Directed and Written by Eduardo Roy Jr.
Directed by Mikhail Red
Written by MIkhail Red and Ian Victoriano
Directed by Hannah Espia
Written by Hannah Espia and Giancarlo Abrahan
Quick Change: Aren't all stories found? Props, then, for stumbling on a genuine, and genuinely deviant, alternative milieu, thickened into a rancid consistency by the sumptuous cinematography. The parts that work here are the parts that immerse itself in the work, that is, bootleg plastic surgery. The desperate tinge of cul-de-sac lives circling their eventual oblivions, the insidious threat of body horror, which this essentially is. Even if we only get to see what happens when a procedure goes horribly wrong once, the discomfort over what these transgenders are doing to their bodies worms away, all icky and squeamish, at the back of my head through the parts that don't work. That would be the parts in-between, where it gropes for back story to fill in the gaps and starts favoring plot and melodrama over texture and verisimilitude.
Rekorder: Everything it wants to say below the surface, about voyeurism and the film/video schism and how the lines between reality and the perception of reality are blurring, Mikh has said more poetically in his short Kamera. And why is it that every time someone pontificates about how wondrous and unattainable the second Golden Age of Philippine Cinema is, it sounds more and more like the death howls of dinosaurs? The exhausted aura does make odd sense given the conditions of its universe. And Ronnie Quizon has enough presence to center everything as a man for whom time has all but stopped, which the obsolete camcorder he uses to bootleg films semiotically reinforces. The scuzz-noir textures that swaddle his downward spiral never quite tip the film over into the mindfuck you hope it would, but the empathic tug of his displaced, taciturn cameraman is sufficient enough to at least make the reveal at the end hit a nerve.
Transit: Diaspora and the ways in which it impacts the lives of OFWs is a rich vein to tap but often falls prey to over-exalting the sacrifices they make as something that practically warrants sainthood. That the OFWs here are ordinary people eking out a living, who actually find some measure of contentment and happiness in their work and their adopted country, is a unique wrinkle in and of itself for the way it avoids the usual tropes of misplaced heroism, of oppression, of homesickness. It's another form of separation anxiety that shadows the migrant family at its heart: the threat of their children being deported as ordained by Israeli law, a fact that the extraneous coda reiterates with factoids. As if we needed reminding. As if it didn't trust the emotional brunt of its own narrative, really, which, by splintering itself into six POVs and by refusing to reduce the structure to serve yet another haggard Rashomon riff, gains a plangent rhythm. Repetitive, cyclical, not unlike the digging of a hole, but aptly closing in on its own claustrophobia as its characters' small world gets even smaller and smaller until there's little left near the end but a chokehold.