Jul 18, 2011

[Movies] Ang Babae sa Septic Tank (2011)

Ang Babae sa Septic Tank (2011)The local indie movie scene is known for producing a particular type of movie, or so they say. You know what I mean - in a third world country like ours, the natural instinct in order to be "realistic" or "cutting edge" or even "risque" is to focus on what have become traditional themes like poverty, child exploitation, corruption in government and the rest. The stuff that make our country less than ideal or that separate us from the rest of the world somehow.

Not that I'm saying that other countries don't have these things - I'm just saying that our so-called "serious" movie makers tend to interpret their role in life as to needing to create movies that practically celebrate the bad stuff about this country.

Local film festivals like Cinemalaya are all about focusing on the indie film scene and giving them a chance to showcase their best works. While I do have my misgivings about the culture of this group as partially stated above, I still believe that there are some good projects among the riff-raff that deserve to be supported one way or another.

Thus may partner and I finally watched a Cinemalaya movie together - and admittedly this was my first time to watch any of these movies during the actual competition period. Thus my thanks to Greenbelt 3 for managing to become part of the main competition screening and giving more people access to this stellar event.

Ang Babae sa Septic Tank (The Woman in the Septic Tank) is an atypical comedy / drama / satire film directed by Marlon Rivera with screen play by Chris Martinez. And this is the reason why I've been watching so many Eugene Domingo movies as of late (insert laughter here).

It begins with a voice narrating sequences from a movie. In the film we are introduced to the character of Mila, a poor mother of seven who decides to sell one of her children to a foreigner for money. It is later revealed that this is the "amazing" indie film concept by director Rainer (Kean Cipriano) that he's making together with producer Bongbong (JM de Guzman) and production assistant Jocelyn (Cai Cortez). The trio are meeting up today to further discuss the movie and eventually meet-up with their potential lead actress - Miss Eugene Domingo herself.

The three are clearly not your struggling filmmakers - they whip out an iPad and a Macbook Pro while they discuss the treatment of the movie in your typical specialty coffee shop. They discuss the kind of tropes, quirks and patterns that made for "great" movies given they aim to hit it bit at the international film festivals like Cannes and Sundance and even perhaps an Oscar nod. But to do all that they need to finalize the cast, secure a shooting location and actually get the movie off the ground.

The movie is not an flat out typical Filipino comedy. In fact, it begins like a very heavy drama given the depiction of the actually indie film in question. But as the movie progresses, the tone shifts a we get to see how the trio (or at least Bongbong and Rainer since Jocelyn is pretty much silent all the time) work out their creative differences, try out new things and figure out how the movie is supposed to go. One of the funniest scenes is how they argue over who the lead actress should be and which child sold be sold off. Thus we get to see the same opening sequences in the movie played out over and over again with Eugene Domingo, Cherry Pie Picache and Mercedes Cabral - yes, this is why they're listed on the credits, for those who were curious.

BUSAN, SOUTH KOREA - OCTOBER 09:  Actress Euge...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeBut of course the funniest bits come along when we have Eugene Domingo actually in the movie, at least as a character. She's a very funny lady when you get down to it and even my partner, who has had the benefit of having worked with her in the past, had to admit that there were many aspects of her performance that were truly her.

But at the same time, the movie also used humor to poke fun at the indie film scene. Just consider how they dissected their movie in terms of concepts and only stuck with what would work in the festivals and not necessarily what was best for the story. Or when they finally find their shooting location - they way they react to the hardships around them leaves a bit to be desired. And of course there's their industry friend who arrives and showers them with stories of his experience in Venice. The movie really has a lot to say about the whole indie scene and pulls no punches in pointing out how ridiculous things are.

The movie does have its odd bits - sometimes the repetition of the varying film sequences in order to illustrate a new treatment style goes a bit overboard. I mean as much as they can be fun, you only really need to do a montage of scenes rather than a complete reinterpretation of every aspect of Sequences 34-40. It gets a bit dragging once they continue to do this a bit more than they should have, but not so much to take too much away from the movie.

Ang Babae sa Septic Tank is a great movie to watch with a serious message woven into the comedy. And that's really what makes for good satire, in that respect I salute the creative team behind the movie. It gets 4.5 acting styles demonstrated by Eugene Domingo out of a possible 5.

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  1. Hmmm... si Eugene Domingo pala Ang Babae sa Septic Tank :)

  2. Quite literally, actually, hahaha!