Friday, August 17, 2018

Madilim Ang Gabi

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Lando (Phillip Salvador) and Sara (Gina Alajar) bicker with their son regarding his ways which causes the latter to leave home. They never see him again. It might as well be a simple case of misunderstanding between a parent and a child, but the couple’s illicit past makes them feel uneasy and suspect that something bad has happened to their kid. She has always been known in the community as a small-time drug pusher. While her husband believes that she has already changed her ways in fear of the dangerous war on drugs waged by the current administration, she just doesn’t know any other sideline to make ends meet. As she worries about the real situation of her son and what could have happened to him, she navigates the underbelly of the city’s drug trade and runs into former friends, former enemies, former victims who have a score to settle with her.

This must be the Avengers of Philippine indie cinema. While the director’s films are not that popular in the mainstream, it is no secret that he has directed various actors from both mainstream and indie. Here, he seems to have called everyone and asked them to do a cameo appearance, and most of them agreed. It is cool because it shows the good working relationship among them for them to be that eager to participate sans payment. The flurry of cameos helps give the movie some much needed hype somehow.

As for the subject matter, the narrative is just as polarizing as the political theme it is commenting on. In a country where political opinions are defined by popularity and personality politics, people have already made up their minds regarding their political leanings. No film will ever change that. The stand of the director about the issue is quite clear and a bit predictable. After all, the showbiz industry always tends to be on the liberal side of the spectrum. Political opinion aside, we must focus on other aspects.

While there will always be an argument as to whether cinema should be normative or descriptive, at the end of the day we can all agree to disagree and just come to a consensus that film will always be a medium that highlights our humanity. Sure, there are many things to discuss about the plot and the storyline, but in the disagreement that results in varying opinions, a movie should spark empathy. As such, it is in the acting and relatability of the material that a film will truly succeed. Madilim And Gabi is okay in that regard.

Salvador and Alajar lead the pack. The acting style fluctuates depending on the intended mood for the scene. There are instances when they are subtle and there are moments where they seem to be reaching a bit and border on exaggeration. In any case, the intended effect almost always tends to be there, evoking the required emotion from the audience regardless of their political opinion or affiliation. Acting aside, the topic itself is controversial and won’t really be appreciated in the local scene.

If anything, the aim of the material seems to be to raise awareness in the international community, some sort of feature telling them that, hey, these things are happening in our country despite what traditional media might tell you. The accompanying poverty porn also makes it a good fit for global viewing, while at the same time highlighting some political truths that are hard to swallow but must be brought to light for the sake of transparency. All in all, it is a brave attempt and can serve as a unified stand from the film industry regarding the current state of politics in the country.

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