Sunday, July 04, 2004

Film Fests Galore

Mid-year in Manila means film festivals aplenty. And film buffs like me are salivating. There's so many movies to see there's hardly any time too see everything I want. Unfortunately, the first of this year, the French Film Fest, went by me in a flash and I was only able to see a Pinoy short film, Binyag and a fifth of a french feature film. And I had wanted to see a couple of gay-lesbain themed films at the Pink Film Fest but wasn't able to. Let's just say I was otherwise occupied.

Since I like documentaries, I caught a couple of docu-films at the UP Film Center with my boyfriend. We saw Black Nazarene and Pa-Pogi: Imaging of Philippine Presidents last month.

Black Nazarene focuses on the Quiapo devotees of the "Poong Nazareno" and the phenomenon of crucifixion in Pampanga. Like an onion, this film had so many layers it would take a while to peel off each for a closer look and analysis. The director/writer Robert Nery, a social-anthropologist, focused not only on the phenomenon of crucifixion from a religious point of view but also the socio-political. One layer was an exposition of how the Catholic faith was both a yoke and a coping mechanism with which our ancestors learned to live with colonial oppression. "Pasyon" was a narrative of the suffering indio transposed onto the suffering Christ.

Another layer showed individual pinoys and their myriad reasons for having themselves nailed on the cross. Some did it for faith, some as "panata" (literally a pledge, something you do in exchange for prayers granted), some for penance, and some, as the filmmaker seemed to suggest, for the sheer "performance" of it. Theater it was, and the men were the orchestrators, the playwrights, the actors.Mel Gibson should have seen this film, he would've learned a thing or two about what "passion" actually is for some devout Catholics.

Most disturbing is the depiction of the profanity of human greed can corrupt what was initially sacred. The crucifixion phenomenon has throughout the years become a tourist attraction of sorts, bringing in not only locals but foreigners as well. And when local officials see caucasians, you know they see $$$.

You leave the cinema asking yourself questions about what it means for these Filipinos to have themselves nailed to the cross. Is it for faith? For glory? For money? The film may focus only on a small part of the archipelago, San Fernando, Pampanga, but he may well have been talking about the rest of the country.

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