MANILA, Philippines – Inspired by the music of local hip hop icon and master rapper Francis Magalona, "Kaleidoscope World" is an initially charming but ultimately flawed story about dance and music. The story follows two aspiring dancers: Lando (Sef Cadayona) and Elsa (Yassi Pressman) who have their hearts set on making it as professional dancers.
Unfortunately for Lando and Elsa, their respective families eventually put them at odds with their dreams and each other. The film follows the rather strict formula of Romeo and Juliet, but its infusion of dance and hip hop does manage to keep things engaging for a time. But while there’s an obvious passion for music and dance, there’s also an obvious lack of passion for proper filmmaking and storytelling. What starts out as a charming love story quickly spirals into a melodrama fit for an afternoon soap opera.
The Sound of Sincerity
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the music of Francis M plays a huge role in Kaleidoscope World. Classics like "Meron Akong Ano" and "Man from Manila" are played against energetic and admittedly entertaining dance sequences. But the real treat here are lead actors Sef Cadayona and Yassi Pressman, who alongside the rest of the cast showcase a true sense of skill on the dance floor. Although Cadayona and Pressman’s dance talents have never been a secret, it’s refreshing to see them exercise something outside of their television-trained acting skills.
But for a film that focuses so much attention on music, it’s troubling to discover how little attention has been given to the film’s audio. Kaleidescope World suffers from a wall of technical problems that regrettably distract from the film and will undoubtedly turn off less forgiving audiences. While one or two audio miscues are negligible, the film is plagued by an army of issues from beginning to end. Despite the best efforts of the cast, the film ends up looking largely amateur and unfinished due to the film’s level of patchwork.
However, the film’s sole saving grace is its indisputable passion for dance and hip hop. A majority of the credit falls on the shoulders of the film’s cast of actors, dancers and performers who make every point to do their passion justice. While there’s a genuine dynamic between actors (partly due to Cadayona and Pressman’s actual offscreen relationship), the rich girl, poor boy dynamic paints a rather bland picture for the rest of the story. But it’s when "Kaleidescope World" focuses on aspects outside of hiphop culture that the film begins to truly slip.
A Family Affair
Over and above its countless technical problems, "Kaleidescope World" loses all semblance of direction once it takes its eyes away from the dance floor. Towards the latter half of the film, the focus shifts from the upcoming dance competition to a painfully contrived family melodrama. For a film whose strongest selling point is its dance and its music; it’s astonishing how its entire second half seems to have nothing to do with either.
The film’s climax is an almost one-is-to-one translation of one of the final verses of the song "Lando" by local hiphop artist Gloc-9. It’s a moving track featuring vocal work from Francis M himself. But this literal translation of the song’s lyrics ends up washing away what little good faith the film manages to establish.
By taking things literally, "Kaleidescope World" misses out on the very themes that have made Magalona’s music so enduring. Hip hop culture has often been wrongly misrepresented as negative, aggressive and spiteful. But artists like Francis M have made hiphop positive, inclusive and inspiring; elements that are woefully lacking in the film’s final act.
Even with the film’s gratuitously long running time, Kaleidescope World abruptly ends on an unsatisfying note. Towards the film’s final moments, the story spins out of control as director Liza Cornejo struggles to pull her film together. No real resolution is offered up for any of the characters, and audiences looking for a satisfying experience filled with dance and music will undoubtedly be left wanting.
Francis M’s legacy provides a rich foundation of material for both music and stories. Unfortunately, "Kaleidescope World" squanders that opportunity with a story that feels contrived and clichéd, despite the momentary sparks of genuine inspiration that fuel it.
Watch the trailer here:
Zig Marasigan is a freelance screenwriter and director who believes that cinema is the cure for cancer. Follow him on Twitter at @zigmarasigan.
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