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Missed opportunities via the confused ‘Ang Mga Nawalang Pag-asa at Panlasa’

Is Kevin Ayson’s “Ang Mga Nawalang Pag-asa at Panlasa” a film on Ilocano cuisine, PR mat for the “saviors” of Ilocano culture, or “buhat-bangko” of youth?

Is Kevin Ayson’s “Ang Mga Nawalang Pag-asa at Panlasa” a film on Ilocano cuisine, PR mat for the “saviors” of Ilocano culture, or “buhat-bangko” of youth?

It’s “all of the above”.

And for me, this makes this film with promise (had it chosen to tackle these issues separately perhaps) a missed opportunity at being great at what it wants to do…

PROS

  • Celebration of an aspect of the Ilocano culture (i.e. the foods). At a time when the DTI wants to “police” Filipino foods, a film like this ought to highlight that the country’s offerings are so… numerous, some of them varying by region, and yet all of them still very “Filipino” and, yes, still as yummy.
  • Discovery of Ilocano foods, many we don’t even know about.
  • Great shots – e.g. of the foods, aerial shots of various locations, interviews (even when done at night), etc. This director has the eye; and this has to be said.
  • Featuring Ilocanos themselves, particularly those who help promote their cuisines (as cooks, chefs, restaurant owners, etc) makes for “inclusive” approach and proper representation. This is even if I have apprehensions with an Americanized cook basically being used to “tie” the narratives of the locals, as he’s keen to “introduce” the Ilocano offerings overseas (this search for White validation has to stop, seriously).
  • Mingling the narrative of entrepreneurs with the effects of COVID-19.
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CONS

  • Try watching the videos of some looped music videos in YouTube, where the editing tries to be “modern” only to end up giving us similar-looking travelogues with shots segregated by… pretentious transitions (editor: Kevin Jay Ayson). You occasionally get that here; which is sad because there are awesome shots scattered throughout this documentary (directors of photography: Darwin Macugay and Juan Carlo Uy).
  • The desire to encompass everything is, for me, detrimental to emphasizing on some stories – e.g. every delicacy has its own story, worth a film of its own, so that deciding to do a “general” perspective deprived these delicacies their chance to really, really shine.
  • This desire to highlight cuisines… to end up promoting efforts (particularly of the youth) at the time of the pandemic. And then “forcibly” trying to tie the two together. It’s too… manipulative, at least for me.
  • Ending up as PR campaign of Sabaw Hunters Ilocos.
  • Ending felt like… “pagbubuhat ng sariling bangko” of the “youth” the filmmaker wanted to highlight – i.e. that sans them, the Ilocano cuisines would “disappear”, when really, he meant the current caretakers of knowledge re these delicacies will (just) continue to suffer due to the pandemic. This “approach” forgets a lesson re culture – i.e. it’s here before us, it’ll survive after us (even if in amended forms).

IN THE END

That Ayson has the “eye” (able to take good shots) is undeniable. And that’s what’s good about this short film; it can be repeatedly stated, too. Now… if only he’s as meticulous with the story he wants to tell, not ending up producing PR or SS…

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“Ang Mga Nawalang Pag-asa at Panlasa” 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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