By MARIA PAMELA S. REYES
SOCIAL MEDIA has become an essential part of today’s culture. It is an extremely common sight to see someone holding their cellphones, while scrolling through immeasurable amounts of online content. Unfortunately, it also brings about the terrible realization that not everyone is aware of whether the posts they are seeing and sharing are tampered or if it can ruin a person’s life and disposition for good. This problem is greatly exhibited in the film for it talks about how social media has become a massive threat in the contemporary world.
It all began when John Denver Cabungcal – a fourteen-year-old farm boy – is caught on camera beating up Mark, his classmate who falsely accused him of stealing an iPad. Like wildfire, the video rapidly spreads across their small village in Antique, making him the talk of the town, and later by the whole nation. Consequently, John Denver lands in an inescapable mess due to the effects of a simple mindless click made by the meddlesome mass.
Directed and written by Arden Rod Condez, John Denver Trending tackles the bitter reality of how this country handles issues such as social media, the justice system, the rapid growth of fake news, and the toxicity of call-out culture. The film also focuses on how cyberbullying affects a child’s mental disposition and how adults, despite having good intentions, lack the proper execution when it comes to addressing the issue and its repercussions.
Director Condez has excellently integrated the use of local culture, traditions, and customs while mixing in the modern use of technology: computer shops, cellphones, and the use of social media mirror the reality the country is in today. Likewise, the use of religious and national music during heavy scenes is eerily perfect. The familiar lyrics of praise and glory oppose certain scenes and may leave a person feeling agitated for John Denver’s sake.
Another highlight of the film is the use of Kinaray-a, the native language where the film was shot, Pandan, Antique for it made the film more unique and realistic. Not to mention the stellar cast of characters— which are mainly played by locals of the province, who despite having little to no knowledge in acting, have executed their roles magnificently.
The only recognizable face is Meryll Soriano who plays John Denver’s mother, Marites. She is a gripping character who defends her son’s innocence with all her might and determination against all odds.
On the other hand, the film’s titular character is portrayed by Jansen Magpusao, a newcomer to the acting industry and a local of Antique. It is worth taking notice that Magpusao delivers his character perfectly: one can see this through the evident sorrow and anxiety in his young eyes. Despite being a fresh face, Jansen Magpusao delivers a performance that can be compared to experienced actors his age. This can be witnessed during the first few scenes: while washing his uniform, the audiences can sense the dread John Denver feels as he aggressively scrubs the soot off his shirt through the way his eyes go back and forth agitatedly, waiting and unsure for what is to come. Similarly, in how one moment the audiences can be uncertain of what the boy is thinking and when they finally do understand him, it is a hopeless and tragic feeling.
Overall, John Denver Trending is a timely film. It reflects today’s reality in which social media has become a global problem and a phenomenon that has turned the world for the worse. In every second, new information is being produced and consumed by people immediately. Indeed, it is a terrifying idea that the mass can be swayed easily without so much as fact-checking and evaluating the very content that they are consuming.
The film serves as a wake-up call for everyone who has the ability and power to use the Internet, most especially, social media. These people must be aware of every single action they partake online and be able to think before they click for one wrong move can ultimately create a tragic domino effect. F