Reviews: All 6 movies in the 2017 ToFarm Film Festival

Oggs Cruz
Reviews: All 6 movies in the 2017 ToFarm Film Festival
Movie critic Oggs Cruz tells us what he thinks about the 6 films that participated in the 2017 ToFarm Film Festival

Baklad review: Fishy and not fresh


There are only 3 female characters in Topel Lee’s Baklad. One’s a pimp while another one’s an experienced prostitute. Both of them talk like chauvinists, mouthing crassness after crassness to bludgeon the film’s motive of creating a world where men dominate women. The last one (Elora Espano) is mute, in what could be a metaphor of how voiceless women are in that world or just a complete surrender to the film’s inability to create a believable female character.

The film is reminiscent of all the titillating films that were being churned out with wild abandon back in the ’90s when men were all too ready to shell out money to see onscreen fornication in between thin storylines that ape social realism. Produced in this age of miserablist cinema, joy and pleasure are dutifully removed, revealing a film that is all too ready to dish out guilt about the world’s sullen affairs without any fresh inputs. Baklad is outdated and shallow. While it slightly succeeds in providing a cursory portraiture of the marginalized lives, it doesn’t really impart anything noteworthy to counter its very sexist world view.


High Tide review: Kids and advocacies



Tara Illenberger’s High Tide works best when it is the children who command attention.

The film, which is essentially about 3 children who try to earn enough money to be able to pay for their mother’s hospitalization, marries both the tropes of a kid’s flick with that of an advocacy film. While there are situations where the marriage proves to be unwieldy such as when Illenberger decides to explore the trauma of one of the kids through oddly placed flashbacks, the combination proves to be intriguing in the way that the tragedies of the natural calamities of global warming are enunciated by the glaring innocence of its main characters.

Unfortunately, the film takes its time in showcasing its setting, which means that it often spends too long a time dwelling over the routine, mundane, and somewhat derivative dilemmas of the adult characters. Nevertheless, High Tide champions something that is worth pursuing. Its method of doing so through the endearing story of reckless kids whose limited view of a worldwide problem grants an ordinary person’s perspective to the laudable cause is one that is affecting even if it lacks in novelty.


Instalado review: Aims high, shoots low


Jason Paul Laxamana’s Instalado isn’t a film that lacks in ambition. The film imagines the Philippines even more divided with the introduction of installation, an expensive medical procedure that allows people to simply install courses into their brains, thereby eliminating the need to spend years in school. From that seed of an idea, Laxamana explores the various inequities that plague the country. It’s all good. It’s all brave especially since it takes both imagination and resourcefulness to mount a science fiction film with a very limited budget.

Unfortunately, the film bites a lot more than it can chew. It lacks focus, with Laxamana scattering his precious attention across multiple stories that while promising in the beginning, are really lacking in rewarding conclusions. Instalado feels less like a complete story and more like a sounding board of frustrations and concerns about present society as told through uninvolving dioramas of human desires all set in a troubled dystopia that is more interesting on paper than in action.


Kamunggai review: Amiable but easy to forget


Vic Acedillo Jr’s Kamunggai is like a gust of wind on a summer day. It’s refreshing in its simplicity and good-naturedness, but as soon as it’s through and done, it’s forgotten and it’s back to deadening, sweltering heat.

There is really nothing wrong with the film about a grumpy old man (Soe Gonzalez) who adopts a relative’s unruly boy. It merrily goes through the motions of a generally amiable children’s flick, setting up scenes that either earn a few chuckles or open up the two initially unlikeable main characters to endearment. While Kamunggai has some poignant moments, it doesn’t really build up into something truly indelible, which is a shame because Acedillo blends misery and simple jubilation with admirable ease.


Sinandomeng review: A field full of women


Byron Bryant’s Sinandomeng opens with a bleak comedy of errors.

A death in a family of mostly women results in a series of sketches that expels any semblance of dourness in a situation where the logical reaction should be grief. In a way, Bryant seems to be paving the way for what will be the heart and soul of his film which is the perseverance of Sinang (Sue Prado) to sustain an entire farm when the lack of any able man in her family prods her to simply give up and sell the land. The tone is never too serious. Sinandomeng is a film that capitalizes on levity.

It mostly works. Prado steers the narrative with her ability to portray a woman whose resolve to do what her deceased husband died doing is subtly affecting. While the film sometimes becomes too blunt with its message, it makes up with a charmingly meandering portrayal of familial bonds that withstand the lure of profit and other squabbles with song and celebration.


What Home Feels Like review: Beautifully acted, quietly touching 


A ship captain (Bembol Roco) comes home to a family that has gotten used to a house without him around. When the initial pleasantries wear off, he realizes that he has a wife, a daughter, and sons he barely know. Joseph Abello’s What Home Feels Like is touching at its best. Its quiet examination of the typical Filipino family that has been separated by livelihood and ambition through the eyes of the patriarch is quite novel especially since most dramas are seen through the experiences of the matriarch.

The film depicts the father’s displacement and eventual emasculation through scenes that have him straying from common sense and logic. He purchases hectares of land he aims to till. He gets constantly bothered by noisy neighbors to the point of risking life and limb for peace and quiet. He finds solace in the company of a stray cat, who in a wittily conceived scene, also ignores him to take care of its own kitten. As soon as Abello is done stretching the situation for wistful awkwardness and absurdity, he delivers a finale that is so emotionally charged, it is close to impossible not to get affected.

Beautifully acted and gracefully paced, with an affinity for subtle moments, What Home Feels Like is lovely. –


Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ ‘Tirad Pass.’ Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema. Profile photo by Fatcat Studios

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