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Remaining hopeful amidst COVID-19 via ‘Yugto (Chapter)’

There are times you’d feel like it doesn’t know what it wants to be – e.g. PSA on mask-wearing/hand-washing/etc; capturing of human experiences at the time of COVID-19; message of hope; etc. Yes, a film can be all these; but “Yugto”, running over 17 minutes long, isn’t able to do this. Still – and this is worth saying, I suppose – that it manages to say something at all is commendable.

What have you been doing at the time of COVID-19?

“Yugto (Chapter)” by Joanna Reyes, Cristy Linga and Ja Turla, basically, gives us glimpses in the lives of a lot of people during COVOD-19; many of them in the Philippines, though also some from overseas. BUT don’t expect to see entire chapters in the lives of people; instead, just a few pages in these chapters.

The “premise” of these people behind “Yugto” is “simple”: they supposedly asked for “contributed” clips to be sent to them on:

  1. how people spend their time during the pandemic,
  2. how it affected them,
  3. how they adapt,
  4. what they want to do when the pandemic is over,
  5. and so on…

And so we have the “collation” of their mini-stories presented to us via “Yugto”.

Does it work?

PROS

  • Nothing “grand” happens here; though, with people stuck at home, it’s really the seemingly trivial that is highlighted in people’s lives now. And so “Yugto” lives up to this “expectation” of being “small time” – e.g. choosing what face mask to wear before going out, sweeping the floor, riding a bike, etc.
  • It tells (or at least attempts to tell) the common tao‘s stories.
  • It attempts to be as inclusive as it can (within 17+ minutes). Kudos, I suppose, ought to go to Ja Turla for the editing attempt to make the storytelling “flow”.
  • You get glimpses of how good the people behind it can get if they shoot sans the limits set by COVID-19 (e.g. that last shot for the credits is actually poetic).

CONS

  • “Low budget is real” – e.g. we, ourselves, have been asking visual interviewees to take B rolls for us, and we know the shots they take are not only dependent on their “eye”, but also on digital divide (such as having the right gadgets, internet connection, and so on). And so there are times you get ultra-clear shots, and then there’d be times you’d get pixelated shots… these come with the territory now. With “Yugto”, there are shots belonging to the latter, thereby telling you outright this is “low budget”.
  • Inconsistency – i.e. because of the dependence on shots from others, you see lots of inconsistencies here, e.g. in the quality of shots, in the “vision” of who took the shots, etc. Like when an unnamed worker whose boss picks them up to take them to the office was talking, his self-recorded interview was grainy/pixelated. And then this is immediately followed by an ultra-crisp shot of some signage in an office’s façade. You also get “submissions” (e.g. the hotel worker in Amsterdam) versus those interviews that were obviously done to be included here (e.g. the water delivery boy).
  • Covering up the faces of interviewees affects filming – e.g. not all actors are Norma Desmond (i.e. setting the screen aflame with one look). This is a “necessity” due to the law-mandated practice of mask-wearing, but that it limits viewers seeing the expressions is apparent here.
  • Non-actors can’t always be great – e.g. you see them “performing” characters they want to project for the world to see them as.
  • There are too apparent “leading” expositions – e.g. listen to the rapper say “salot sa lipunan” following a shot of Rodrigo Duterte.
  • The still-limited representation of non-English and/or -Filipino speakers.

IN THE END

“A day in the life of” types of films are not uncommon – e.g. done extremely well (and quite extensively), you get the likes of Ladri di biciclette (The Bicycle Thief/Bicycle Thieves) by Vittorio De Sica. Done not-as-well, you just go to Facebook Live, Tik Tok, etc to see some samples.

“Yugto” – as stated – collates clips akin to those you’d see uploaded in FB, TT, IG, etc.

There are times you’d feel like it doesn’t know what it wants to be – e.g. PSA on mask-wearing/hand-washing/etc; capturing of human experiences at the time of COVID-19; message of hope; etc. Yes, a film can be all these; but “Yugto”, running over 17 minutes long, isn’t able to do this. Still – and this is worth saying, I suppose – that it manages to say something at all is commendable.

“Yugto (Chapter)” 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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