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Ang Nawawala


Question: When does a film cease to become an indie flick and cross over to mainstream cinema?

Or to phrase it differently: What are the characteristics of independent cinema?

1. The Budget
An average full-length mainstream Filipino film has a budget of roughly P35 million. Meanwhile, Cinemalaya, the so-called "independent" film circuit, grants a budget of P500,000, leaving any additional expenses up to the filmmakers.

They would've been eating Magnum were it not for budget constraints.

Now, watch this film. The images are crisp and clear, obviously shot with HD cameras. The cinematography is excellent; each scene was well-lit, which means that they had no shortage of lights, and the camera movements are clean and steady, which means that they had no problem with dolly tracks. Then check out the production design─colorful and deliberate, which means they had no problem with any prop acquisition. Then start computing all that stuff in your head, and tell me that this film was made for P500K.

In this case, all additional expenses were shouldered not just by the filmmakers, but by major players in the film industry. That in itself takes this film out of the "indie" category.

2. The Quality
One of the most remarkable visual traits of an independent film is the sense of rawness. Once upon a time, independent film circuits were the spawning grounds for those with no professional filmmaking experience, mostly filmmakers fresh out of college, with just one or two student films under their belts. These young filmmakers applied for independent film grants to show that they could handle large projects. And as a result, the films these artists produced had a rough and raw quality to them.

This film, however, had none of that.

What it had a lot of was rich kids doing rich kid stuff.

Ang Nawawala is so polished and streamlined, you'd think that it was done by a major studio. And it's not suprising. The director, Marie Jamora, has quite an impressive resumé─she's directed over 40 music videos, the first season of Project Runway Philippines, and God knows how many commercials as an in-house director at Unitel. Good luck looking for any "rawness" in this flick.

3. The Actors
It's a known fact that some actors are not in the game just for the money. Some of them are actually serious thespians, too. And these actors will work for free, as long as the material is good enough.

The cast of a typical independent film is composed of relative unknowns, all hoping to make their break, using the film as their springboard to vault onto the mainstream. There are of course one or two of those serious thespians mentioned earlier, whose big names are there to add star value to the film and attract more viewers.

However, the hotness of Dawn Zulueta should
be enough to attract male viewers.

In this case, we have a few relative unknowns. There's that slut who looks like an Asian January Jones. And there's also that funny sidekick guy. The Roco twins Felix and Dominic don't count, as per the Showbiz Dynasty Doctrine, simply being the offspring of the great actor Bembol Roco gives them higher value than much older actors who've done decades of theater.

"Hey, why don't we look alike?"

On the other hand, this film also has its share of famous names. We've got Boboy Garrovillo and the fine wine hotness that is Ms. Dawn Zulueta. However, I honestly believe that they are not part of those serious thespians I mentioned earlier. I think they only accepted this project because 1) there is a higher probability that indie flicks such as this will be invited to foreign festivals; or 2) they just want their resumés to indicate that they are "diverse" actors who have had experience doing indie films; or 3) they are doing it as a favor to the director or producers, who they have worked with before.

4. The Subject Matter
There is a reason why the independent filmmakers of old kept making films about poverty and poor people. It's because they were themselves poor or middle class at the most, and those were the stories they had to tell.

Ang Nawawala is something I would describe as a coño film. Or maybe a hipster film. More than half the dialogue was in English, rendering the subtitles unnecessary. Plus the writer makes references that only upper class Filipinos would get, such as Hergé's Tintin, British author Enid Blyton, and bow ties. Seriously. Bow ties.

Dawn Zulueta refusing to make eye contact with Boboy Garrovillo's bow tie.

5. The Soundtrack
Typical indie films have soundtracks you've literally never heard before. That's because using a popular song costs money. So independent filmmakers simply ask their musician friends to compose songs pro bono, to avoid paying for a song's use.

Now check out the list of artists who lent their music to this film's soundtrack.

Flying ipis─the bane of
coño chicks nationwide.

Now start computing all their talent fees in your head, then look me in the eye and tell me that this film was shot for P500K.

"Can you hear the 'ka-ching'"?

With that said, it is my firm and honest opinion that Cinemalaya as an independent film grant-giving body is now dead. Cinemalaya has now become the vehicle for the film industry to produce art films, not unlike Fox Searchlight or Focus Features.

All you true independent filmmakers straight out of college─go find someone else to fund your ugly, raw movies.

Ang Nawawala. Philippines. 2012.

Rating: Eight out of ten.

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Just a thought: It could also be that "indie" filmmakers today refuse to limit themselves to the just the grant in order to make a good quality indie/art/non-mainstream film. There are other ways to add to the budget and I'd like to believe there are still actors who just want to do something different and new. Hehe. ;)

But I agree, this film has a hipster vibe, which can isolate some peeps, given that we already have an upper or upper-middle class family in the spotlight. Pero keri lang na hindi sya tungkol sa mahirap, mailba lang. Hehe.

On that note, the film is worthy of an 8 out of 10. And how cute the Roco twins. Hahaha. ;P

Sabi ko na babanggitin ang Roco twins e. Hinuli pa talaga. Lol

Anonymous said...

"In this case, all additional expenses were shouldered not just by the filmmakers, but by major players in the film industry. That in itself takes this film out of the "indie" category."

I agree with Sue Denim. Jsyk, the movie was partly crowd-funded via Artiste Connect (Google it). I also don't think any big production company would have their name not included in the credits, if your claims are even right.

'Ang Nawawala is something I would describe as a coño film...." "More than half the dialogue was in English, rendering the subtitles unnecessary."

Uhmm really? Are you telling me that Jurassic Park and Empire Records are coño films because if I remember them right, everyone speaks English in those movies? So just because a certain group/class speaks English that qualifies them of being coño? Kind sir, from which part of this planet are you from? Oh, I know! From a third world country who classifies EVERYTHING as "jologs/jeje" or "coños." Good luck to you raising your future kids.

@Anonymous: I said "major players", not "big production companies". Meaning "real people", not "corporations". And I personally know people who worked on this movie, so I think my claims are pretty solid.

And really? Jurassic Park and Empire Records? Of course they're in English, they're American films. Show me a Filipino film almost entirely in English and set in the Philippines, and I'll show you a coño film.

Also, hiding behind an anonymous comment really helps your integrity.

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