Saturday, 6 December 2014

'Sana Dati' And 'Ilo Ilo' At The 2014 ASEAN Film Festival

I have never been to the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art next to the Gyeongbuk Palace in Seoul.  And this 2014 ASEAN Film Festival was a good excuse to visit the museum.

Thanks to the organizers of the festival, and to Miss Youngmi Kim, who helped book me tickets for two films, I was able to spring out of my Sunday bed and head to the palatial neighborhood of the Museum. The last time I was in this area  was last summer when my friends and I decided to walk from the Tong-in Market, where we had our lunch

                               (My ASEFF tickets!)

Luckily, the film from the Philippines, Sana Dati (Only If), was screened on a weekend. And even luckier, Ilo Ilo, the film from Singapore and the recipient of Camera d'Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival would be screened on the same day. I had to watch both films!

(Director Jerrold Tarog talking to the audience of 'Sana Dati')

I can't remember the last time I watched a Filipino film inside a theater, and 'Sana Dati', being the first Filipino I would have watched in Korea, deserved to be so. Though it was 100 minutes long, I hardly felt that I missed lunch while watching the film; it started at 12 noon.

This film was about a girl who was getting married but ended up asking herself whether she should marry her groom or this stranger who was there to videotape her wedding. I liked the way the director, Jerrold Tarog, told the 'present' and slowly presented the audience with the 'past' through conversations of the bride and the videographer, and the way the fourth character (a dead boyfriend) was introduced into the movie was brilliant; he was first part of the conversation and slowly appeared in scenes with the bride, consequently explaining why the girl was undecided in the first place. This dead boyfriend by the way, almost stole the movie. And if he did, he had the right to. After all, he was the reason why she couldn't move on to marry the present guy.

After the film, the director, who flew to Seoul to attend this film festival, talked with the audience and answered a few questions. He shared the idea of 'singularity' in his movie, where the past, present and future meet in one spot. During the film, there were already mentions of 'physics' and scenes that brilliantly contributed to the idea of singularity. (By the way, a few days before I watched this film, I saw Interstellar, which also featured singularity, not in a wedding, but in space).

It was my first time to see Lovi Poe (the bride), Paulo Avelino (the videographer), Benjamin Alves (the dead boyfriend) and TJ Trinidad (the groom) in a film. The first three clearly delivered and carried the whole film. Although I wouldn't know much about the current Philippine actors, these three made it look like there was no one else who could play their respective parts.  

              (A scone and an iced cafe mocha to tie me 
                            up for the next movie)
                    (The crowd outside the festival theater)

After Sana Dati, I rushed to the food court of the Museum and grabbed a scone and iced cafe mocha to tie up my tummy until the next movie, Ilo Ilo.

While I had a few minutes to spare, I tried to roam around the  main building of the Museum, which was disappointingly uninteresting. This place was huge and spacious, but I wonder why there weren't much visitors on a Sunday. I wonder if it would have been more interesting if they built indoor tennis or badminton courts instead. I would definitely be in this area almost every other weekend! Ha-ha-ha!

Ilo Ilo, the film from Singapore, was also very good and interesting. The story was about a Singaporean family, who hired a Filipina maid as the mom was pregnant and could not keep up with the household chores and her mischievous son. As the film was set during the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the family struggled with money, relationships and mutual trust, and it seemd that Terry, the Filipina maid, was the only one truthful in the movie, except for some moments when she 'borrowed' her mistress lipstick. 

Terry, in the movie, spoke Ilonggo, the dialect spoken in the Iloilo Province in the Visayan region of the Philippines. Even if there were no subtitles, I was able to understand Terry when she was talking in Ilonggo to her family on the phone. 

Unfortunately, the director, Anthony Chen, wasn't around to discuss his film with the Ilo Ilo audience. It would have been interesting if he were around. Although there were a couple of so-called film critics who sat down with the audience, I didn't bother to listen. 

I read in the news that Anthony Chen's former nanny when he was a kid was from the province of Iloilo in the Philppines. He obviously named Terry after his own nanny, Teresita Sajonia, with whom he had lost contact for 16 years, but he finally found her in Iloilo and he made her his guest of honor when this film premiered in Singapore.

Here is a touching story from the Inquirer on how he found her after all those years:

Almost every year, I visit my cousins in the Jaro District of Iloilo City, which, by the way, has the best bingka in the Philippines, and about an hour from Iloilo City is the incredibly beautiful Miag-ao Church

And when I cross the Iloilo Strait from Bacolod City this month, I will definitely remember this film.

Thanks to Jerrold Tarog and Anthony Chen for bringing their films to the 2014 ASEAN Film Festival. Being a movie fan, I was happy I was able to watch and enjoy both films!

I'm now looking forward to next year's selections.

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