then we can all overlook the shortcomings of the movie.
Second, the effort does yield some good results, particularly in cinematography.  The art direction is passable and some of the fight scenes are actually not bad.  I would gladly watch this movie over and over again than any of Bong Revilla’s MMFF entries.  The acting is not bad either.  Robin Padilla actually has his moments in this movie when we actually get to see Andres Bonifacio rather than the swaggering actor.  The characterization needed some work, but we can appreciate the effort given what they had to work with in terms of resources.  This is not a movie by Star Cinema, Regal Films, GMA or Viva films after all.
Third, and this is very important – because we all need to deflect attention from the movies that are emerging as the blockbusters.  Yes, the same type of movies that have made a killing in previous festivals and will most likely reappear next year and the one after that– unless we start supporting movies like Bonifacio which valiantly try to break the mold.

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