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If you are looking to see another Eugene Domingo starrer in the likes of Kimmy Dora or Here Comes the Bride, Ang Babae sa Septic Tank (directed by Marlon Rivera; written by Chris Martinez) might leave you a bit dissatisfied.
Not that it isn’t funny; it’s hilarious and I, who hardly react in the cinema, found myself roaring with laughter at the absurdities of independent (or “indie”) filmmaking. However, I found the movie short: at 1 ½ hours, Eugene had barely enough screen time to satiate our appetite for her perfectly delivered comic timing and wit.
I initially found myself squirming during the first 15 minutes of the film. I thought, “Oh no, not ANOTHER indie movie about the poor and downtrodden,” as images of the slums and squalid lifestyle of its residents were projected on screen. As it turned out, the movie was, in fact, a commentary on this “brand” of indie filmmaking, one that easily gains access to international film festivals, as characters Bingbong (JM de Guzman), a producer, and Ranier (Kean Cipriano), director, point out. Throughout the movie, they discuss strategies in creating an Oscar-worthy film, and also to one-up a recently lauded indie filmmaker, who is reaping acclaim in international festivals all over the world.
This self-mockery—the successful indie filmaker for example, seems to be a swipe at whoever Filipino have made it in Venice and whines over local coffee because he misses Italian “expresso” (just one example of his jetsetter complex; his character sketch is so hilarious, I’d pay to see him in his own movie)—is what makes Ang Babae both comical and enlightening: where does one draw the line between exposing and exploiting the truth? How do you present this truth in an honest way? And why not a musical? (OMG, major LOL on this one!!! My new LSS: Sabaw, Sabaw, Sabaw!)
I had just warmed up to this treatise when the credits started rolling—the ending felt stunted and I wasn’t sure if that was another statement on the state of Philippine cinema. Perhaps, the film wanted you to continue that part of the debate as you leave the theater.
Ang Babae sa Septic Tank will be screened at the UP Film Center’s Cine Adarna on July 26 at 8 p.m. (Details here.) The movie won Best Film in this year’s Cinemalaya.