This is part of FRINGE MAGAZINE’s coverage of Cinemalaya 2018. Themed “Wings of Vision”, the 14th iteration of the annual indie film fest is said to continue to “discover, encourage and support the cinematic works of upcoming and veteran Filipino filmmakers who boldly articulate and freely interpret the Philippine experience with fresh insight and artistic integrity.” So here’s a closer look at whether the films do exactly that.
In the Philippines, it isn’t always that we see films with stories revolving around old(er) characters. At least particularly when we talk about mainstream films; since – at least – in the indie scene, we had Adela (with then 83-year-old Anita Linda) in 2008; and then Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay (with the late Lilia Cuntapay) in 2011.
And so it is refreshing seeing Mamang by Denise O’Hara in Cinemalaya 2018.
Without giving much away, Mamang is the story of a woman who is already at the twilight of her life. Played by Celeste Legaspi, Mamang struggles against senile dementia, as she starts to have a difficult time distinguishing what is real and what is not, and then deciding on whether letting the mind go may be a better “option” than staying sane with nothing but memories.
- That it tries to deal with a difficult subject should be commended.
Particularly recently, our local films (and TV shows, for that matter) over-focus on two women fighting over a man, glamorizing of the other woman, Hollywood copies, et cetera. That there are stories to tell beyond these ought to be considered; and Mamang does that…
- The last two minutes (before the film credits start to roll) of the flick. Particularly for the soft-hearted.
THE NOT SO GOOD
- To start, the lighting isn’t good.
On the one hand, too many scenes were too dark.
And then when lighting effects were used at all, it was to “ruin” the film’s supposed “secret” by being too obvious (i.e. blue light). The whole time I was watching, I was thinking: Did O’Hara not watch Sixth Sense or A Ghost Story and pick points re shooting ghosts from these (considering his similar “twist”)?
- A continuity issue that bothered me was that towel that was slipping in one scene, and which was then in place in the next shot. There’s also that “mom can’t read without her glasses” in one scene, followed by another where Mamang was reading the card she’s holding without her glasses.
- You can also tell there weren’t a lot of cameras used since some shots stay in a place too long – e.g. when Mamang is cooking. With Hollywood flicks already being shot using iPhone, a former limitation (that is, lack of cameras) should no longer be seen as such…
- Acting isn’t always convincing.
Like when Mamang and her son Ferdie (Ketchup Eusebio) were walking; they’d do this oh-so-slowly, as if saying “the camera’s in front of us”.
There were flat jokes.
There were the “pauses” in the delivery of lines to give way to this-or-that ghost, instead of the film developing a “flow” (thus the mention of Sixth Sense and A Ghost Story above).
And then there was the more theatrical – instead of cinematic – approach to the role. I couldn’t help but think of Gloria Swanson’s Norma Desmond in Sunset Blvd…
IN THE END
The attempt to tell a less commonly touched issue is admirable.
But this is NOT Aurora Borealis (2006) or Away From Her (2007) or The Savages (2007); or anywhere near.
It’s still refreshing seeing this onscreen, all the same; particularly if you can wait for the last minutes…
Running time: 90 mins
Celeste Legaspi, Ketchup Eusebio, Peewee O’Hara, Alex Medina, Gio Gahol, Elora Espano & Paolo O’Hara
Director & Screenplay Denise O’Hara • Executive Producer Celestino Palma III • Supervising Producer Jerry O’Hara • Co-Producer Jedd Dumaguina • Line Producer Dee Nermal • Assistant Director She Andes • Editor Thop Nazareno • Cinematography Lee Briones-Meily • Production Design Martin Masadao • Production Manager Med Bermudez • Original Music Teresa Barrozo • Sound Design Bryan Dumaguina