Kung isa ka sa mga piling taong sumusubaybay ng aking mumunting boses dito sa malaking mundo ng Internet, alam mo kung gaano katindi ang aking pagkabigo sa mga nakaraang Metro Manila Film Festivals. Bakit? You can read my post from last year here. Pero in one statement, it’s because most of the films that are included in the festival are run-of-the-mill cash grabs that rely on big names and CGI to draw people in. I would’ve boycotted this year’s festival, too, if it weren’t for two very different, but equally interesting movies. One of these two is Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo. Why? Just watch the trailer.
This film is a long overdue retelling of the trials, triumphs, and tragic demise of Andres Bonifacio. The movie dares to challenge the watered down and rather one-sided version of history that we get from our grade school textbooks. It is a very risky project on the side of the producers because historical films tend to be ridiculously expensive and famously unsuccessful in the box office. I’m pretty sure that’s why the movie, which was loaded with a lot of promise and burdened with an enormous responsibility, failed on some key points. Pero bago yan, pag-usapan muna natin kung ano ang maganda sa pelikulang ito. After all, I still think this movie needs to be seen.
1. The RoVin love team was such a joy to watch. I’m a 90’s baby kaya hindi kakaiba sa aking mga mata ang kakaibang chemistry nila Robin Padilla (who played the titular role as Andres Bonifacio) at Vina Morales (who played Bonifacio’s wife, Gregoria de Jesus). After decades since their last team up, bumabaha parin ng fireworks at chemistry onscreen. Even my father confessed na kinilig daw siya sa ligawan ng dalawa.
2. Vina Morales showed just how great of an actress she can be. Hindi masyadong marami ang mga eksena na naroon siya, pero she made them count. (Feel free to post a comment if I’m wrong) I remember Vina playing Oriang sa isang GMA Telesine special when I was young. It was a different take sa kwento ng mag-asawa dahil it showed her struggles as a wife who had to share her husband with the revolution. She broke my tiny 7-year old heart then and she broke it uli today. To all aspiring, young actresses out there, take notes. You don’t have to look perfect when you cry. You just have to be real.
3. It was a bold move to make this movie. For that alone, the people behind this project deserve a standing ovation. In a world of generic comedies that dumb viewers down, this is a much needed contrast. Salamat sa mga nagtiwala, nagpagod, at nangahas na gawin itong pelikulang ito. Bonifacio’s story deserves to be known and repaying his heroism with a more contemporary version of the same is a noble act of gratitude. I truly wish that the Filipino people honor your efforts by getting your money back (and maybe even more to fund another and, hopefully, even better film).
4. The masses will finally have access to this sliver of history. My twin sister and I were already in college when we found out the truth about Bonifacio’s death. I remember our very grave and emotion-packed discussion about the injustice that he and his family suffered. I remember a simmering rage that came with the knowledge that very few people knew about it. Sigurado ako na lahat ng nag-KAS as GE sa UP ay alam ang kwentong ito, pero sadyang maliit ang bilang kung ikukumpara sa lahat. At kahit pa sabihing hindi perpekto ang pelikulang ito, this is the best way for every Filipino to know that truth. How else can you get the common Juan to sit and sift through history kung hindi mo ilalahad sa paraang maiintindihan at bibigyan nila ng pansin?
5. The shots were superb. Pang-Hollywood ang framing at camera work ng pelikulang ito. It really shows the talent of the director, Enzo Williams, and the people behind the scenes. That first shot of Padre Burgos (Isko Moreno) told me right away that this will be a visual spectacle. The way that they used colors and tones to establish the mood of the scenes were mixed well. You can hit pause at any point of the movie and see how well the shot was taken. I appreciate that a lot because I know that it takes an incredible amount of artistry and attention to detail to achieve that quality. Oras na para makatikim naman ng something more than a three-piece, steady cam installation ang mga Pilipino.
Pero gaya nga ng sinabi ko, hindi perpekto ang pelikulang ito.
