Friday, September 13, 2013

Salvi: Ang Pagpadayon

by Reymundo Salao

The story of SALVI is set in a post-apocalyptic world, and civilization has seemingly become non-existent. Most of the characters cannot even remember (or choose not to remember) how the world has come to that bleak point. The main character of the movie is a girl named Salvi, who chooses to make herself look like a boy, and sets out on a journey to search for her missing sister who was kidnapped long ago by a marauding gang from the “Campo”. Along the way, she meets a thief named Abet who knows the location of the Campo. Salvi’s journey leads her to a slave camp run by a transvestite queen named Madonna. There, they meet another mysterious companion named Kardo.  Salvi soon faces the end of her journey with horrifying revelations.[hit the jump to continue]

[note: I rarely write reviews for movies directed by Iloilo directors, simply because it is not easy to call out on the flaws of the works of other Iloilo artists. It is a rule that I usually keep, especially because I myself sometimes get involved in local indie projects. Many people usually take criticism in unfavourable light; but there are others who take criticism as their own basis for improvement. I admit it would be easier for me to write this review because I loved the movie, it was also easier because I was sure that the cast and the crew would be open-minded about any criticism that would come their way. Anyway, I hope you guys will understand ;) ]

What I can tell you now is that SALVI: ANG PAGPADAYON is a movie that we Ilonggos can really be proud of. It is magnificently made movie, beautifully shot and brilliantly directed. And as far as Ilonggo movies go, this easily stands as the best.

Much of the movie’s strengths rely greatly on how masterful the visuals are handled. The cinematography is awesome and it really knows which color tone to use and what kind of visual atmosphere it chooses to evoke. All this, plus the set design, make-up and costumes that create a convincing post-apocalyptic scenario. The creation of the movie seems to have the kind of discipline found only in international standard movies. Such discipline in technicality that is rare in Philippine cinema, and oftentimes absent in mainstream Tagalog movies.

The direction is done with such discipline and patience, that it does not get too excited with its concept, and strives to create something that has some trace of originality despite the fact that many audiences have already seen so many post-apocalyptic Hollywood movies before. SALVI looks fresh and refreshing to those in search of something different from your run-of-the-mill Pinoy movie. TM Malones’direction also employs practical techniques that are efficient; such as the simple trickeries with the camera during moments of gore, and in the scene on the rickety-looking bridge.

On the other hand, SALVI has its imperfections too. I felt that the story needed to have more plot details to make the movie richer. I wish there could have been more scenes with Madonna and his/her gang, just to answer the questions that bother my mind while I am watching the movie; what is it that makes her powerful? What makes her the boss? What were those seeds supposed to be? These details seem to be understood only by making our own assumptions, instead of having the movie deliver the story as intended to be.  Other sections of the story needed to have such details as well. But for a movie that is a director’s first full-length feature film, these imperfections can easily be overlooked by how good all its other factors are. Anyway, to normal audiences, these imperfections can easily be ignored.

The cast did a great job. Brittany Marie Baldoza as Salvi and Rodgee Borja as Kardo did a fine job in their roles, as well as Joan Paulette Mary Libo-on as Ama and AC Vergara were spot-on in their roles. Ducky Pamplona as Madonna looked very beautiful even for a transvestite. And Marcel Milliam as Madonna’s right-hand man/woman and slave-driver Lexie has effectively injected a fierce ruthlessness blended well with what a post-apocalyptic tranny thug could look like. Allain Hablo as Kapon and his right-hand man played by Mik Lang stood out as characters that drew much impact. I would have loved to see more screentime of Hablo as such a scary villain. But the one who really stood out as the best performer among the cast is Ulysses Apocay, Jr. As Abet. He delivers his colourful character effectively; full of life, humor and incredible weight of character that he delivers in such an effortless natural ease.
SALVI: ANG PAGPADAYON is indeed a landmark in Ilonggo cinema. Sure there have been many other Ilonggo movies that have come and gone before, but this stands out as the best. It is an epic made through simplicity, it is a work where each centavo spent is made priceless, it is a harbinger of great things to come in Philippine cinema. I could not help but liken the movie’s setting to some metaphorical view of Philippine cinema: From the ashes of destruction (of the old image of Philippine Cinema), we Ilonggos rise to create a new age in cinema. SALVI: ANG PAGPADAYON is a movie that should not be missed.

1 comment:

Luis Batchoy said...

Thank you so much Raymund and please keep posted for the Salvi tour. We intend to have more screenings soon because a lot of people clamour that they have not seen. Padayon!