Sunday, March 22, 2015

indie film marathon: Balut Country and Imbisibol

thank goodness for subtitles.

once upon a time, there lived a man who had a duck farm.  he had intended his only son to inherit the business someday, but his son had no intentions of manning the farm, as he was only interested in making music.  one day, the man died.  his son,  Jun (Rocco Nacino), goes home to Candaba, Pampanga, to sell the duck farm he has inherited from his estranged dead father in order to start his life with his pregnant girlfriend.  what he didn't know was that selling the land, displacing the current family taking care of the farm, is easier said than done.

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one of the things we wish to see in independent Filipino films is the use of the local dialect.  it makes the film more grounded and the characters more real when speaking in their native tongue, rather than the Filipino vernacular.  Balut Country is the perfect balance of the Pampangueño dialect and Tagalog.  the story is very simple, yet relatable.  it happens almost all the time in the Filipino setting.  imagine how parents work their best to give their children the kind of future they never had growing up and their children do not want to have anything to do with it.  such is the case of Jun, who is more interested in making a mark in show business rather than continue the family business.  much as he would like to settle everything and get it over with, the more delays there are in the sale, the less he is able to make Mang Dado (Ronnie Quizon) and his family leave the farm.  while he wants to sell the land, the thought of sending them away after they spent their whole lives caring for the farm seems unfathomable.  he would have the same indecision as far as his girlfriend's condition is concerned.  she had been asking him perpetually for a date when they would tie the knot, or when he would sell the land or if he will agree to live with her mother in Sydney.  it would seem that all he cared about was himself and even then, despite all their hardships, Mang Dado and his family seemed to be more caring.  in the end, Jun makes a choice and we see how he is more like his father after all.

the film starts with an argument between a man and a woman, presumably husband and wife, in Nippongo.  he is mad at her for not sending "them" away like he told her to.  she reasons with him, saying it is not as easy as he thinks it is, and that they feel like family to her.  she feels obligated to protect them.  he ends the argument by threatening to send them away and even telling on them, if she does not evict them.  and Act One begins.

Edward (Ricky Davao) and Benjie (Bernardo Bernardo) live together with another Filipino family in one apartment unit.  Edward works as a caregiver while Benjie works two jobs, one in a steel company and another in a bar, as a dishwasher.  while they have families at home, they live together as a couple in Fukuoka City, Japan.  Benjie comes home from his second job with "contraband" from the RP, butong pakwan (watermelon seeds) Edward's favorite, hiding it in the cupboard, where he cannot find it.  they go to a local church where the Filipino priest switches from rough Nippongo to Tagalog to remind them to avoid certain places so as not to get caught by the immigration police.  Benjie and their friends prepare a surprise birthday party for Edward.  as they wait in the bar, Edward is a no-show.  Edward is caught by the immigration police, and Act Two begins.

Manuel (Allen Dizon) works as a male escort where he is the oldest and therefore has few, if not, no customers at all.  his working visa has already expired.  you'd think that poor business has made him more cautious and frugal but no, to make matters worse, Manuel has a gambling problem.  he tries to milk his old patrons, thinking he still has a high market value, despite his age, which of course, is not the case.  again, for someone begging for second, third, fourth chances, Manuel isn't exactly down to earth.  he is an arrogant asshole (reminds me of someone i used to know) who has not come to terms with the fact that he is a has-been.  his last chance is to borrow from Tita Linda, marking the start of Act Three.

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Linda (Ces Quesada) and her husband own the apartment building where a bunch of illegal Filipino aliens are staying.  we see her early in the film arguing as she refuses to evict her fellow Filipinos.  she picks up their mail, collects money from them to send home to the Philippines, and part of their placement fee.  she even gives the ladies tips on how to snag old Japanese men to secure a marriage visa.  it breaks her heart to send them away so instead of telling them face to face, she leaves the eviction notice in their mailbox.  Rodel, one of the illegal tenants, receives his through the mail as well, beginning Act Four.

Rodel (JM De Guzman) works in a lumber yard with a bunch of other Filipinos.  he sends money to his daughter living back at home.  one of his fellow Filipinos has a hard time getting over his being promoted and causes trouble for him in the workplace.  Rodel accidentally kills his co-worker (JC Santos) in a brawl and goes into hiding back in Linda's apartment.

in Act Five, all four characters' lives converge as Benjie visits Linda to seek advice after Edward got caught. Manuel tries to charm his way with Linda to borrow money and Rodel tries to hide from the authorities who have found the body in the snow.

the city was a character in itself and the actors having to undergo these weather conditions just brought out a more realistic and very wonderful performance.  after the movie, i wanted to do a slow clap and standing ovation on the half-empty theater.  the film should not go unnoticed.

this was a Sunday well spent.