Wednesday, September 25, 2013


A Simple Review of the Film “Ang Kwento ni Mabuti”

By Alvin Dela Cruz Bernardino
and The Artistry of Nora Aunor 

                                                                                                                          - Filmmaker Mes De Guzman 

 Much has been said about the merits of “Ang Kwento ni Mabuti”… All of which asserting the old adage that indeed “simplicity is beauty”… After almost a week of very successful screenings at the 1st Cine Filipino Film Festival, the awards were revealed and the movie savored a solid major romp with the Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay honors… Well deserved… But how about the Best Lead Actress?

As I watched “Ang Kwento ni Mabuti” during its gala screening last weekend, I momentarily “detached” myself from the reality that I am a firm believer of the Nora Aunor brand of artistry. I viewed the entire film with sheer objectiveness and a huge expectation of a fresh approach in Filipino filmmaking. True enough, the film is a glittering gem -- a cinematic achievement that screams “brilliance” in all its simplicity and silence. The Filipino ideology is very much evident in the film’s narrative… The regional flavor provided by the poetic, sublime landscapes and rural charm of Sitio Kasinggan in Nueva Vizcaya is just breathtaking… The morality theme is appropriately emphasized without being preachy or self-righteous… The film succeeds in imparting a strong message by challenging the viewers’ minds in a subtle, intelligent manner… Most importantly, the film has universal appeal. A third world fare that does not blatantly present or condemn poverty but makes the world realize that in the midst of an impoverished life situation, hope, still, is what keeps us afloat.

Mes De Guzman’s direction is deft, keen and straightforward. His style best suits cineastes who go for art films which ordinary moviegoers may find boring or dragging. Now I am adding Mes to my list of favorite local filmmakers. And I am looking forward to his next film project. His screenplay is absolutely effective, natural-flowing and devoid of any cinematic excesses that we often observe in local flicks. The Ilocano dialogue is sweet, charming and affecting.

Best Picture – check! Best Director – check! Best Screenplay – check! Again, the question: “How about Best Lead Actress?”

Nora Aunor failed to bring home the prize – losing to a 13-year old acting novice who plays a young lesbian in the film “Ang Huling Cha-Cha ni Anita”. The role may be too offbeat and highly challenging for a child that jurors found impressive, amusing, interesting and award-worthy. But she was pitted against the veteran Aunor who, for the first time, played a cheerful, optimistic, Ilocano-speaking folk healer. The Mabuti portrayal may appear too “lightweight” compared to flashy, daring and over-the-top characters that other actors in the field fleshed out, but the real gauge of good acting is: 1) the consistency of a performance, 2) effective characterization and, 3) mastery of the art of being as against the tricks of mere acting. In this respect, Nora Aunor scored a SOLID TRIPLE PUNCH --- and there is more.

Aunor is at her most mature, most consistent and most sincere as a film performer in “Ang Kwento ni Mabuti”. The Mabuti role may be lacking the bravura, high-voltage acting moments that easily please viewers and critics but the challenging and tricky part in playing a simple character is how one sustains its natural development without losing grip of the viewers’ interest and attention. Nora excels in this aspect. Her quiet intensity gradually builds up, simmers and boils just at the desired temperature. A stroke of genius that is neither underdeveloped nor overdone. Nora as Mabuti is a display of sheer mastery in acting and being, oftentimes exhibited in muted magnificence. Hers is a layered performance that does not sag. Hers is an acting expertise that can only be achieved through years of constant adeptness in her craft. Add to this Nora’s highly intuitive nature which sets her apart from other performers. Not even any child performer who manages to shine in just a number of scenes can match the acting virtuosity of Nora Aunor. MATURITY and SENSITIVITY in acting are traits that are not acquired overnight. And maturity, depth and sensitivity become La Aunor in “Ang Kwento ni Mabuti”.

In the words of ace filmmaker Mes De Guzman after his triumph at the 1st Cine Filipino Film Festival awards rites, “THERE IS NO BEST PICTURE AND BEST DIRECTOR WITHOUT NORA AUNOR”. That said it all.

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