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Looking for the magic in ‘Looking for Rafflesias and Other Fleeting Things’

You can take “Looking for Rafflesias and Other Fleeting Things” as many things – e.g. coming out story, growing up/coming of age tale, snippets of a life in the province, May-December affair, and so on. And in a way, they’re all true. But – the bigger question is – does the short film work?

“Looking for Rafflesias and Other Fleeting Things” – by James Fajardo – tells the story of Gubat, who is believed to be a child of a “Tikbalang” (a half-human, half-horse mythical creature in Philippine folklore). This perception affects his relationship with everyone – e.g. the girl he admires – though also his way of seeing himself. To get away from the “maddening crowd”, he strolls in some forest, where:

  1. he finds a dead body,
  2. befriends a guy who saw him find a dead body,
  3. finds the rafflesia (a rare flower), and
  4. finds himself.

You can take “Looking for Rafflesias and Other Fleeting Things” as many things – e.g. coming out story, growing up/coming of age tale, snippets of a life in the province, May-December affair, and so on. And in a way, they’re all true. But – the bigger question is – does the short film work?

PROS

  • Regional storytelling rocks; more non-cosmopolitan narratives should always be welcomed.
  • Production touches that matter – e.g. the “punit” in the boy’s sleeve.

CONS

  • Too “script-y” – e.g. listen to the gossipmongers in front of the sari-sari store, speaking like they’re just reading off a script instead of giving life to real “tsismosas“.
  • Too stage-y at times – e.g. when the grandmother and the grandson were chatting, seated on the wooden sofa. They looked too… “arranged”.
  • Hurrah (NOT!) for Filipino and English writing again…
  • Color grading’s too… generic. Reminded me of ‘Kawatan sa Salog (A Toy In The River)’, another entry to this year’s Cinemalaya.
  • Limited shots – e.g. the gossipmongers are discussing a passing funeral, but we really only see the two gossipmongers.
  • Some shots are unnecessarily too long – e.g. church scene with the cast singing “Our Father”.
  • Suspension of belief is necessary – e.g. he finds a dead body, and… he goes swimming; he disappears for days, and the “lola” doesn’t even look for him; etc.

IN THE END

Full of symbolism, “Looking for Rafflesias and Other Fleeting Things” has a good premise, and – admittedly, occasionally good shots. It’s the winding telling that’s sorta tedious; so if you can hack that, this short film is… tolerable.

READ:  Cinemalaya 2020 postponed

“Looking for Rafflesias and Other Fleeting Things” is part of the 17th edition of Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, running until September 5 ktx.ph (https://www.ktx.ph/).

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