KATORSE SHORTS is a project of The Katorse Writers’ Group, a group of young writer-filmmakers who were part of Ricky Lee’s 14th Scriptwriting Workshop (hence 'Katorse'). I saw their ad on Philippine Star last Sunday and decided to go watch the series even if Robinson's Galleria was so way out of my usual route. Thanks to BC for giving me a tip on how to get there from Manila (if you're anywhere near the Metropolitan Theatre area, wait for a bus that goes to Taytay or Cainta).
I am a huge fan of short films. I always get DVDs of foreign shorts whenever I have the chance to come across some. Anyhoo, here's the list of shorts featured. These came from their 4th-year anniversary DVD.
Ang Kapalaran ni Virgin Mario by Ogi Sugatan
Ambulancia by Richard Legaspi
Manyika by John Wong
Puwang by Anna Isabelle Matutina
Dead Letter by Grace Orbon
Lababo by Seymour Barros-Sanchez
Walong Linggo by Anna Isabelle Matutina
Truth be told, the only film I didn't enjoy was Lababo. Paciencia, pero I really have no patience for anything that has a leftist bent. Each to his own.
Ang Kapalaran started the series on a humorous mood. This is a take on the Virgin Mary's Immaculate Concepcion (hence Virgin Mario). The story opened with two men on a bed; lovers, obviously, named Jose and Mario. One of them (Mario; Yul Servo) woke up one day to find himself pregnant. What followed next was too hilarious to even write about. The attempt to abort the child took the most part of the film: Jose (Ricky Orellana?) tried making sungkit the fetus using a wire hanger from all the possible body orifices but to no avail, until a man suddenly appeared in the room telling them to stop and announcing that the second coming was at hand. A joyful mystery indeed.
Ambulancia stars Alan Paule and Nor Domingo. Alan is an ambulance driver and Nor is a medic. The story takes a dig on the belief of ambulance drivers that animals get themselves run over by ambulances to save the dying patient being ferried to hospitals except that on this particular day, Alan didn't run over a dog but his own daughter (who eventually died to "save" the life of a tetanus patient, a friend of Nor). Coincidences can indeed be chilling.
The story could use a little tightening. Parang hindi alam ng writer kung kelan niya tatapusin ang pelicula. Short films should have the ability to leave the audience jarred, shocked or somewhere in between (think Pam Miras' Blood Bank or Raz de la Torre's Labada or Jeanne Lim-Pepe Diokno's No Passport Needed; may ooomph ang ending, gets?). Lingering shots can kill the emotional buildup and ends the film on a flat note. Nasasayang ang effort.
Set in Luneta, Manyika has a promising premise: two young meet and become a couple. Every day, the girl receives a stuffed toy from the boyfriend until her room is filled with them. She becomes inis because the boy can't seem to say that he loves her. Instead, he gives her more stuffed toys. One day, he decided to give her the largest stuffed toy ever and she throws it on the street out of sheer desperation. Boy retrieves it and gets run over. After the internment, girl comes home crying and accidentaly squeezes a toy and it says, "I love you". Turns out, all the toys will say the same thing when squeezed and the largest of them gives her the boy's final message: that he did plan to finally say it on the day he gives her this toy. Sigh. Ano ba ito?! So heartbreaking naman. I wish it could have been shot with a better camera though; plus all that ambient noise! Haay.
Puwang is too long to discuss here (they translated the word 'puwang' to "space between"; "Space" was enough na sana because the title didn't mean it to be a literal physical space. Emotional space ito, eh), but I loved the tension brought about by the confluence of events - a dying father, a son who wouldn't visit, a daughter giving birth, and another daughter who's torn between giving up and taking care of the father. Kudos to the actors and to the writer. Shots were good, never mind that the father's poop was (quite literally) in-your-face. Because of this hindi ko na tuloy matandaan ang ending (I swear!).
May ganda naman ang Dead Letter. Medyo nakakainis na nakakalungkot. I think it is pure poetry in motion. It really captured the situation of many struggling writers (the young writer's script as pambalot ng tinapa was cliche-ish but still the best way to depict things given the circumstances). A little tightening, okay na siya. Definitely not for all audiences dahil sa heavy drama. Anyway, kudos to writer and director Grace Orbon! (Was this part of the Cinemalaya Shorts A last year? Because that was what I didn't get to watch.)
Lababo. An advise to the UM Film Society: keep writing, keep watching, keep observing, keep making films.
A better review of the series can be found here.
In the net, the Katorse Writers' Group lives here.