Review: Why 'Baseball Player' is Cinemalaya's best film

Fred Hawson

Posted at Aug 17 2022 11:05 AM

A scene from 'The Baseball Player'
A scene from 'The Baseball Player'

After his family was killed by soldiers, little Khalid (JM Bautista) was brought by Fajad (Don Melvin Boongaling) to live with his parents' relatives in a neighboring town. Almera (Tess Antonio) and her teenage son Amir (Tommy Alejandrino) welcomed Khalid into their home. Amir brought Khalid to the same school where he studied. Being the new boy, Khalid was quiet and aloof, but he was not afraid to defend himself from bullies. 

Because of his skills in baseball, Amir was being encouraged by their teacher Sir Jonas (Pongs Leonardo) to try out for varsity in Sultan Kudarat, and this was what Amir wanted to do with his life. However, Amir had also been recruited by his Uncle Nhor (Joel Saracho) to do combat training with his group. As the Armed Forces of the Philippines escalated their drive against the Moro Freedom Movement, troops soon reached their town. 

Those expecting this film to be a sports drama because of the seemingly straightforward title will likely be disappointed. There was not even a full game of baseball here where the title character will play a critical role in his team's victory. It was not that kind of baseball movie with kids -- not like "Rookie of the Year" or "Little Big League." Baseball here was the dream which apparently was denied Amir because of the turbulent place where he lived.

The two boys who were co-leads both deserved commendation for their performances. Tommy Alejandrino played Amir as the willing elder brother to Khalid, even if he had also lost his own father in the war. His character was torn between what he wanted and what he needed to do, and Alejandrino kept his emotions reined in control. Young JM Bautista held his own against his more mature co-stars. Whenever his Khalid cried, we cry along with him.

Writer-director Carlo Obispo told an affecting story of Muslim children growing up in the traumatic shadow cast by a civil war of indefinite duration. The scene juxtaposing a child's cries with gunfire was so powerful, you'd wish that the credits did not roll up yet at that time. It's best not to expect too much given the Best Film and other awards it won, lest you overthink it and miss its point. There is indeed a beating heart in its simple but solid narrative. 

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

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