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‘QCShorts 2022’ review: Making sense of history and its uncertainties

Ryan Oquiza

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‘QCShorts 2022’ review: Making sense of history and its uncertainties
These six films strengthen native narratives and uplift the voices of the forgotten

This year’s QCinema shorts share the burden of history, its malleability, and uncertainties. Characters have an inability to let go of spaces, identities, and memories. But this refusal to be swept by the tides of change is never seen as a weakness. It’s a resistance against the foreign and a celebration of the indigenous. By looking back, these six films strengthen native narratives and uplift the voices of the forgotten.

Mga Tigre ng Infanta by Rocky De Guzman Morilla

In Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ book on the female psyche, Women Who Run With The Wolves, she introduces the concept of the “Wild Woman,” the instinctual, yet often stifled, nature of women. Using intercultural myths, she argues that there is, in them, a hunger to be treated respectfully, unshackled from rigid roles, and let loose from exploitation. 

Director Rocky Morilla, drawing from magical realism, connects the plight of women to the brutalization of land with lyrical effect. The Kaliwa Dam Project and its many industrial siblings have settled on land tethered to the indigenous and endangered. Likewise, this rupture of land unsettles what once were the comforting spaces of Katrina (played remarkably by CJ Lubangco), who returns home to visit her late grandmother’s wake only to find dilapidated structures, ruinous landscapes, and her body undergoing changes.  

The town of Infanta speaks to Katrina through the rumblings of the ground, visions of different realms, and a quiet but mystical tiger roaming its corners. Anchored by a strong atmospheric presence, a deft supporting role by Dolly de Leon, and a hypnotic score, Mga Tigre ng Infanta offers a resistance to the cradles of over-civilization. To prevent the river from being polluted, to prevent its drying up and deprivation, one must block it — and to block it, one must be free, unfeigned, and most certain of all, wild. 

Luzonensis osteoporosis by Glenn Barit

Glenn Barit’s (Cleaners, Aliens Ata) latest film opens with a breathtaking shot of a cave as bats come flying out. We later find out that they aren’t the only ones with plans of flying, or should I say, fleeing, from the country. Luzonensis (played endearingly by Nicco Manalo while wearing prosthetics) is a prehistoric hominid draped in Gen-Z attire and modern proclivities. But as soon as he realizes he’s lost his passport, he must both literally and symbolically walk backward to retrace his Filipino roots. 

A funny and creatively cheeky film, its idiosyncrasies are accompanied by a delicate sense of pathos. There’s a melancholic tinge to the idea of departure and how it’s been so normalized in the Philippines. The burden of expectations, history, and what’s left behind collide with the eroding political pulse and the now unrecognizable native heritage. As Luzonensis encounters his anthropological origins, the film turns into an operatic jest that pokes fun at the unnaturalness of contemporary society and points to it as the reason for our back pains. 

Assured by Che Tagyamon’s editing, Ogie Tiglao’s VFX, and Jireh Calo’s ethereal music, Luzonensis osteoporosis is a triumph of soulful filmmaking. In the end, the film doesn’t ask, who is the Filipino? It asks: who’s left that has yet to be extinct that we can truly call Filipinos? 

BOLD EAGLE by Whammy Alcazaren

In my humble opinion, it’s impossible to hate this film. What Director Whammy Alcazaren himself has described as a “family-friendly comedy” is anything but. Filled with eggplants, peaches, a talking pussy, and other euphemisms for sex, BOLD EAGLE carries itself with a cocky veneer, and has some rock-hard things to say about pandemic isolation, online sensuality, and the sins of the father.

Certainly for the open-minded, the film uses smiley faces not just to censor erections, but as a way to hide the suppressed fears and subconscious memories of a faceless protagonist who finds solace in the “strong arms of strange men.” The events that transpire can only be described as a hallucinogenic dream tinted by the thicket of social media and the discordance of past and present.

Once the film wraps up, and its “New Society” theme continues to linger in the background, the comedy dissipates and checks in its more sinister underbelly. In doing so, Alcazaren registers a greater sense of command over his daring craft than ever before. 

the river that never ends by JT Trinidad

What’s immediately striking in JT Trinidad’s (as if nothing happened) short film is his natural ability to capture alienation. Manila, a place known for its cacophony, has never felt more serene and tranquil. In this state of quiescence, the river acts as an object of constancy and changeability, ceaseless but also definite. The estranged resort to the river, a symbol of transience, a fleeting reprieve from the clutches of fragility.

the river that never ends dissects what it means to confront the changes within ourselves, our identities, and the spaces we operate in. It is sincere and empathetic, not just to Baby, but even to her clients who are at odds with their desires. Emerald Romero in the lead role is a revelation, providing the most heartfelt performance out of the entire lineup. The act of self-exposure that Romero pursues is effortless and endearing, understated but penetrating. 

The meditative and trance-like treatment leads to some utterly beautiful shots of Pasig river. The film honors the space, even as expressways and imposing buildings encroach it. And so the river breathes and has a beating heartbeat, and like Baby, is in search of the calm.

Ngatta Naddaki y Nuang? (Why Did the Carabao Cross the Carayan?) by Austin Tan

There are no carabaos seen for most of Austin Tan’s journey into the emotional depths of Cagayan Valley. This central mystery, a manifestation of grief and memory, is an assessment of a wreckage, one that is foreseen every year, yet no changes come to mitigate it.

The natural calamity in the film has many faces: the floods of a dam, the surges of industrialization, the billows of election, and the waves of migration. There’s a sense of erosion, something withering away that Oyo (Bee Jay Furugannan) attempts to capture and preserve with his camera. In some scenes, the main subjects are imperceptible, the peripheries muddying the frame, as if closing in on the remaining vestiges of the past.

Though attached to its symbolic ideas for prolonged stretches, Ngatta Naddaki y Nuang? earns its catharsis. It shines when the camera points at what has been lost, allowing the town and its inhabitants to silently grieve. 

Ang Pagliligtas sa Dalagang Bukid by Jaime Morados

Jaime Morados’ synopsis is conceptually rich and has a lot of reverence for Philippine cinema. Joaquin (Carlos Dala) wants to save the first film he’s ever watched, Dalagang Bukid, amidst a studio fire. Set in 1921, Morados and company are tasked with recreating a lost film and a bygone era, all while weaving an emotional undercurrent. 

It’s an ambitious endeavor, to say the least, which means that while it has dazzling visual effects and clever silent film recreations, its other aspects don’t feel as polished. Its message, though profound, is executed with the prerequisite of love and passion for cinema and storytelling. But love shouldn’t be assumed, it should be shared by both audience and characters.

I agree with all of Ang Pagliligtas sa Dalagang Bukid’s thematic interests, but I was yearning for new and rich discoveries, not just a reaffirmation. –

‘QCShorts 2022’ will screen at Gateway Cineplex on November 23, Cinema ’76 on November 24, and online at VivaMax from November 22-26.

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Ryan Oquiza

Ryan Oquiza is a film critic for Rappler and has contributed articles to CNN Philippines Life, Washington City Paper, and PhilSTAR Life.