Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tahanan - Sappy and Shallow in Crapland

As part of her class assignment, Samantha Benitez (Lauren Young), a 22 year old student, must undertake a two-month immersion at an orphanage. In the program, she has to live and help out in the activities of the orphanage called Bahay Kanlungan. Though initially cautious of her acquaintances, Sam gradually warms up to the motley characters that populate this subcommunity of disavowed children. Sam is also introduced to the dedicated Mama Precy (Angelina Kanapi), one of the foster mothers. Precy stays with the children 4x a week. But unknown to the children, Sam’s earlier animosity roots from a domestic issue: her mother abandoned the family for another man. She hasn’t heard from her mother since.

The orphanage is home to 12 children, but she is drawn to three of the kids: there’s Kyla (Sabrina Man) who treats her like a big sister; Rey (Miguell Tanfelix) whose father is preoccupied attending to his bed-ridden mother; and sprightly Efren (Khen Aldovino) who has trouble staying in school. Sam would eventually get emotionally attached to the children. One day, she receives word from her dad (Mark Gil) that her mother has returned, but the latter lies comatose at the hospital. Why should Sam care? She abandoned her, didn’t she?

Among the three entries from this year’s Big Shot Filmfest, Krizzie Syfu’sTahanan” was the most messy. It is blotchy in presentation, not to mention exceedingly zealous where emotionality is concerned. Everything is loud and unfettered. Not only were the characters reflective of overdrawn depictions, they were also excessively overeager in temperament. In short, “OA na OA!” Angelina Kanapi, for example, keeps forgetting that this isn’t a comic material where she could just ham it up and resort to her scene stealing afflictions – as she does in every single film she’s in. Listen to her prayer, you’d think she's a stand-up comic standing before an Apollo Theater crowd. She would speak in high sing-song pitches, then suddenly latch into clipped giggles, as though an orgasm is briskly underway while she was serving lunch. It’s unnerving. If she’s out of the frame, their other foster mother Myrna takes the “stage” with her high strung demeanor. And you wonder why the children are so effed up?

Lauren Young delivers a perfunctory performance from an otherwise mediocre script. She barely buoys a briskly sagging narrative. Fact is, Young is a gifted performer and she never resorts to brimming sentimentality, but there's so much one can do with a trite script and an even dour characterization.

When cloyingly adorable Kyla confronts Sam, the once-clingy and delightful teenager suddenly morphs into a cantankerous bitch from hell, spewing acid like a possessed soul. And everyone just stares at her. No one even dared to stop her from her constipated bravado, not even the authoritative figure in the room – Mama Precy. They were just frozen stiff. Why is it so hard to understand Sam’s dilemma? Her mother is on death’s bed, for pete’s sake! Even a 6 year old would be able to discern the right thing to do! Then there’s the ever annoying Efren – Khen Aldovino – who is prone to acting out like an overcharged version of a clown! Most times he’s in front of the screen, he behaves like an amused epileptic, I just wanted to throw darts at the screen.

When the action turns to Sam’s scenes at the hospital, the movie shifts to a different film altogether. The sense of disconnect is so palpable, I suddenly missed watching MMK. You then realize the unfocused attention of a film maker who: 1) is clueless on thespic executions, thus she is ill equipped to direct her actors, 2) cannot tell a legible story without resorting to unnecessary, albeit protracted detours, 3) drawn to melodrama – and not even succeeding to a coax a single tear from her audience after all the incessant caterwauling!


While I was watching, 5 rows ahead of me were two ladies freely discussing the film, oblivious to the rest of the paying crowd. For the duration of this painful experience, you could hear them annotating scene per scene what went on during the filming. One would say, “Naka ilang take kami dyan.” And so on. So it’s safe to refer to these dingbats as part of the production team.

This begs the question: Isn’t cinema etiquette taught in their university (DLSU)? Did they think they were immune to good manners by chatting up overtime like they were in their own story conference? Such uncouth behavior from the makers of the film itself makes you wonder why they can’t even render due respect that their film required. I began to comprehend why. Because they knew they were in crapland! And only still waters run deep!

So they kept making noise!

What's with film graduates from New York Film Academy? This is the second disappointing work we've seen from an alumnus of that institution.

Khen Aldovino needs restraint... or medication... or electroconvulsive therapy! He was distracting and annoying!

Lauren Young: insightful

Miguell Tanfelix reminds me of Derick Monasterio

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