Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo

Bonifacio-PosterHailed as the Best Picture in this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival, Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo bravely showed the world the true-to-life story of our other national hero, Andres Bonifacio. It didn’t pull the stops on anything, regardless if the reputation of other supposed heroic figures are tainted by the revelation (once again) of the seeming truth.

Kudos to Enzo Williams, the director of this epic movie. His name might be new to my ears but his work proved that he is a pro. His camerawork plays with the characters and the setting to a great effect. I am not surprised that he was credited as a supporting editor in the film because it seemed like you’d see his fingerprint with every scene. Meanwhile, the cinematography done by Carlo Mendoza was also very commendable. Scenes of major or minor importance are very pleasing to the eyes. It was that great. Moreover, it was for very good reasons that this movie raked on the MMFF awards on various sound categories (sound engineer and musical score). The score complimented every scene and enhanced the film’s heavy moments to an effect that goes straight to the audience’s heart.

It is a wonder why Robin Padilla lost to Derek Ramsay on the Best Actor category. Surprisingly, Padilla toned down his acting here to portray Bonifacio. His signature Robin Padilla voice was still there (of course), but he used this to his advantage by embodying the hero with his manly voice along with his actions. On the other hand, Vina Morales reminded everyone that aside from being a singer, she still is an actress. But she’s not just an actress here in the movie; she’s a very good one. She impressed with her consistent showing of how Gregoria de Jesus, Bonifacio’s wife, could have been like partaking in the revolution while doing her duties and roles as wife. She stands out the most during the final scenes. She definitely broke many hearts here that’s why it’s also a wonder why she didn’t win in the Best Actress category. Meanwhile, the whole supporting cast proved to be good.

Early on, the audience would feel that Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo is a heavy movie. It reminded me of Supremo, a film shown two years ago that detailed how Bonifacio founded the revolution and died in the deadly soldiers of Emilio Aguinaldo. Supremo had such a heavy atmosphere, albeit showing a bloody but patriotic mood, which the audience right then might have really felt. But don’t be fooled about Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo being not consistently heavy. Like Supremo, it is also very serious, just with touches of light moments to alleviate the heaviness. The idea of showing the present (what the students of today are asking about Bonifacio) in between scenes of the past (the Philippine Revolution more than a century ago) is great. If not properly taken care of, the switching of these scenes from past to present and vice versa might have not worked and have ultimately failed. But because it was well taken care of, the transitions were smooth and really effective.

I like how the movie ended, especially the parting words of Bonifacio to the audience: “Inalay ko ang buhay ko para sa ating kalayaan. Ikaw, anong maiibibigay mo para sa bayan?” This movie is a timely reminder to everyone to never forget our history: what we were, what came and what we became to be. Such a statement boldly challenges the audience to not just experience the freedom that we have now but continue the fight for the real freedom: freedom from injustices, freedom from greed, and freedom from corruption brought about by power. The movie passes on to the audience the fire that Bonifacio, our iconic Filipino figure, is showing and living in the film. Any Filipino who would not be affected during and after watching the film might be very biased against Bonifacio, have grown apathetic to everything or are just brewing to be a traitor of the country. Haha, just kidding. That might be an exaggeration but I just wanted to emphasize that the film mirrors the past to what’s happening right now. We might be free from the colonizers, but are we free from our own bigotry? Do we really love our country or are we just in love with the idea of loving our country? Some of us might just love ourselves more than anything, and our country might just be our least priority. Ask yourself to know the answers.

This movie derails the reputation of what was generally touted as a hero by being the so-called first president of the first republic. And this is for a good reason. If you were to study the Philippine history, Emilio Aguinaldo really is the reason why Andres Bonifacio was killed. If he were not hungry for power, Andres Bonifacio would have been alive to witness our freedom from the Spaniards. But, as they say, let bygones be bygones. We all just have to move on and… do a little bit more. We have to set the records straight about our national figures and give praise to those whose praise is due, and not just to those who are hungry for it. Do you think it’s time to set a discussion re: the movie’s claim that Andres Bonifacio is the real first president and not Aguinaldo? Maybe.

Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo‘s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5

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El Presidente

El PresidenteWatching El Presidente was very, very painful. Rewriting history as you know it never hurt that much until you see it through the scenes of a so-called historical movie. Nobody knows for sure what were the actual things that happened, but based on what we have studied in the University of the Philippines years ago, it seemed like the movie was a hand washing of sort by none other than the protagonist in the movie, Emilio Aguinaldo, through the people behind  it. I also couldn’t help but notice that certain dialogues seem to assert something very far-fetched. Like when Aguinaldo sort of having had no choice but to permit the assassination of Bonifacio, or, when a certain Gen. Macapagal asking Bonifacio to flee upon his impending murder. Believe me, if you know our history, you’d probably end up cursing while watching those scenes in the movie.

