Monday, September 25, 2006


“I will not miss this one,” I said to myself as I read the e-mail from an organization of film enthusiasts. It was the schedule of the Korean Film Festival at UPFI. Since graduating from college, I had to give up my regular movie binges; I just don’t have the time. I already missed countless film showings since then, the screening of Spanish films at Instituto Cervantes last August and the Chinese Film Festival at SM Mall of Asia two weeks ago are two of the most recent.

The festival showcased films that feature the “dynamic culture of South Korea ,” so the poster said. The line-up included Il Mare (2000), A Day (2001), Art Museum by the Zoo (1998), I Wish I Had a Wife (2001), Old Boy (2003), and Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring (2003). I only got to see two out of these six, a shame compared to my previous movie-going performances. But then again, it’s better than not seeing anything at all.

I really wanted to watch Il Mare (to compare it with its Hollywood adaptation The Lakehouse), but it was screened on a weekday, so seeing it was out of the question. At any rate, the two movies I’ve seen are quite noteworthy.
I Wish I Had a Wife is a romantic comedy by Heung-Sik Park , about a guy who is getting old and is desperately searching for a wife, all the while avoiding the girl who might bring about the end of his quest. The movie celebrates the ordinariness of love, with its ordinary characters in their ordinary world (The guy is a bank employee, and the girl is a teacher. How ordinary can they get?). No picturesque settings, gorgeous characters, and romantic movie lines, yet the magic is quite palpable. Viewers still chuckle and sigh inwardly, but the “kilig” would have been more felt if they chose more dashing protagonists. On second thought, that would be self-defeating.

Jeong-hyang Lee’s Art Museum by the Zoo, also a romantic comedy, tells the story of Chul-soo, a soldier who returns from his base for a break, only to find out that his girlfriend has left their apartment and Choon-hee, a wedding videographer, lives there instead. Chauvinist Chul-soo spends his ten-day break with eccentric Choon-hee, and a riotous battle between the sexes ensues. The title refers to the script the two co-writes as an entry to a scriptwriting contest, which is inspired by, well, an art museum and a zoo (duh?) that lie on the opposite ends of an intersection, with the protagonists’ significant others as the lead characters. It could very well denote the dichotomy between the two characters, or the parallel existence of the two places, or if we could stretch it further, to the dual progression of the film (The story of their script develops alongside the film’s plot, and scenes from the work-in-progress are interspersed throughout the film.).

I’m still in the process of thinking what to write next, and finding that I’ve grown too lazy to add more, I will stop here. Hehe, bitin.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Juvenile No More*

I am now twenty-two (That is my age, not the versions of me debating within my head, the number of which is probably double, haha.). Three hundred and sixty-five days slipped away without me knowing it. Have I grown older? I couldn’t tell. Every year I ask where the past year went, what became of my plans, what happened with my life. And every year I arrive at the same answer – I don’t know. These rantings have been a birthday ritual actually. Every essay asks, “What’s the point of living? What’s in store for me?” Reality is questioned, love and faith viewed with skepticism. Every essay ends with a resolution that I will face life head-on, rotten as it is. What has life done to disappoint me? I’m not sure, but I’m not happy with mine. But I see my life is quite a breeze compared to others’. I eat three (or more) times a day, I have a job, and I have my family and friends. All right, I’m an asshole. It’s just me and my I-am-the-center-of-the-universe belief (which is so hard to unlearn). As Alexander Pope puts it, “All looks yellow to a jaundiced eye.” Well, at least I am self-aware. That’s a good start, isn’t it?
*Juvenile sounds rather negative, probably because it’s been associated with the word “delinquency” for so long, but it only means “young, youth, or adolescent”. I just couldn’t find a word that starts with the letter J (I’ve been trying to complete the alphabet with my entries’ titles.). At any rate, my sister who’s a Social Work major says “juvenile delinquent” is an obsolete phrase and it has been replaced with “children in conflict with the law”, or CICL,to be more politically correct. Wala lang…

Friday, September 08, 2006

I Not Stupid

That’s the title of the first Singaporean film I ever saw. I didn’t know it was Singaporean until I saw its sequel being featured on MTV Screen. Our Asian neighbors all look alike so I don’t quite know how to make a distinction.

The film is a story of three grade school boys struggling to do well with their studies despite being in the EM3, the lowest and “hopeless” section. It shows several similarities between their society and ours. First is the unquestioning belief in Western talent, comically exposed in the advertising agency sequence wherein one of the kids’ father, a businessman, hires an advertiser to promote his product. A Singaporean presents his concept but it is bluntly rejected, only to be beaten by an American who presents exactly the same thing. Then there’s the preference for English and Math. These subjects are made the measure of students’ intellectual capacity. Those in the EM3 section are presumably weak in these subjects and are discriminated against. To make matters worse, authorities do not address the issue, believing that the kids are a bunch of hopeless cases anyway so the best way to deal with them is to let them be. An idealistic young teacher finds that the students may not excel in English and Math but they do in other fields of study. Hence the title, I Not Stupid.

The movie seems to be a mockery of Singaporean society. It makes fun of the authoritarian government and of the people’s blind obedience (Through one of the kids’ mom who bullies her kids around, saying that it’s for their own good). Of course we already know about these things but now we see a Singaporean’s confession to the world. It is all very well especially for us citizens of a developing country, seeing that all their riches come with a price -- that of their freedom. But in the last twenty minutes of the film, all those self-mockery builds up as a big joke on us. Every problem is solved, and in the end, the bullying mother is right after all – “Where will your freedom bring you? Be thankful you have a good and responsible mother. Believe me, it’s for your own good.” With the political and economic crisis plaguing our country now, it is quite easy to believe her indeed.

The first three quarters of the film is cute and funny until it gets personal (or racial?), I wonder how I was able to sit through it. The offense takes place in the kidnapping sequence, when the rich and spoiled kid whines “I don’t know how to butter my bread or make my coffee.” The kidnapper then snaps, “I’m a kidnapper, not your Filipino maid!” The scriptwriters could easily delete “Filipino” and still get their point across but they put it anyway. And this film is coming from the country responsible for Flor Contemplacion’s death and guilty of countless OFW abuses besides. I get the urge to scream “Yes you are!” in reply to the movie’s title.