Thursday, August 24, 2006


Photo source: Wickipedia, probably by Boy Yñiguez (?)

CINEMATORAPHY: Roberto Yniguez
EDITING: Jay Halili
CAST: Gina Pareno, Soliman Cruz, Nanding Josef, Johnny Manahan, Jhong Del Rosario, Nico Antonio, Fonz Deza
PRODUCTION: Joji Alonso / MLR Films
MUSIC: Jerrold Tarog
DIRECTOR: Jeffrey Jeturian

One word immediately entered my mind when I saw this film: PANDEMONIUM. The clutter of shanties, the tight winding passageways that are littered with children, jobless men, and people who go about their lives as if it was meant to be lived the way it was depicted in the film – without direction, routinary, and full of fear and uncertainty.

The film revolves around the life of Amelita “Amy” Montemayor (Gina Pareño), a jueteng bet collector (“kubrador”). She leads a regular life but one full of risks. For someone in her position, this is exactly what “a regular life” means. Her day begins with a prayer to the saints and the Holy Virgin (“Sana hindi po ako mahuli ngayon.”), and after some shouting matches with members of her family, she goes out and does the routine of collecting bets and delivering them to the main collector, who brings these to a place where the winning numbers are chosen. Everything seems to be a study in contrast – some people are winners (a Wowowee segment show can be heard in the background), some are losers (the opening scene has another bet collector wearing an FPJ shirt that says, “Tuloy ang Laban!”).

The film opens and closes during All Saints Day – a mere three days in the life of Amy but full of luck (or misfortune, whichever comes first), accidental deaths, frustrations, dreams dashed to the ground, angst bursting at the seams. I am not surprised if people were either silently shedding tears or constantly shaking their heads in the comforting darkness of the theater. This is a film you wish to torture erring politicians with by making them watch it hours on end.

Kubrador is a well-thought piece of work although it tends to meander, rendering it too long and reducing its chances at getting an ending that is both effective and memorable. Most of its parts, however, are opportunities for self reflection because they are perplexing as they are tragic. As a society – and largely a Catholic one at that - it is a great wonder why we have allowed so many of our own people to be pushed against the wall and make them resort to risky means of getting a living. It would be interesting to find out the answers when we consider our own contributions as an individual – if there’s any, to begin with.

It’s not all sadness, by the way. In fact, Kubrador has it light moments. Despite the abject poverty, the family - and the sense of family – is still very much present. The funny moments are when Amy finds a numerical equivalent to every event or situation she finds herself into. Also, short appearances by some of the Philippines’ best theater actors – Soliman Cruz and Neil Ryan Sese (both appeared in “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros”) make for interesting viewing, and was that Gabby Eigenmann who was accidentally (and fatally) shot during a street altercation at the North Manila Cemetery? Gina Pareño, of course, is exceptional. She remains to be one of our underrated and oft ignored best actresses.

I read somewhere that Kubrador was the first film to be given an A rating by the Cinema Evaluation Board this year. How this will help the film at the tills is still questionable as most films given an A rating last year were commercial flops. The purist may assail me for wanting these films to do well commercially, but my intention is pure and simple: a commercial success means better chances of getting the film’s message across. And Kubrador’s message is important because it involves a life – or lives – that call for, and need help.

If anything, I got out of the movie house feeling a lot heavier – on the shoulders, I mean. While walking out of the quiet mall, the thought of Picasso’s
Guernica briefly entered my mind. This work features the impact of war on people. Mixed emotions, mostly of fear and anxiety, is written all over the subjects’ faces, but no one notices that on the bottom portion of the painting, a symbol of hope – a small flower – tries its best to emerge from the ensuing confusion and disorder.

I wish and pray for the same for Amy and the rest of us who fight our own little wars everyday. And that’s something I’d definitely put my bet on.

DYG, current Writers Guild President, used to be a film reviewer for Yehey!

For more reviews, read
here. See the official KUBRADOR blog and website here.

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