1. The lack of character depth. In my perspective, characters make or break the film. I’m not just talking about the actors and how they play their parts. Ang ibig sabihin ko ay ang laman at puso ng bawat tauhan sa pelikula. The audience has to feel something for them. Whether the viewer hates a character (like Dolores Umbridge), loves a character (like Timothy Green), or couldn’t figure out how they feel about them (like Ruby Sparks), the audience has to feel something about them. Dito, I wasn’t as emotionally invested in the characters. Even my younger sister voiced out the same thing when she said, “Wala akong pakialam kahit mamatay yung mga kasama ni Bonifacio.” His brother died with him pero did I care? Nope? Did I even know that he was his brother? No. What happened to the main characters was a tragedy beyond compare, pero hindi na-milk yung moment for all it’s worth. Sayang.
2. The gratuitous inclusion of certain people (ehem… Daniel Padilla). Well, medyo conflicted naman ako dito. It was not necessary for the story (as I would have preferred a solid biography of Andres Bonifacio), pero it was necessary for this film to even break even. Hindi naman nangingimi ang mga tao behind this na sabihing Daniel Padilla was there to get the younger generation in the theaters. I understand that and I am willing to forgive this. At least, in this movie, the big name star’s appearance was the gimmick and not the entirety of the film. In this time of very slim pickings, malaking bagay na yan.
3. The pacing was slow.
4. The writing. This is one thing na nakikita kong nag-de-depreciate na sa film industry not just here, but everywhere in the world. The screenplay is not fluid, not cohesive, and not powerful enough. This is a period drama, pero hindi consistent ang language sa pelikula. You can’t help but compare it to the great Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Jose Rizal in which masinsin ang pagkakasulat at maging ang intonasyon at bali ng pagbitaw sa mga linya ay nabigyan ng pansin. If you’re looking for that, you may be disappointed. Unang mga eksena at linya palang ng Bonifacio, alam mo na that you’re watching a Robin Padilla action hero flick.
I don’t know who dropped the ball. Hindi ba nila nabuo ang script before they started shooting kaya nagkaganoon? Did they accidentally make the movie much longer kaya kinailangang putulin ang ibang eksena? Did they prioritize the aesthetically-pleasing scenes over the story-building ones? I don’t know.
There was one cutaway scene in which the people in the future were looking into the far beyond. Walang reason. Walang narration. Walang point. Tapos balik na uli sa nakaraan. Ano yun?
Walang malinaw na clues sa kung bakit nangyayari ang mga nangyayari. Bakit nasa museum nalang sila bigla? Natripan lang ba ni Joaquin na umupo sa isang desk sa museum at doon biglang mag-drawing? Kung gawin ko ba yun sa totoong buhay e hindi ako palalayasin ng guard o bantay (played by Eddie Garcia)? Normal ba ang pagsabat-sabat nalang bigla sa usapan ng may usapan? Bakit yung mga bata ang pinapagalitan ni manong? Anong ginagawa nila Bonifacio sa Wawa? Anong pakels ko sa love life ng kapatid ni Andres?
Maybe I should make a video on How To Fix Bonifacio. Hmm…
This is no Jose Rizal. This is no Braveheart. This movie is a valiant effort to produce an epic-sized, historical, dramatic film on a rather limited budget. Watch it with an open mind and a forgiving spirit. Try to remember that this was made by a handful of people who believed in what they were making. Walang higanteng production company na nagpondo rito. Wala ring matinding makinarya upang punuin ang bansa ng mga mall show at billboards. This is a film that will rely on you to get people into theaters to see a part of history that has not been told on the big screen yet. Kung para na lamang sa mensahe at kasaysayan na ipahahayag nito e sulit naman na ang manood. At kung kikita ito at magiging testamento na gusto ng Pilipino ng something more tuwing MMFF, edi mabuti! Dahil kung mayroon mang isang bagay na magkakaisa si Rizal, Bonifacio, at ako, ito ay ang buksan ang isip at palawigin ang kaalaman ng kabataang Pilipino. We wage war on the same battlefield, the minds of the young people, and against one enemy which is ignorance. Ang panonood nito ay isang mabuting unang hakbang.
PS. Special thanks to the Grajaleses (especially Ate Onah) for our tickets.