The movie is about an Ifugao boy and his all-consuming desire to own a pair of shoes. Honestly, I find it a bit hard to be drawn into the story and to sympathize with the boy mainly because I kept thinking, “Hey kid, it’s 2006. You are from the Cordilleras where there are ukay-ukay/wagwag stores in every corner. Surely you can buy a used pair of shoes for P50.”
So I must admit that for most of the movie, my mindset was like, “What is the fuss about? Take the kid to an ukay ukay store and be done with it. It’s not like he is dreaming of a pair of shoes worth P5,000.” I might have been willing to suspend my disbelief if the movie was set in the ’80s where owning a pair of shoes was more of a financial challenge. Or if the boy was dreaming of something that is harder to buy now, say a cellphone or a computer.
Having said that, I would still say that the movie is good and is much much better than the mindless crap that local movie producers are making these days. However, I might have been better off if I just bought a VCD copy of the film since digital movies like Batad really do not project well in movie screens. [Based on experience, much of the color in digital movies gets lost in in the big screen so they sadly end up looking lifeless and grayish.]
Anyway, Batad has good parts and some parts which made me ask “What was that about?”. The “what was that about” parts are not bad parts. They are just parts of the film which, if you are from the Cordilleras, would look kind of odd or which would make you raise your eyebrows. Like, for instance, there’s a scene in the movie where some girls, who do not wear tapis (gateng) as they go about their daily lives, were suddenly wearing tapis (which looked new too!) when they were planting rice.
I don’t know about you, but in my part of the boondocks, women don’t wear tapis when they go to work especially when they go to work in muddy fields. Tapis are worn during special occasions like weddings. It’s like Barong Tagalog which used to be an ordinary shirt in the old days but which has now become a formal wear. So that scene was kinda off to me. But since this movie is set in Batad, and since I am not from that place, I cannot categorically say that it was wrong for the director to have done it like that. After all, maybe that is how they do it in Batad.
Anyway, here’s the list of the good parts of the film and the “What was that about?” parts. [Warning: Some spoilers.]
The good parts
1. Good actors who did justice to their roles. A perfect casting if ever there is such a thing.
2. Interesting story. It is not your run of the mill kind.
3. It is independently produced. More importantly, it is not produced by Mother Lily so thankfully there are no scenes where the characters suddenly break out singing and dancing for no apparent reason.
4. The film raises some important questions some of which we also talked about in this blog (the commercialization of culture, whether education alienates us from our culture, the relevance of traditional indigenous rituals in our present lives, the future of the rice terraces, etc, etc.)
5. That scene where the boy was running to save his sister was really convincing. It made me sit at the edge of my seat.
6. The scenes which poke fun at tourists were really inspired; it was right on the mark too. I see these kinds of tourists in Sagada.
The “What was that about?” parts
1. As mentioned above, those girls wearing tapis while planting rice. But again maybe this is how they do it in Batad.
2. In the first part of the film, I think Gina Alajar who played the boy’s mother was trying to speak Tagalog in an Ifugao accent. It sounded silly.
3. That scene where Gina and some local women were using ladders while they were cleaning the stone walled terraces. It didn’t make sense to me. What will they do when they are finished cleaning the upper part of the wall? Do they get all the way down just to move the ladder? I’ve cleaned stonewalls like that and it’s much simpler if you just step on the stones. But then again, maybe they do use ladders to clean their rice fields in Batad.
4. The movie falls into the trap of showing fragments of “Igorot/iCordillera culture” which do not add to the story. So all of a sudden we have scene of a mambunong doing some ritual in the field, all of a sudden there are people playing gongs, all of a sudden there’s a man doing some kind of ritual under the house. Do these have any relevance to the story? I say none, except that this is a film about an Ifugao boy.
This seems to be a common mistake of film makers who set their story in the Cordilleras. I guess their mindset is like, “Okay this is a film in the Cordilleras, so let’s have some men playing gongs. Or let’s have an old man doing rituals. Or let’s have a scene of villagers butchering pigs.”
I might have appreciated watching these “culture/ritual” scenes the first time I saw them but they now look patronizing and gratuitous. [Apart from Batad, recent examples would be Don’t Give Up On Us, Sex Drive, Sabel.]
Overall, this is a good film. It is not great like the Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, Mike de Leon kind of great. But, as stated earlier, it is way better than the current crop of local movies. And it is independently produced too so we have people putting their own money in a work they believe in. So despite my quibbles, it is a project that is worth supporting.
PHOTO CREDIT: bleue.i.ph.