Thursday, November 3, 2016

Kristian Cordero's "Hinulid" - Ambition Trumps Artistry... and the Nora Aunor Factor

When all that’s left are our memories, they’re looped in our minds like a familiar tale with no ending. 

Sita’s (Nora Aunor) homecoming is an infliction. An overseas foreign worker from Qatar, she comes home to claim and bury her son Lukas (Jess Mendoza) in Cagbunga, a picturesque village in the heart of Bicol. But Sita is baffled by the circumstances surrounding her son’s death. Was he a victim of frat violence or of his leftist activities? She seeks answers from the Tolong Hinulid (Three Dead Christs) said to watch over the village’s residents. As she steps on familiar grounds, memories come flooding back. Her endless train journeys might eventually find its way to the cosmic heavens where the tandayag (the mystical serpent) resides. Maybe this is where Lukas’ story gets its denouement. 

Among QCinema’s main competition entries, Kristian Cordero’s Hinulid (The Sorrows of Sita)" has some of the festival's most visually arresting images (aside from Bagane Fiola's "Baboy Halas"), I was ready to like it from its opening scene. You see, the first 15 minutes sometimes gives a foreshadowing whether or not I’m going to like the rest of the film. 


This is true of the following:  Milo Sogueco’s “Mariquina”, Chuck Gutierrez’s “Iisa”, Rico Maria Ilarde’s “Altar”, Aureus Solito’s “Busong” and Ice Idanan’s “Sakaling Hindi Makarating”. I knew I was going to like them from their early scenes alone. 

Unfortunately, beguiling images don’t a good movie make. You have to be able to sustain and balance this with fluid story telling. “Hinulid” went into overdrive spewing a steady stream of quotations, unfolding from a single page to a volume. While they were initially thought-provoking, it soon became a challenge to sit through its laborious text and verbose references from artists to philosophers. Every writing genre is represented, but Shakespeare. 


These make “Hinulid” quite burdensome to watch. I had to stop myself from walking out. I reckon it was early penance. After all, Ate Guy was in the audience and this cinema royalty deserved my patience. An insider story revealed that the movie was originally 3 hours long, but QCinema intervened. One can imagine the amount of quotations that didn’t make the final cut. Darn!

When the protracted train ride finally derails itself and flies to the heavens, I was reminded of Robert Zemeckis’ “Polar Express”.  Steeped in philosophy and mysticism, the train heads towards the vast cosmos. Forever, I hoped.

To be fair, Nora Aunor elevated this movie from its self-important ramblings. In La Aunor’s able hands; she validated every scene she’s in. She set its pace, and rendered it its heartbeat. She was the grieving mother who lost her only son. It was a narrative device employed to parallel Mary’s utter devotion to her son. With a vicious cycle of events randomly hopping within a timeline, this scholarly yarn was ultimately discombobulating, incongruent and pretentious, one of the three fat turkeys in an otherwise superlative line-up of QCinema features. There’s no denying Kordero’s talent and ambition. If he manages to moderate and temper his prodigious artistry, who knows, we might have another Brillante Mendoza or Aureus Solito in our midst. Just not with this movie. 


Santigwar by Salvosa
This film also showcases the contribution of regional cinema to Philippine movies. It highlights one of the dimensions of cinema, i.e.the indigenization of the medium, making it richer and colorful. Indigenized cinema easily becomes a significant component of perpetuating culture. 

Indeed, Cordero’s visual canvas is rife with the most fascinating local color. We need this. Cinema can help "preserve" regional mores and tradition. 

How else does someone as urbanized as I am know about the Bicolano rituals of the Santigwar ("pagtatawas"), referenced several times, if a bit too redundantly, in Kordero's scenes? If these concepts are thrown into the story, they have to deserve to be in it, and not just as a means to satisfy the filmaker's indulgences. A valid story is basic.

There was a time I’d come home from QCinema festival absolutely frustrated. Who knew that would change? Now I can’t wait for 2017. Congratulations to the organizers of this year's QCinema.

#QCinema   #Hinulid   #Nora Aunor

No comments: