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Heroes on TV

As I write this, two days before Independence Day, my plans for this holiday consist mainly of vegging before the TV set. Not that I’m too lazy to get up and celebrate, but precisely because I want to immerse myself in the occasion.

TV stations, you see, are taking advantage of the national holiday to air movies and documentaries that celebrate the seemingly naive and pointless values of nationalism, patriotism, bravery and, yes, independence. ABS-CBN, for instance, is airing two recent movies about the lives of national heroes. “Heneral Luna,” for one, defied the odds and the initially tepid public reception for it to become a huge hit mainly through an enthusiastic campaign mounted through social media.

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“Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo” (The First President) was an entry in the 2014 Metro Manila Film Festival that bombed at the box office, earning just P10 million, with producers failing to recover the P90 million they reportedly spent.

It’s my hope, then, that exposure on national (and international) TV during a public holiday celebrating the birth of the republic would give both movies the boost they need to gain an even wider and, in the case of “Heneral Luna,” an even more enthusiastic following.

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“Heneral Luna” tells the story of Antonio Luna, younger brother of renowned and revered painter Juan Luna, who led Filipino troops in the armed revolt against Spain. In the course of his military derring-do, he faces insidious enemies, his fellow leaders in the Revolution, including (it turns out) Emilio Aguinaldo. His declaration that “we have met the enemy and it is ourselves” seemed to have resonated with many of the youth and the creators of memes, although I think the popularity of the movie is also due in large part to the cussing and salty language with which writer/director Jerrold Tarog spices up the personality of the hero.

“Bonifacio” was, to me, a hot mess, moving across timelines and viewpoints, when the life of the “Great Plebeian” was of itself interesting and compelling enough. My hope is that, owing to the presence of Daniel Padilla, in a distracting role as a student preparing to debate Bonifacio’s life, he would draw younger viewers and “introduce” them to the founder and martyr of the Katipunan.

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On cable TV, the History Channel has readied a lineup of dramatized documentaries, most prominent of which is a biography of Jose Rizal. I don’t know if this show on Rizal has been shown previously, but I am very excited about viewing it since previews testify to an impressive attempt at authenticity, starting with the actor who portrays Rizal.

History Channel will likewise air today a documentary on Ninoy Aquino, his assassination, and the protests that led to “People Power.” This has been shown several times, but each time it airs, I am mesmerized and moved. To bring a more contemporary touch, there is also a documentary on the Special Forces, perhaps to emphasize that independence and freedom were not just wrestled from a colonizer or a dictator, but is defended every day and each time lawless elements threaten our stability and integrity as a nation (China, beware!).

So while Filipinos no longer bother to gather in droves at the Luneta or wherever it is Independence Day is being officially observed, just by staying home and watching TV we will all be one, I hope, in remembering the past and celebrating the gift that our forebears granted us: a nation free and united.

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Trolling an airport bookstore during a recent trip abroad, I chanced upon a bright red soft-cover book titled “Me Before You.”

I expected a run-of-the-mill page-turner to preoccupy me during the long flight home, but I found myself mesmerized, taken up in the love story of Lou and Will. This, even as, at the back of my mind, I was conscious of the emotional manipulation I was allowing author Jojo Moyes to perform on me.

Well, “Me Before You” has been made into a movie, starring Emilia Clarke who, before she took on the role of the slightly ditzy Louisa, was an evil queen (or so my daughter-in-law says) in “Game of Thrones.” Sam Claflin of “Hunger Games” plays Will Traynor, who is not only NOT ditzy, but also hardly moves at all, spending a major part of the movie confined to a wheelchair.

To say that the duo manage to create a love story from their rather bleak set of circumstances is to give away the heartbreaking secret of both book and movie. Of course, it helps that Moyes also wrote the screenplay of “Me Before You,” although I must say she stripped away much of the book’s emotional punch by trimming it down to its bare narrative bones for film.

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This is one example of how much the book is better than the movie, since a lot of the characters’ backstories are jettisoned in favor of moving the plot along. But I must say that a lot of the charm of “Me Before You” lies not just in the past that helped form the man and woman that Lou and Will have become, but also in the setting where they meet and forge their soul partnership. There are, for instance, the gardens of The Castle which Will’s family manages and provides the backdrop for their exchanges. There is Lou’s family, who becomes an important, vital chorus, as it were, as the two play out their most unusual and daring relationship.

One thing I give the movie credit for, though. In the book, Lou is given to odd, colorful outfits, especially a pair of bright yellow striped tights, her “bumblebee tights.” In this the production manager and costume designer succeeded, the wacky clothes providing a contrast to the inner turmoil that besets this sweet, funny young woman.

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TAGS: `Bonifacio: ang unang pangulo’, Films, Heneral Luna, Independence Day, Me Before You, Ninoy Aquino
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