I salute Mark Meily for being bold enough to direct and write this movie about an important person in Philippine history. I couldn’t help but wonder, though, if he had intentionally made a mockery of the film with things like putting comedians to play roles that have very serious dialogues. Honestly, it was not only me who found it funny. Some of the people who were with me while watching the movie found them funny during their scenes. Well, we had a good point as the comedians were not able to channel what they were supposed to channel in their scenes.

Jorge “E.R.” Estregan of Asiong Salonga was what I saw in most of El Presidente. He’s still as stiff as ever. Though that might have worked in his role as Asiong before, it certainly did not here. Honestly, I only found him acting what he was supposed to be acting when his character was already of old age. Nora Aunor, on the other hand, was wasted here as a talent. Her role of Aguinaldo’s second wife did not suit her. I could have only hoped she did not accept her role for the sake of the professional fee she’d be receiving after filming. Standouts in the film were Christopher de Leon as Antonio Luna and Joonee Gamboa as a Katipunero. They were not seen all throughout the film, but they surely left a big mark through the roles they were portraying. Cesar Montano was also good, though there were times when he had gone overboard as the hot-tempered Supremo of the Katipunan.

Botched storyline and lousy acting from some of the major actors seemed to describe the film in its totality. But let’s give credit to whom credit is due. Some scenes were beautifully shot by the director (Meily) and the cinematographer. You’d know that the movie’s production value was really high, and this was evident with each scene.

I knew I was right when I thought this movie’s going to be what it was supposed to be: a film that badly wanted to be epic but failed miserably. No made-up storylines could smear some of our heroes’ names. No tricks could save the faces of people who brought dishonor to our country and fellow countrymen. No beautiful imageries could clean up the image of the so called el presidente that was tarnished by what he himself had done more than a century ago.

El Presidente movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 1.5 out of 5

Supremo

                Supremo movie posterSupremo is a Filipino biographical film about Andres Bonifacio, also known as our other national hero. I haven’t heard of a biopic film about him before this that’s why I did not hesitate to watch it when given the opportunity.

                The movie covered Bonifacio’s struggles to lead a rebellion against the oppressive governance of the Spaniards. It was presented here that if Jose Rizal aimed for reforms to gain independence, Bonifacio clearly wanted freedom with use of arms. The movie might not have been as seamless as GMA Film’s Jose Rizal (1998), but it did have brilliant scenes that make it worthy of praise from critics and non-critics alike.

                Alfred Vargas, who portrayed Bonifacio in Supremo, was brilliant. He portrayed his role with the kind of demeanor that’s associated with the aforementioned hero. He commanded his comrades with real authority and fought his battles with unparalleled bravery. Other actors who stood out include Nicco Manalo, who portrayed the hero known for being short and yet pragmatist Emilio Jacinto, and Nica Naval, who portrayed Bonifacio’s lover, Oriang. These actors more than cover up for the extras who fumbled during their dialogues and seemed to care only in memorizing their lines and not delivering them well.

                 The last several scenes of the movie were too heavy to bear. Of course, I already knew what would happen in the story, but watching it was a very different matter. I do admit that I did cry a little during the last scene where the supremo met his end in a very harrowing manner. So you have to prepare yourself if you still don’t know how our other national hero died once you decide to watch this film.

                 The film was visually stunning. It  had great cinematography and production design. I was surprised to find out that it was only shot for 15 days in a very limited budget as I could compare it to some great Western movies of Hollywood. I consider it as one of the most beautifully shot Filipino films that I have seen. Despite its limitations in production sets, the movie could boast that each of its scenes was a scene of beauty. The director was very good in taking shots where either subtle actions or epic scenarios happened.

                Sadly, what could have been a very great movie had been shattered by inconsistent story-telling and lack-luster performances from some of the actors. It seemed like each scene was important, but when taken together they proved to be very limiting. The flashbacks used could have helped by adding them to clarify things and not just to add historical facts. A continuous, unparalleled story-line about the protagonist’s leadership and battles could have been a better alternative.

                 Nevertheless, the movie was a good one. Watch it if you have the chance, especially if you’re planning to watch El Presidente, the upcoming biographical film about Emilio Aguinaldo. By comparing the stories presented in these two movies will we be able to know if there are lapses in presenting the truth about these two sons of Katipunan.

Supremo movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4 out of 5