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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.

“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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