Thursday, August 31, 2006
KUBRADOR IS A MIRROR OF SOCIETY
By Reymundo Salao
KUBRADOR is the independent film from director Jeffrey Jeturian and stars Gina Parreño, Fonz Deza, and Johnny Manahan. It chronicles three days in the life of Amy (Gina Parreño), a Kubrador (Bet Collector) for the illegal numbers game Jueteng. This indie film has so far won 4 international prizes: 2006 FIPRESCI (Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique) Prize, 2006 Moscow International Film Festival Best Picture, Best Actress (Gina Pareno) and FIPRESCI Prize, 8th Osian-Cinefan International Film Festival (New Delhi, India).
Sort of drama, sort of a satire, the film really is just a film about reality in the world of poverty and Jueteng. We follow Amy, the Kubrador in her daily life, collecting bets, and trying her best to dodge some of the hassles of life. Not only do we see her life, but we generally see the lives of the people in slum areas where Jueteng is a part of life. The film takes the main character as a sort of tourist guide in the world of the urban poor, and the not-so-notorious underworld of gambling. The film has powerful performances, it can pull out a jackhammer of emotions, but it doesn’t overdo it to the point of being over-dramaticized. Many of the characters are pitiful but the story never gets too unrealistic to the point that it becomes a tool for collecting pity. It never detracts and detours from realistic problems. You will not see characters falling into one misery after another, crying rhetorical speeches of poverty and despair. Because in the real world, people never waste time for rhetorics, they just shut up and do their best to evade and to outlive these miseries.
The film is politically-conscious and dares to ponder upon the political issues that are relevant in our times. There are also several "hidden" details in the movie that contain symbolic meaning. Little bits of satiric jokes for the audiences to figure out.
Gina Parreño certainly has won a grand slam with a project that started out as a mere indie film, but later was able to garner reputable awards internationally. Her performance in this movie was certainly a pure in-the-flesh portrayal of a Kubrador (or as in our local dialect, a "Koridor"). I’ve met some real life kubradors and I must say that Parreño does convincingly capture the essence of an actual Kubrador. The other casts of characters were portrayed by some unfamiliar actors and actresses who did a marvelous job with the film. Even the extras were well disciplined to contribute to the authenticity and the realism of the slum areas as captured by this film.
The film was shot with a handheld digital camera and many of the shots seem to have been made in "guerilla filmmaking style". The chase scene between a cop and a gambling operator at the early part of the movie was very real, making you fear for the actors if they make a wrong step or wrong fall in the rusty slum area rooftops. It's a short sequence but one which looks very raw, very realistic, and very painful. It tempts me to fantasize how director Jeturian could use such a talent in hard-ass police action films.
The only detail of err that I could point out was the handling of the scenes with the late military son of Gina Parreño's character. But that may arguably be a matter of strict opinion. Some viewers who aren’t very familiar with indie projects may also frown at the film's raw cinematographic approach; many scenes felt shaky that those who might not be used to it would feel that familiar kind of dizziness they got from watching "The Blair Witch Project". Nevertheless, the film does prove to be a shining gem in the history Philippine Cinema.
Because this movie really does not try to make an overrated dramatization of reality, one should not expect a flashy twisting ending. There is no ultimate crisis, there is no ultimate clash between good and evil; this is reality that glimpses in the life of a kubrador and those around her. The ending reminds me of how I felt during the ending of "Lost in Translation" It offers no grand closure, instead, it simply just ends our tour with the characters. Its ending is also left open for various interpretations. It is as if, one particular interpretation is not enough to be truly satisfying to all audiences.
KUBRADOR is a champion, but it's not grandiose. So don’t expect an overrated corny dramatic story or lavish sceneries. The beauty of KUBRADOR lies on its being a mirror of society. Its beauty is in its being totally realistic. We Filipinos, especially those unfamiliar with the grim realism of poverty and gambling, need to see a movie such as KUBRADOR. If you don’t watch good Filipino movies, you’re not supporting the Philippine movie industry at all; Watching BAD Tagalog movies really isn’t helping, in fact, it destroys the Philippine movie industry by breeding and cultivating bad filmmaking and promoting bad film taste among the masses. If you want our country's film industry to flourish, you should support films like KUBRADOR.
(Photos taken from Kubrador’s Multiply Website http://kubrador.multiply.com/)