For this year's Metro Manila Film Festival, I was only interested in two films. One was Sigaw, since it was made by the very artistic Yam Laranas. And next would be Panaghoy sa Suba, since it was considered the winner in the festival and seemed a promising project. I was never interested in any of Joel Lamangan's works because I think he makes terrible films; his drama films are only good for acting awards, and the only good Lamangan movie that I saw was Hubog. I saw the second half of the movie Filipinas sometime ago and thought it was a complete mess. The movie tried to be everything but ended up a silver screen disaster.
Now back to the movie. I never had any idea of the movie Panaghoy sa Suba except that it was done in Bisaya. After seeing the poster, another Filipino movie immediately came to mind: Boatman. First, because the main character was a boatman, or was at least riding a boat, and second, because it had Ronnie Lazaro in it. I thought maybe the film has something to do or was inspired by the Tikoy Aguiluz film. But after watching I learned the movie actually had nothing to do with the 1984 film.
I saw the film as a narrative of this town in Bohol during the American and Japanese invasion. Like most period films, the personal lives of the characters were used as indirect analogy to the historical backdrop of the story. And for that purpose, I think the film was successful. Moreover, as a Bisaya speaking individual, I thought the movie was a brave act for Mr. Montano to make such film. Ceasar Montano did a good directing job, and the cast did an excellent acting job.
One thing I noticed about the movie though was its inconsistency. The historical accounts of the plot seemed trivial, and the characters, especially the foreign ones, seem a bit unbelievable. There were lots of great cinematic shots, but there were also mediocre ones. Some takes of the river were done in excellent taste, but then some scenes were inserted out of place and somehow needed a little more editing. I also noticed that most award winning shots had Ceasar in them, especially the part where his character's brother was about to kill the American, while he was rowing fast to try to stop him. The scene was so Hollywood, and it was very effective. The experimentation of the director was obvious all throughout the film since I noticed lots of shots seldom or never used in local movies. If I'm not mistaken, there were more than two shadow scenes in the film, that somehow I felt the style was overdone. The dramatic scenes were also really good, and not just because of the talented actors, but also because of the direction and well done script. Personally though, I thought some words they used were a bit untimely for a 1940's setting, but then I may be wrong since I'm no expert in the evolution of our language.
So the ultimate question, is it a good movie? Less the hype, and hypothetically less the language used, I think it is a good film, but not exactly exceptional. Of course it's definitely far better than other historical films, especially those done by Carlo Caparas. (Remember the joke that was the Tirad Pass movie? Hahaha!) The movie is worth watching, and indeed it is a revolutionary work in Philippine film-making. After a few more films and more brave/risky material, Ceasar Montano can be a really great director. When that time comes, Joel Lamangan and Mother Lily should finally retire.
(postscript: I realized weeks after watching the film that the actor who played Ceasar's dad is a distant relative!)
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?