Saturday, August 16, 2008


By Reymundo Salao

Last week, URDUJA was re-screened in one of our local moviehouses. Urduja is a Pinoy animated film adaptation of the legend of the warrior princess Urduja of Pangasinan. Set in the 13th century, the film is a fictionalized tale of Princess Urduja, the only daughter of Lakanpati, chieftain of the Tawilisi tribe of Central Luzon, Urduja grew up a warrior, able and willing to defend her people from their rival tribe, the Batyaws. Lakanpati's age and failing health give rise to the urgency of finding a man, for the princess to marry, who will lead the tribe as new chieftain.

The man Lakanpati considers most eligible to become Urduja's husband is Simakwel, a Taliwisi warrior whom the princess dislikes. Later on, Urduja meets Limhang, a chinese pirate on the run from Imperial warriors led by Wang. Urduja immediately falls in love with the stranger Limhang. This worries Lakanpati and drives Simakwel into madness. Afraid of losing both the crown and Urduja, Simakwel does everything to drive Limhang away from his dream. Eventually, Limhang's good deeds and genuine kindness win the respect and trust of the Taliwisi tribe. But things get far more complicated when Wang finds out the whereabouts of Limhang and the tribe he fell in love with.

Too bad I was not able to write an article (for The Guardian) in advance that helped promote the movie. I actually was writing a review for this movie when it first came out (June 18, 2008), but wasn’t able to submit the article because of the Typhoon Frank flood. The film really is an admirable effort. With today's standards of feature-length animated features, it is understandably not as dazzling visually. URDUJA is a mixture of 2-D animation and computer graphics animation, which makes the eye candy experience moderately satisfied. The quality reminds me of Ferngully, an animated movie from way long ago. The charm of the movie is that its humor is really Pinoy. I found myself really laughing out loud at the jokes done by such characters as Kukut the rat and Tarsir the tarsier, voiced by Michael V. and Allan K. respectively. The lead characters Urduja and Limhang were also pulled off without making them look foolish or devoid of audience sympathy.

The only clear bad thing I could conjure up about it is that it follows the Disney "Princess Cartoons" template. It has the essentials of that template: The strong princess looking for love, the hunky anti-Prince-Charming villain, the witty hero, the animal friends, and the scary villain, & they all have their character theme songs too. The makers of this thing should have thought of something original for a change. Last year, an Iranian movie entitle PERSEPOLIS made waves internationally because of its well-written story and distinct sense of originality… and it did not require expensive animation. I cannot help but point out that URDUJA should have at least made this film a bit more original than the usual crap we see regularly. It was a bit upsetting later on after my bits of research when I found out that the REAL legend of Urduja was different from this cartoon version, and that the story of Urduja was far more interesting, far more thrilling than this. It was sad and obvious that the story seemed to have been intentionally altered in order to have it conform to a more Disney-movie format.

Urduja is satisfactory; it may have some shortcomings and minor little flaws, but it really is an enjoyable movie worth watching. At least it's the kind of Pinoy animated movie we cannot be ashamed of.

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