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22 February 2014

Gabriel Fernandez's "Mana" (Review): Dislocated

The lives of the members of a ruling class family are not often tackled in Philippine cinema, which is unfortunate because the subject matter is ripe with stories that can be viewed from different angles. For centuries, the oligarchs have ruled this country from the smallest town to high up in MalacaƱan Palace.  So far, Pegge Gallaga’s “Oro Plata Mata” is one of the best explorations about the lives of the ruling class in films although Gallaga’s opus does not totally deconstruct the oligarch’s privileged position in Philippine society.

As expected, Cherie Gil delivered an
engaging performance as Sandra 

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In “Mana,” writer and director Gabriel Fernandez aims his lens at the upper class, specifically the elites of Negros Island. Some may argue that the film is Rodriguez’s critique on the ruling class at a different perspective, delving more on mythology in a modern context. The film is promising but falls short in achieving a lofty goal, nonetheless, the movie is still interesting.  In my opinion, the main shortcoming is the handling of the mood of the film.   

The fine performances of the ensemble cast help move the narrative but the actors seem to be on their own. The screenplay and the editing impede the storytelling rather than propel it to its dramatic end. 


A resident critic of Brun (a native of Bacolod) also observed that the film “identified Negros as its locale but the film totally dislocated Negros. The film also disregarded the local language and obliterated the Negrense accent while the characters spoke in Tagalog; oddly, there was an obvious effort to have some characters speak in Spanish. The character of Sandra should have spoken in Hiligaynon while interacting with the sakadas. The radio announcers should have used Hiligaynon as well.”

In the end, it is Cherie Gil’s engaging performance that inevitably saves the movie.

P.S.
At a different perspective, one friend commented that he hoped “Mana” would get a wider audience because he believed that many ordinary moviegoers would enjoy such a subject matter, not the part about the troubles of the elite, but the other part that viewers must discover for themselves.  

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