Sunday, May 20, 2012

Smiling at suffering, laughing at limitations

(From the May 16-31/“Happiness” issue of The Fortnightly)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

In Ang Babae sa Septic Tank, Eugene Domingo hilariously plays a more exaggerated version of herself, poking fun at the demanding and meddlesome nature of some actors.

The comedienne elicits well-deserved guffaws, not only when portraying herself as an artist who’s gotten tired of mainstream roles and projects, but also when presenting herself as a diva who believes she can vastly improve the indie project of some young filmmakers.

The acclaimed Ang Babae sa Septic Tank focuses on an ever-evolving script, its scenes discussed in detail by its young director Rainier (Kean Cipriano) and his collaborative producer Bingbong (JM De Guzman). The partners envision an ambitious, groundbreaking endeavor, hoping to tell a story of a desperate mother who resorts to shocking measures to survive poverty.

Directed by Marlon Rivera and written by Chris Martinez, it immediately satirizes the artificiality and forced outrageousness of certain local independent film projects; by deliberately focusing on unflattering imagery of a garbage-strewn community, it makes fun of some filmmakers’ penchant for using squalid conditions for shock value and supposed artistic grit.

From the casting of their main actress to the subsequent scenes that are meant to disturb, the director and producer discuss various points, including their story’s believability and even potential awards! Septic Tank’s script wryly talks about the creative process, giving viewers a revealing look at the behind-the-scenes imbroglios of filmmaking.

It firmly parodies unspoken rivalries between some filmmakers, as well. En route to Eugene Domingo’s house, Rainier and Bingbong run into an award-winning but conceited director at a coffee shop. The caricaturish character is an infuriating, self-centered dimwit, accompanied by an entourage of yes-men.

Ang Babae sa Septic Tank skilfully presents its keen observations on storytelling. Its characters are underdogs that you don’t always root for--the self-aware figures periodically grate, which is just fine. Cipriano and De Guzman are adequate; they add necessary naivete to the equation. Their silent sidekick, production assistant Jocelyn (Cai Cortez), also amuses with her shtick.

And Domingo, as usual, is delightful. She’s quite disarming in the dramatic parts of the imagined movie and easily tickles with her less-than-serious moments. She complements Septic Tank’s snappy script and is integral to the movie’s scathing and riotous commentaries.

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