Movie Review: Daan Patungong Kalimugtong/The Road to Kalimugtong

If you ever have the chance to watch the independent film Daan Patungong Kalimugtong, make sure you go watch it. (Or you might be better off buying a VCD/DVD copy if they are available because, as we noted in other movie reviews, digital Filipino films just do not translate well on big movie screens; they get overblown and lose much of their color.)

Kalimugtong is a really good film. Aside from the fact that it is well made, here are several reasons why I liked the movie: all the actors are our kailiyans (one of whom, Analyn Bangsi-il won an award as Best Child Performer); they used Ilokano as the medium (although there are also dialogues in English and Tagalog); they have beautiful shots of the mountains we all love; the musical scoring is terrific. And, oh, did I say it was a really good film?

Okay, the film is not really story-driven. You will be disappointed if you are looking for obvious movie ingredients such as conflicts, suspense, thrills, highlights, and a final resolution. You won’t find those things here; the film, after all, is about the ordinary life of two siblings as they go about their ordinary daily routine.

This means that the movie tends to be repetitive: kids walking to school (there’s a lot of walking here), kids doing household chores, kids looking after their grandfather, etc., etc. Despite this ordinariness, the movie is never boring (at least I wasn’t bored) and it, in fact, manages to draw you to be invested in what’s happening as the movie unfolds.

I am not sure if Kalimugtong is fictional or an existing barangay or sitio but this movie is set in Benguet. I think the movie manages to capture the Benguet local color with its sayotes, and mines, and DZWT broadcasts. It also ably portrays the challenges confronting people from the Cordilleras (unemployment, poverty, etc) and it does this without getting preachy, a common mistake of independent “socially relevant” films.

Another thing I like about this film is that there are no unnecessary Cordillera/Igorot scenes. If you remember our review of Batad sa Paang Palay, we criticized it for scenes which do not add to the story (people playing gongs, a man doing a ritual, etc) but which the director still added probably to shout to the world that he is making a Cordillera/Igorot movie. Thankfully, there’s nothing like that in Kalimugtong. Again, don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with movies showing Igorots dancing or Igorots doing rituals but if they don’t add to the story then such scenes are simply gratuitous.

Kalimugtong director Mes de Guzman should be praised for this film. Whatever awards he received, and there are many, are very well-deserved. Kudos also to the local actors (aside from Bangsi-il the cast includes Rhenuel OrdoƱo, Hallen Sumingwa, Jay Bassig, and Joey Almoete) who all did a convincing job in their respective roles.

Incidentally, you might want to visit the Northern Dispatch Blog which has an interview with Hallen Sumingwa about her role in this movie.

PHOTO CREDIT: San Sebastian Film Festival.

6 Comments
  1. Your foreword alone makes me excited to go look for the dvd. Wala bang scene dito na nakakaiyak or something that all of a sudden..
    hmmm, you know what I mean, hehe…I’ll just wait for their constructive input. Cheers..

  2. hmmn maganda ata to, i love documentary type movies, or yung mga mga independent films..they are very unique in their own way and not the very usual telenovela type such as mayaman at mahirap, mang-aapi at naapi or the usual same style of story only the cast are changing not unlike this type of movies they are unique..

  3. Hi Trublue,
    I’m really hoping that the producers will come up with DVDs/VCDs because its a really good film. Don’t worry walang ganoon na scene. Thanks.

    Hi Nats,
    Yup, maganda siya talaga. And to think that independent film producers, who don’t have much resources, pa ang gumawa. I think mga independent artists yata ang saviour ng Philippine art scene. Thanks.

  4. so sad nga e, madaming independent films ang gaining awards abroads but we can’t see them being awarded sa locality..such as ang pagdadalaga ni oliveros ba yun etc duno limot ko or marami pa na nanalo sa international na indi pinansin sa pinas..in my own opinion kung sa story lang panalo mga independent…i remember nun isang magandang story although medyo censored or 18 above is yung TORO or Live show maganda yung story kaso medyo realistic ang presentation syempre my mga conservative..pero if we digest yung story ng mga pokpok that’s the reality…ginawa lang ng direk na reality yung film kaso alam naman natin tayo na pinoy…

  5. Hi Nats,
    Thanks again. You’re right, independent producers are doing a better job (compared to the big companies) in producing good movies.

    Controversial nga yung Toro. Nagalit ang mga manang kaya na-censor, which is sad.

  6. Im a HS student from letran and pinapanuod smin to just last last week. we were asked to do some reviews about it and journals. ang gnda. students realized how lucky we are,students of letran,pra mkpasok sa school n ktulad ng letran. Dpt tlgng mpnuod to ng mrami. very inspiring.

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