I rarely want to watch Tagalog films as they’re pretty dull and crappy. But lately, the indies are putting out films that are worthy of international acclaim. The irony is that it is mostly foreign film buffs who appreciate their works of art. The Filipino masses are so easy to please and so hard to convince.
I wanted to watch Kinatay (Butchered) by Brilliante Mendoza who won Best Director in the Cannes Film Fest. For the life of me, I couldn’t find a copy. So I was pondering my choices in Video City when I came across this film which I can’t pronounce, Mangatyanan.
Laya Marquez is a photographer. Her father, Danilo Marquez, is also a photographer, a very famous and highly respected one. Photography was something they had in common but not the thing that binds them.
The movie begins with Laya’s father having a heart attack and Laya refuses to visit him, although she provides the money for his medical expenses. Laya’s mother abandoned her with her father when she was 12, suspecting that her father had another woman. What her mother didn’t know was that the other woman was her.
Laya’s next assignment was to shoot a ritual called “Mangatyanan”, performed by the dwindling tribe, Labwanan in Isabela province. With her, is a free-lance photographer named Eric who seems genuinely interested in her but her cold hard exterior makes her suspicious of his motives.
What she finds in Isabela was not what she was expecting. She is forced to confront her past as the ritual unravels.
This movies has a lot of flaws but nevertheless, it’s very engaging and evoked the right emotions in me, at least most of the time. I really related to Laya as a character although her father issues are way eekier than mine. Che Ramos (Laya Marquez) effectively conveyed stoic expressionlessness to the T. I didn’t notice the Eric character much as I felt he was just a prop in the story which centered on Laya. I laughed a bit at the editor, though and thought the mother was little on the overreacting side, but not much.
The story itself has been done time and time again but the perversity of it never really desensitize the viewers. I like that they didn’t do the rape scenes too graphic. I didn’t care for the small montage with the fast-forwards though.
All in all the movie was decent. There were flaws in the production like the shaky camera and over-exposed scenes (rather ironic that the film has photography in the subplot). Production-wise, it looks like a film student’s project.
What I really appreciated the dialogue and the acting which was not so over-done. It didn’t feel like the actors were trying hard…most of the time.
The ending bugs me more than anything. I felt like they didn’t know when to end the movie. Three times, I thought I’d see the end credits, but no… They just kept adding scene after pointless scene that dragged the movie down a couple of notches for me.
I thought they could have ended it with an open ending for a simpler take. Open endings are not popular with audiences, I know, but sometimes a movie calls for one. This one did… I think. I’m definitely sure they should have never even bother to actually show the father.
Mangatyanan is not award-winning but it definitely peaked my interest in watching Pinoy movies again. At least the indie ones.
3.5 out of 5 reels