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Cherry Pie Picache,
The movie tells the tale of the Dos Palmas Kidnappings (Dos Palmas is the name of the resort located in one of the Philippines' tourist spots where the victims were kidnapped) which occurred in Southern Philippines sometime year 2001 and lasted for several months. Several victims, foreigners and Filipinos, were held hostage by Muslim bandits, the Abbu Sayyaf, and brought into captivity in the mountains.
The movie didn't include the names of the actual victims. But places like the Dr. Jose Torres Memorial Hospital, which was actually held under siege, was included in the film.
The movie didn't really feel "indie" to me, despite the shaky cam, poor lighting, and unclear audio. Maybe because Brillante collaborated with some production companies, which made it a bit more mainstream. And the overall-all feel of the movie really was mainstream. It didn't have the usual Brillante signature of showing irrelevant random scenes. It was a total story-telling. This is surprising for someone who would usually raise her eyebrows to some of Brillante's scenes in his other movies which are pure RANDOM. The sex scenes, there were none. There was one, but it wasn't what you would usually see in Brillante's films. It wasn't explicit. Again, surprising.
Another reason why it wasn't as "indie" is the presence of some well-known veteran actors of the country such as Angel Aquino, Joel Torre, and Raymond Bagatsing. It was probably done without so much costs by cutting their screentimes, like some characters would just appear in the second half of the film. Usual indie personalities like Allan Paule, Sid Lucero, and Mercedes Cabral, reminded me that it was a Brillante film. I don't think there's anything negative to comment about the acting part as the other lead actors, especially Isabelle Huppert, were also awesome.
I like how the movie was very safe in its content. Note that we are dealing with one very sensitive topic here, religion, and I can say that the movie did justice in showing the other side of the so- called antagonists. They're not really merciless individuals who would shoot for pleasure, but they were provoked by their demands for autonomy (If you're familiar with the whole Mindanao situation, there's more to that but let's leave it at that as of now). The movie showed the other side of our Muslim brothers, as opposed to the usual perception of them being heartless. Islam is one religion close to me and seeing how the movie accurately showed their practices and beliefs merits credit.
One very strong point of the film is the non-use of the overused "WE ARE A POOR COUNTRY!" statement shouting in almost all indie films. It's good they showcased another thing that's also present in the Philippines: terrorism. *facepalm* Sigh. I can't fault the director though. They can't possibly paint Philippines in sunshines and rainbows when reality tells us terrorism is also around the corner.
The movie is very graphic. There's a scene of beheading but it isn't as bad as what we see in the news. There's also this scene which deserves a standing ovation: actual childbirth! It was very graphic, it really showed how the child went out of the mom's organ. It didn't feel dirty, it was just brilliant. My stomach plunged a bit, but still brilliant. And speaking of graphic, there's a close-up of a snake and whatever tongue-sticking-out thing he does! WTF. I had to rinse my brain at the thought of what that creature does. I have fear of snakes so I curse Brilliante Mendoza for that!!! Seriously.
All in all, I highly recommend this film. It's a good eye-opener. Heart-warming. Inspiring. Tragic.
In so many words, I love this film.
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