PPP 2020 reviews: 'Kintsugi,' 'Blood Hunters,' 'The Helper'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Nov 29 2020 06:57 AM

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's version of FDCP's annual flagship event, the 4th Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (PPP), will be held online via an exclusive FDCP-sponsored platform (FDCPchannel.ph), from November 20 to December 6. 

There are said to be 100 or so Filipino films in this PPP, divided into sections with various genres. I will be writing reviews of the films in the Premium section of the festival, featuring films that had limited release or have never been released to the Philippine audience.

KINTSUGI (2020)

Director: Lawrence Fajardo
Writer: Herlyn Alegre

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Dante Dizon (JC Santos) was a Filipino who was working in Japan in a traditional ceramics factory. Harue Matsusaka (Hiro Nishiuchi) was the daughter of his boss who left her job as an art professor in Tokyo to devote her time to their family business. After a rough start, the two became friends which later developed into a romance. However, while Harue was being matched by her parents to marry close family friend Ryo (Makoto Yananagitsuru), Dante had been keeping a big secret about himself back home in Pampanga.

JC Santos is really typecast into playing these charming jerks lately. As we knew more about his old life he left behind, Dante becomes more and more unlikable as he continued to deceive Harue, and even fought with his housemate Willy (Phi Palmos). Kintsugi, the unique Japanese art of repairing broken ceramics by bonding the pieces with gold to come up with another thing of beauty, is a metaphor for apology and renewal. Ironically, the main plot arc of this film went against the positivity of its title. However, under Law Fajardo's direction, the cinematography of Boy Yniguez was so aesthetically Japanese, definitely the best aspect of this film, along with the very natural portrayals of Harue and Ryo.

BLOOD HUNTERS: RISE OF THE HYBRIDS (2018)

Director and writer: Vincent Soberano

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A group of soldiers called Section One was led by Commander Jun to fight the Aswangs. However, when Jun killed the Aswang Queen, he was also mortally wounded, so he decided to inject himself with the Aswang Queen's blood, making him the first aswang hybrid. He created his own army of aswang hybrids led by his vicious henchmen Gundra (Mekael Turner) and Naga (Temujin Shirzada) that now terrorized the countryside. A new group of vigilante warriors have joined forces to train in Grand Master Ishida's Slayers Camp to fight this new sadistic scourge.

The Slayers were led by Monte (Monsour del Rosario) and a reformed hybrid Bolo (Vincent Soberano) with their attractive lead fighters, Max (Ian Ignacio) and Kali (Roxanne Barcelo). Ex-soldier Gabriela Chen (Sarah Chang) joined the Slayers after they saved her life, and she bonded most with Bolo, who also lost his family to the hybrids like her. I had seen Soberano's previous project "The Trigonal" and liked it. The graphic novel aesthetics and mixed martial arts fight scenes were generally good, but the over-the-top acting by most of the cast was undeniably cringy.

THE HELPER (2017)

Director and writer: Joanna Bowers

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The Unsung Heroes, a choir composed of Filipina domestic workers assembled by British expat musician Jane Engelmann, were invited to sing at the Clockenflap music festival to perform their sentimental song "I Wish I Could Kiss You Tonight" dedicated to the children they left behind. Liza Avelino was a Filipina domestic worker who achieved her dream to hike up to the summit of Mt. Everest. Nurul Hidayah was an Indonesian domestic worker who was accused of theft leading to the lapsing of her working visa, legal problems further complicated by an unexpected pregnancy. 

This was a documentary made by Hong Kong-based British filmmaker Joanna Bowers, who followed the stories of a number of women who left their own families to work away from their countries in Hong Kong as domestic helpers. There were three main stories being told through its 106-minute runtime, interviewing not only the domestic helpers themselves but also the people who were helping them along the way. The documentary itself was well-made and had effective emotional connection, but it felt this was a bit out of place in a festival meant to celebrate Filipino films and filmmakers.

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

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