Cinemalaya 2020: 'Heneral Rizal' is already worth the price of Premiere bundle

Fred Hawson

Posted at Aug 12 2020 12:07 PM | Updated as of Aug 12 2020 12:08 PM

BASURERO

Directed and Written by: Eileen Cabiling

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Bong was a fisherman in Manila Bay. He lived in abject poverty in a slum area with his wife and four little kids. There was hardly any fish to catch. Other opportunities for earning money, like going abroad, also required a lot of money. Bong was forced to rely on a very shady and disgusting sideline to feed his family. 

This film tackled a topic usually swept under the rug in mainstream media -- how victims of extra-judicial killings are disposed into the sea by poor desperate fishermen. We see Bong's unsavory means of living from the very first scene, so the whole story seemed to have been told in reverse. This technique may seem clever on hindsight, but it felt unusually anti-climactic when you are watching it for the first time. 

Of course, Jericho Rosales can play this character with his eyes closed, and still project the required intensity. Cabiling never actually told us the identity of the bodies, or who was ordering the disposal. Obviously with a lot more story left untold, this felt like a mere introduction or teaser to a more substantive feature-length film.

NANG EM

Directed and Written by: Maria S. Ranillo

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This short film followed the titular Nang Em as she went through the COVID-19 lockdown alone in her apartment in Cebu City, from March 17 to June 1, 2020, because her stay-out caregiver could not be with her. Her friendly barangay official named Tagalog frequently visited her to give her regular rations of food, protective supplies and cash. 

It was very good to see Ms. Gloria Sevilla in action again as she played this senior citizen confused and concerned about this mysterious virus. Sometimes she would be cantankerous, sometimes she would be motherly, but always dear and vulnerable -- like many other elderly women we may know. Manu Respall played the solicitous neighbor named Tagalog, humoring and calming the old lady when she expressed her concerns. 

The film was simple, both thematically and technically. Furthermore, the COVID-19 community quarantine subject matter may feel repetitive or over-stated already for some viewers, affecting whatever charm it may have intended.

HENERAL RIZAL

Directed by: Chuck Gutierrez
Written by Dr. Floro Quibuyen

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Jose Rizal's eldest brother Paciano had been a very active participant in the revolution being a close friend of Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto. However, because of his reticence and introversion, his side of the story was never told -- well, until now. Here, a dying 79-year old Paciano Rizal delivered a monologue addressed to his illustrious departed brother Jose, elucidating on his frustrations about how Filipinos seems to keep losing their battles and why he thought so. 

The eloquent script of Dr. Floro Quibuyen was well-researched, very informative and revealing. Veteran actor Nanding Josef was passion personified as he shared with us Paciano Rizal's elusive thoughts and misgivings. With this, director-editor Chuck Gutierrez interwove vintage historical video footage and photographs with new scenes of Jose Rizal (Juan Lorenzo Marco, his face unseen) walking in the present day, to connect Paciano's message from the past into the present. 

The standard Cinemalaya 2020 program bundle cost P250, but you need to pay an additional P150 to watch these three Premiere shorts. "Heneral Rizal" by itself, with its very important message and appeal so powerfully delivered, made the additional $3 worth every penny. You will want to watch this again. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."