LIFE HAS been man’s cornucopia of successes and misfortunes in the world. Yet it is only when he faces death that he realizes how precious and limited it is. The Shorts A division of the 12th Cinemalaya Film Festival focuses on this, compelling the viewers to reflect on their lives with its various exemplifications of death in all its forms.
The Ilonggo film Bugtaw brings to life Arman and Leo, two kids who have a common pastime—writing their dreams on notebooks and sharing them to each other every time they meet. One sunny day at the grasslands, after telling each other about what they have dreamt of the previous night, Arman gets chased by a rugged man who, he thinks, haunts the dark past about his family that he struggles to hide.
Through animation, the producers illustrate the children’s dreams—one in monochrome and another in varying colors—showing the fates of their fathers through fantasy. In a display of emotions, the children seem as if their lives slowly roll into the abyss, yet they manage to crawl up and remain optimistic after losing their fathers.
Ang Maangas, ang Marikit at ang Makata
Emerging from the dramatic themes of the other entries, Ang Maangas, ang Marikit at ang Makata takes a lighter tone while bringing the viewers back to the 18th century—a wooden ancestral house filled with vintage furniture, classical outfits dating back to the Spanish colonial period, and captains governing towns. The film revolves around three characters: Alfonso, a gunman who comes to town to make the Captain pay his debts; Liwliw, who aspires to be a dancer yet is degraded by her father—who turns out to be the Captain—for doing so; and Delfin, who courts Liwliw through his songs.
To embody death, the movie shows various instances such as the duel of machetes between Alfonso and Delfin, and when Liwliw was gunned down. However, despite Delfin’s defeat in their match and Liwliw being gunned, both of them manage to recuperate and in the final scene, she is seen dancing with sheer grace to the tune of his ballad. Their act of bouncing back symbolizes the ability of man to cope with the predicaments life continuously gives them.
Mansyong Papel (Paper Mansion)
Mansyong Papel delves deep into the life of Linda, a mother who tries to keep her wealthy Chinese-oriented family together until the truth about her son’s kidnapping is revealed, finally breaking them apart. As she loses her son, she also witnesses her daughter leaving after the revelation, and her husband Felipe dying due to a heart complication. In Felipe’s wake, an ornamented paper mansion is assembled as part of the traditional Chinese funeral. The final scene shows the paper mansion in flames, a resemblance of Linda’s home which she thought she had managed to build for years, and yet when a flicker of light was ignited, it totally devastated her abode. Linda gradually becomes pessimistic as she anticipates and witnesses her loved ones fall one by one, and this was substantiated when she described herself as unfortunate. Her character personifies grief and the inability of a person to endure the pain death has inflicted on him.
After years of separation, Ramon returns to the Philippines from the U.S. and visits his brother, Doroteo, at the church and together, they go to a nearby park to make up for lost time. Nakauwi Na attempts to give the audience a bittersweet ride with its display of memories through mementos and stories. Ramon reminds his brother of the black cassette tape that Doroteo purchased, containing the songs of the band Juan Dela Cruz, which he ironically had to pay for by walking home. In turn, Doroteo reminds him of the pack of cigarettes that he keeps smoking despite his heart complication. The last scene shows them going back because the church bells have rung, and Doroteo is seen walking towards the altar where his brother lies inside a coffin.
The two mementos emblematize the story of life and death in the film. While the cassette tape’s ribbon seems to be incessantly spinning, the music would eventually end and the tape would have to be ejected. Smoking a cigarette, on the other hand, shows a gradual death—from its slow burning to its extinguishing, both initiated by the smoker himself.
Chino, who accidentally gets his lover pregnant and decides to have the baby aborted, and Yong, an agent for an insurance company who experiences problems with his wife, struggle to redeem themselves from the burdens they are enchained with. However, when their cars almost collided one afternoon in a one-way alley in Manila, neither of them knows it will be the turning point of their lives. The film explores the world of second chances through Yong’s near-death experience when he suffered from a heart attack due to his heated conversation with Chino. Because of this, they were impelled to reassess their lives and right all wrongs. Pektus is the apotheosis of the possibility of a twist of fate, just like the spin of a basketball.
Death indefinitely arrived in the lives of the films’ characters like a tempest, ravaging with its large amount of rainfall and terrifying strikes of lightning, and all of them were left in ruin. However, some were able to be resilient while some were engulfed by grief. Cinemalaya 2016’s Shorts A leaves the viewers with a simple message: until one has time, he must live his life on his own rightful accord for. As the Greek tragedian Euripides said, “No one can confidently say that he will still be living tomorrow.” F ZYMON ARVINDALE R. DYKEE