Thursday, July 26, 2012

Paul Sta. Ana's Oros - Business of the Dead

Makoy (Kristoffer King) and his family live in the squalor of Baseco. But he has a lucrative job as a “kasero” (money manager) in a saklaan (an illegal cards game). But the ruse doesn’t stop there. To further earn revenue from his gambling depot, Makoy sets fake funerals to allow others to make money. Among his clients is Aling Linda (Tanya Gomez) who has been hosting her counterfeit burol (wake) for the past two weeks – and she wants to extend this for a month. Meanwhile, neighbor Annabel (Angelita Raymundo) is desperate for extra income and wants her own “wake”. She negotiates with Makoy who turns to the funeral parlor for unclaimed corpses for Annabel’s fake burol. Makoy hires his younger brother Abet (Kristoffer Martin) to help him out. But Abet has more pressing concerns (he is being hunted down by a former girl friend’s brother). In fact, he would rather steer clear from this if he had a choice. Meanwhile, he is assigned to man Annabel’s wake.

Unfortunately, these operations haven’t gone unnoticed. Discretion is contentious when something as public as a saklaan involves the community. Tipsters have notified the local authorities and a raid is in the offing. That night, Annabel gets her corpse, and the two-week funeral she hosts commences. However, the local authorities have other plans. They carry out raids in both Aling Linda’s and Annabel’s burol. Makoy eludes arrest. But several of his personnel were taken. But where is Abet? Why hasn’t he surfaced after the raids?  Makoy scours his area’s police precincts but he couldn’t find his brother. What’s become of Abet?

Director Paul Sta. Ana creates a world of moral and physical destitution where even the dead is turned into a commodity. Nothing is sacred anymore when hunger pangs numb the conscience. To be honest, “Oros” belongs to a genre I scoff at – “Poverty Porn”, but unlike “Intoy Syokoy ng Kalye Marino”, the slant of the narrative does not offend. 

The film is buoyed by the natural grace of Kristoffer King (who’s fantastic); the candor and charm of GMA tweener, Kristoffer Martin (who’s a revelation in his first indie film). Sometime in mid-chapter, the story gets tedious. The scenes unnecessarily go on and on, like a child that needs validation. I start tossing and turning in my seat. And I realize that the film could pack a wallop with a shorter running time. Rommel Sales’ cinematography is at times gritty; other times ethereal (like the opening shots at a smoky dump site). But nothing shakes you more than a subtle form of ellipse technically employed by Sta. Ana to conclude Makoy’s dilemma. Indeed, the human mind is such a potent generator of emotions - more than visual impulses.    

Baseco's world of squalor

Saklaan in fake wakes

Christopher King navigates Baseco as though he isn't acting.

Kristoffer Martin turns a page in his professional career. He becomes an actor worth noticing.

Kristoffer King plays Abet, Makoy's younger brother. He is a compelling presence in "Oros".

No comments: