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Laughter and romance in a septic tank

/ 12:16 AM December 30, 2016

Simple joys make up such a big part of the holidays: street decorations, glittering shop windows, floors littered with the shining detritus of our celebrations: tinsel, wrapping paper, ribbons, boxes torn open.

Among these, fast approaching the status of tradition, is the annual light show at the Ayala Triangle Gardens. My siblings, children and, most importantly, our grandchild, paid a visit Wednesday evening and amid the rather well-behaved crowd, basked in the cheer and good feelings of the show that combined the power of music with the magic of twinkling lights. With the help of techno wizardry, the trees and bushes turned into living, pulsating beings, and even the smoke created by fog machines came alive with color and movement.

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The grandchild was just over a year old last year when he first beheld the “Festival of Lights,” as this show is officially known, but this year, nearing two, he was much more responsive and was moved to “dance” to the catchy beat. I for one was happy just to watch him enjoy the sights, seeing everything “new” again through the eyes of a child.

Thanks to directors Voltaire de Jesus and Luther Gumia, and musical arrangers Jazz Nicholas and Mikey Amistoso of Watusi Manila, for creating this free showcase. And to Ayala Land and its copresenters, of course, for making this respite from our holiday obligations and the resultant traffic available, for free, to the city’s harassed populace. Taking an hour or so to mingle in shared celebration, with one’s loved ones close by, that, too, is a Christmas gift for adults in this season.

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Much to my regret, I missed “Ang Babae sa Septic Tank” when it made its local commercial run, and so I resolved not to miss this time around “Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2,” subtitled, with not a little irony, “#Forever is Not Enough.”

That hashtag is actually the title of a sappy pop song that Eugene Domingo, playing herself, or a hyper-diva version of herself, plays on a ukulele to convince her director Rainier (Kean Cipriano) to employ it as the “theme song” of his opus.

Domingo and Rainier and their team had previously worked together on an “indie” film called “Walang Wala” (“Absolutely Nothing”), the purported movie being filmed in “Septic Tank 1,” and while the movie won a slew of awards, it barely had an audience when shown locally. This is why the actress seems bent on departing “indie” territory for the more viable ground of commercial filmmaking, specifically rom-coms. Rainier happens to have conceptualized and written his proposed movie as a fictionalized account of his own romance and marriage, now teetering on the brink of destruction, so the actress’ demands rankle. But as Domingo points out: “If your marriage is in trouble, you go home and save it. You don’t make a movie!”

Directed by Marlon Rivera and written by Chris Martinez, “Septic Tank 2” elicits guffaws with its clever mash up of the fictional and all-too-real.

The diva star insists on a younger and younger leading man, from the venerable Joel Torre to heartthrob Jericho Rosales to finally, the teener Iñigo Pascual, himself the son of another heartthrob, Piolo Pascual. There are clever, cheeky references to the most popular lines from local rom-coms, illustrated in an extended monologue by Domingo on the three kinds of “hugot” lines, that is, painfully searing bits of dialogue that often become a movie’s signature moment. If only for this lesson on acting and dialogue, Domingo deserves in my book the award for best (overacting) actress!

I think our local film industry is fast approaching maturity when it makes room for send-ups like “Septic Tank” that poke fun at the most commercial and predictable, indeed formulaic approaches to filmmaking that nonetheless sends audiences swooning and trooping to theaters.

It’s a reality that has just been swatted on the nose by the decision of the MMFF organizers to go for more independent and indeed iconoclastic works. And judging by the crowd gathered not just at the theater showing “Septic Tank” but also in all the other outlets for MMFF movies, the audience is getting the message.

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TAGS: Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2, Metro Manila Film Festival, MMFF
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