It’s that time of the century when Filipinos are finally paying to watch Filipino films!
I’m “triggered” (as the kids say these days) by all this runaway success from Filipino filmmakers because…well, I’m Filipino, and I love seeing fellow Filipinos succeed.
But what triggers me even more are Filipino filmmakers with huge hearts! Their creative intentions appear to be governed by more than just a desire for box office success.
One of the best things that happened to me this year was knowing Randolph Longjas from Batch 16 of the Ricky Lee Workshop. Not only was he my groupmate but as one of the more experienced members of the batch, ‘Tay (as some of us fondly call him) is very generous with his talent, knowledge of narrative and structure, and on nights when he’s feeling extra good, endless fistfuls of booze. He has an unusual exuberance about everything and everyone yet can still display command. For me, it’s a pretty unusual combination. He can look at you and see something that no one else has seen before, and tell you so in a gentle, almost singsong kind of voice.
Because he was one of the few in our batch who’d already directed a feature film, we’d sometimes pester him to screen his movies for us. One night, he finally acquiesced. He played Ang Turkey Man Ay Pabo Rin, his first movie and by his admission, a very raw debut film. I loved it. It was raw, all right, but it was honest and cute. As cute as his tousled boy-next-door looks! (One round of Stella Artois, super cold please!)
I was really delighted when I saw his second film and he asked me to give some feedback on camera to help promote the film. Honestly, it’s one of the best local films I’ve seen this year, which is bad news if you need me to say something intelligent and crafted, as I tend to gush my praise and love in a near-incomprehensible stream of what I hope will still pass as commentary.
Written by Allan Habon, Star Na Si Van Damme Stallone is about a mother raising a child with Down Syndrome. “Way back 2015, a cousin of mine who had DS died a week before her 18th birthday. I realized then that there is no Filipino film yet that features the lives of people with Down Syndrome. From then on, I took it as a challenge to create visual material for them. In a way, the film is a tribute to my cousin, Angel,” he explains. He also told us that he is proud of this film as he was able to apply so much of his lessons learned from his experiences mounting his debut film (which was so successful that it actually had a TV spin-off).
While watching Star Na Si Van Damme Stallone, I couldn’t help but think of the parents of DS kids, including one of my best friends whose daughter is my godchild. Having a child with DS in your life is like having an angel who, because she perceives reality differently, can really take you to another place, if you let her, and then you become much closer to who you really are. The film gives your muscles of compassion and empathy a good, solid, one and a half-hour workout, and believe me, you’ll be surprised at how life opens up for you when those muscles are finally fully developed (just like what it did for that Hollywood actor The Rock, but I’m going off on tangent again…)
Candy Pangilinan as the mother and Paolo Pingol as her son are getting so much acclaim for their portrayals and as of this writing, the film continues to do well at the box office. So much well-deserved goodness!
I won’t spoil it in any way for you, so I urge you to watch it between now and August 22 in cinemas nationwide!