NEW YORK -- Three Filipino films chosen to be part of the 15th New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF), from June 22 to July 9 at the Lincoln Center, could not have been so different - or as NYAFF executive director Samuel Jamier put it hyperbolically - “shocking.” The three films are “Hamog” (Haze), “Apocalypse Child” and “Honor Thy Father.”
“When the programming team got to watch films from (Southeast Asia), we were really shocked at how great they were. There are some very different kinds of storytelling involved,” Jamier said.
Among the selected Asian films, Jamier’s top pick was the Philippines’ “Hamog” (Haze”), stating that director Ralston Jover’s noir-like film about four street children in Manila is compelling. The hyperrealism of Jover’s first movie is reminiscent of his screenwriting work with legendary Brillante Mendoza, a celebrated director not only in his country but in France as well.
The film is split into two narratives that show how one kid reacts differently to the death of the adults in their lives. Some may call it yet another poverty porn film, meant to shock, while others may think it should just be wake-up call for the Philippine government to address the persistent malaise of the aimless street children in Manila.
In one narrative, Jinky, 15, knows there is no escaping poverty and thinks the only recourse is a life of petty crime with her three other friends. Jinky is played by Therese Malvar who is going to be presented with this year’s Screen International Rising Star Asia Award on top of holding a Q&A session with the audience at the screening of “Hamog” on July 1.
Having limited options, Jinky can only hope the adults in her life will help her. Saddled with many children, Jinky’s mother refuses to take her back, the police have no room for her in jail because she’s a minor, and a social welfare office has no solution. She knows she cannot stay in youth shelters, calling them deplorable (worse than the streets, you may wonder). Strangers cannot be trusted, knowing they can easily take advantage of her sad plight. With no adults supervising her, she finds herself in a complete “haze” of what is right and wrong.
Another story follows an earnest street kid named Rashid (Zaijian Jaranilla) but he at least is fortunate to have parents looking after him, worrying her mother who says, “You’re so young and yet you’re burdens are for adults.” The kids of “Hamog” will leave you wondering if carrying the burdens of adults in their early life will weaken or strengthen their moral resolve.
Compared to dark and dingy Manila, Mario Cornejo’s “Apocalypse Child” is paradise with its sun-drenched beaches. But like “Hamog,” it’s also bereft of adults–and worse, people are in denial. Fiona, 19, Annicka Dolonius) comes home from an unnamed foreign land to care for a dying grandmother in Baler, Aurora, a surfing destination in central Philippines. She finds herself involved with a man who refuses to admit his age–but who might as well be close to 40 if the premise of the movie holds water: Is he the son that Francis Ford Coppola didn’t know he had when he shot “Apocalypse Now” in this quiet, sleepy town?
The man-child in question is played by Sid Lucero, who is contented to coast along with the easygoing Fiona but who, with one mention of his absent father, becomes enraged and restless in front of her mother. In the beginning, we hear Fiona’s narration about the Philippine Revolution of 1898 when Filipinas provided supplies to Spaniards holed up during an 11-month siege. Was there any difference in the subjugation of Filipino women at the time and the time Hollywood came to town and left many broken hearts. It’s showing on June 23.
Where “Hamog” tackled blue-collar crime among the gang of street kids, Erik Matti’s “Honor Thy Father” depicts white-collar crime among the religious flock and purveyors of get-rich-quick schemes in the Philippines.
Showing on July 2, Matti is back from his most impressive international crime hit a few years back, “On The Job.” In this crime drama, he returns to his genre of vigilante justice with screenwriter Michiko Yamamoto. (He also wrote Lav Diaz’s ”Norte, The End of History.”)
Literally shedding his wholesome image from his years as a romantic leading man, John Lloyd Cruz shaves his head on camera to portray Edgar, a devout family man who initially ignores the whims of her wife until a series of events take him to the deep end. Cornered by money collectors from the misdeeds of a family member, Cruz takes matters in his own hands.
For those looking to catch the actors, Cruz, along with Malvar and Lucero, will be at the New York Asian Film Festivals awards to receive his trophy, one of three Star Asia awards. Other recipients are South Korea’s Lee Byung-hun and Hong Kong’s Miriam Yeung. Inquirer.net