A new dish for the local movie scene: Heneral Luna

I am a cynic when it comes to mainstream Filipino movies. I find the degustation of formulaic plots an insult to my brain. Kumbaga sa buffet, pare-parehong putahe. “Over here you’ll get a taste of love affair films, and over there you can gorge yourself to some love story based on a random lyrics from a song.” I can imagine Vilma Santos dying to open her carinderia to offer some classics.

I don’t believe Filipinos have a bland palette. We all love movies, but selections are painfully limited. Sometimes I can’t help but ask myself, do these producers really think Filipino viewers are not intelligent enough to digest deeper lines and symbolism? That we do not deserve a genre other than romance? Although Cinemalaya has been catering us films of outstanding color and depth, they are only given a specific time and season to showcase immense talents. Independent movies receive much less, not only on budget but on recognition as well.

When I learned that Jerrold Tarog is directing a new film, the same director of the exhausting and beautiful tragedy that is ‘Sana Dati,’ I was intrigued. Here is a local movie that’s too good to be true:

  1. There are no glutathione-popping actors. John Arcilla was the lead in the film, a man in his 40s with no six-pack abs. It may be that the only way to attract audience is with a moustache and a foul mouth, and stone-cold principles that would lead to the general’s imminent death. Good thing we have Gregorio del Pilar. Textbooks used to tell me Gregorio del Pilar is handsome but no one told me he is Paolo-Avelino-handsome.
  2. No on loop theme song. Surprisingly, I didn’t hear Sarah Geronimo in the background. Jerrold Tarog arranged the musical score himself.
  3. History-wise, there are no red and white costumes for the Filipinos at war. Katipuneros are often portrayed that way, and repulsed historians cannot help but comment on that crucial detail. Heneral Luna must be commended for that, although we should be reminded that is primarily a form of art more than a historical account. I was especially thankful there was no one wearing a G-shock.

Heneral Luna was both machismo and goofy, and very passionate to a fault. While we are glued to our seats, we are immersed in a time where nationalism can either be trying to keep the territory to the natives, or allowing foreigners to penetrate the country to build global relations. It poses a question that is almost too shameful to answer because we know the truth, that if we are asked to give up our family for country, we will never do it. As sad as it may sound, most of us do not see this country worth saving anymore.

I don’t remember my history textbooks teaching me elaborate what-went-befores. I learn much more about history from reading columns of Ambeth Ocampo and watching educational programs on TV, that anything that does not include timelines is almost an automatic trivia. While Heneral Luna is a movie based on facts but still falls under fiction, it was a perfect depiction of the problems of the Filipinos. The ailments of this country goes way back to Spanish colonization, but that does not mean it is terminal.

We are taught history not only to recollect the events which led to what we are now as a nation, but it should teach us, encourage us, to learn what is beyond the dates and places. It is scary that we can see a lot of ourselves in the movie, but a lot scarier if we can relate ourselves in the likes of thieving politicians, lazy military soldiers, and promiscuous men.

For some, spending 240php for a movie may be too much. But for me, it is almost a bargain. Students can even get a 50% discount if they present their IDs. The movie and the director represent the past but more importantly the future, at least of Filipino movies. I believe a new era of local films has begun.

To those who haven’t watched it and are utterly curious as you should be, watch the trailer here.

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