Heist School: Breaking the System


Film still from Cinemalaya


EDUCATION is the key to navigating a world full of adversities. The knowledge students gain from learning institutions can enhance their innate skills. To many, it is the training ground for their future careers that can help initiate the advancement of society.

However, the state’s education system centers on competition by setting standards in class—those who do not meet these standards are oppressed by the system by marking them with failing grades.  This leads them to degenerative means such as cheating, a means that ushers them to commit their first act of corruption. 

The short film Heist School, directed and co-written by Julius Renomeron Jr., centers on a group of students who devised a plan to get the answer keys for their preliminary examination. It premiered at the 2019 Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival and won the Audience Choice Award for Short Feature Film. The film is currently streaming for free at iWantTFC as part of the Sine Reel 2021 of the University of Santo Tomas’ Communication Arts Students’ Association.

The story follows best friends Joede (Jemuel Cedrick Satumba) and Omar (Bryan Bacalso) who both constantly fail Miss Suzy’s Math tests (Teri Lacayanga). Aiming to pass the upcoming exam, Joedel hires fellow schoolmates Jerique (Son de Vera) and Reymarie (Ella Mae Libre) to help them steal the answer key from the teacher’s office. Together they concoct and actualize their high-stakes burglary to free themselves from failure. 

Film still from Cinemalaya

Heist School has managed to enrich the concept of a heist film over the course of 17 minutes. Through its meticulous writing, the film properly constructs the rising tension of the story. The film is rich with details that deliver a smooth progression to the narrative. It also provides character background to each actor that makes the audience root for them, despite their misdeeds. 

Furthermore, the aesthetic of the film brings back 1980s nostalgia as it reminisces the wonders of adventure films such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Stranger Things. The cinematography captures the intense thrill of the characters as they embark on a risky endeavor. It also keeps the viewers glued to the screen as it produces tantalizing visuals even in the dark. 

Consequently, it drives the narrative smoothly as it takes advantage of the editing. The fast pace cut puts the audience on a thrilling ride as it descends to the actualization of the heist. It appropriately uses montage editing as it gives the full information needed by the audience in a short amount of time. Moreover, it heightens the relevance of the objects with the use of cutaways. This highlights the importance of these shots as it affects the flow of the story. 

The musical score also adds a vigorous charge to the film as it injects an adrenaline rush into the actions. The beats of the instruments suitably enhance the film’s intensity from the subtle planning to the heart-racing fruition of the elaborate plan. 

The performance of each actor portrayed the characters perfectly. This is evident in Jemuel Cedrick Satumba, who stands out as the mastermind Joedel. He plays the character with wits as he absorbs the characteristics of the group’s cunning strategist. His chemistry with Bryan Bacalso, who plays Omar, complements the scene as he balances the confidence of Joedel with his unnerving precariousness to the scheme. 

Film still from Cinemalaya

In summary, the film depicts the broken system of education in the country. This was exemplified through how teachers withdraw their attention to the ones who are lagging behind the class. They are simply hoisting the cream of the crop students to further push the illusion that the country offers quality education while leaving others behind. 

To conclude, the film sends a message that calls for change in the country’s education system. It highlights how the system should give equal attention to their students, and encourage them to help build up their confidence. 

Investing in the capabilities of the youth imparts the need for reconstruction of this broken system. There must now be an end to the long cycle of inequality that limits students of the opportunities they rightfully deserve. F.

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