Thursday, December 29, 2016

Why you must see KABISERA?

KABISERA Hugot Lines




Realistic family bonding scenes, great performances and successful build-up of suspense resulted to an emotional discourse on extra-judicial killings. Excessive melodrama pushes it to the edges of soap opera; but from the get-go the horrors of summary executions have been pierced into the heart of its audience. And the sense of desperation remain embedded long after the last swollen-eyed moviegoer has left the cinema house.

Rating: 4 / 5

Wednesday, December 28, 2016



While it is true that Nora Aunor has mastered the art of suffering in films, her latest outing as Mercy de Dios in “Kabisera” adds a new dimension to her trademark evocation of misery. In a film about a widow’s fight to find justice for her slain husband and son, Aunor’s Mercy is not a hapless victim. Here, she fights back, not in blind anger, but in a way that’s righteous, persistent and quiet.

She abides by the law in seeking justice for her loved ones even if it’s law enforcers that brought about the tragedy in her family. She diligently follows the directions of grandstanding public officials to the letter in the hopes of somehow finding new leads into her husband’s death.

What makes the dramatic scenes in “Kabisera” effective is the director’s restrained manner in showing anger and grief. There are really no big scenes here – no sermon at the mount, no splashing of boiling water on the tormentor’s face, no lengthy dialogues that end in face slapping. Here, Aunor kept her emotions in check to portray grief.

Personally, her most outstanding moment in the film include the court scene where she narrates her husband’s gruesome murder and her telephone conversation with her fugitive son. Quietly, Aunor simply lets her emotions flow without turning the scene into a big and lavish display of emotional fireworks.

Equally touching was the scene where Mercy offers a bag of “puto” (rice cakes) to her attorney (Victor Neri) and to the head of the Human Rights Commission (played brilliantly by Ces Quesada). In this simple scene, Aunor shows her mastery of underacting. Her face shows the desperation of someone who seeks justice, but her actions show calmness. Here, Mercy shows how to plead with dignity and honor.

The effect is astounding – watching her in those scenes is like watching the news where victims narrate their tragedy: without fanfare, without drama but just telling their tales of horror and grief in a way that’s true and raw. Aunor’s scenes are painful to watch only because her portrayal of loss is simple and too real. Apparently, Aunor’s experiences in indie filmmaking has honed her into a finer artist – one who does not rely on big scenes and staged circumstances to create electricity.

What makes “Kabisera” timely and significant is that it never points an accusing finger at any entity. Unlike many of the politicians who love to grandstand and proclaim themselves as heroes and champions of human rights, “Kabisera” is quiet in its portrayal of loss, grief, and the arduous road to attain justice.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Arturo San Agustin and Real Florido

Nora Aunor, Ricky Davao, JC de Vera, Jason Abalos, Victor Neri, Perla Bautista, Ces Quesada, RJ Agustin, Ronwaldo Martin, and Kiko Matos

Production Company:
Silver Story Entertainment and Fire Starters Manila Production Co.

"This socio-political drama unfolds as a quietly powerful and gripping story of a tightly-knit family coming to grips with abusive elements of Philippine society, specifically the hooded perpetrators of extra-judicial killings.

Taking issue with human rights violations doesn’t only serve the film as fine advocacy for its relevant and timely choice of theme, but also subtly reveals various other concerns imbedded in the thread of conflicts.

A sure, steady directorial hand, conscientious script and effective cinematography are matched by the lead actors’ faultless performances.

This taut and tragic drama will disturb viewers with its stark chronology of what confronts us daily in an often oppressive urban milieu, with the final imagery delivering a subtle footnote to our awareness of the proper place of vaunted justice in our society."

 -- Jocelyn Dimaculangan


Friday, November 4, 2016


The digitally restored and remastered TATLONG TAONG WALANG DIYOS will premiere at Cinema One Originals this November 15 at Trinoma!

Stay tuned for announcements on how to get a chance to watch the premiere of this 1976 classic.

Abs - Cbn Film Restoration

Thursday, October 20, 2016


By: Ronz Maceda

“Hinulid” is a visceral-cerebral-visual trifecta. Framed by ruminations on faith, science, lore and politics, it bleeds with a rare parental love that is more formidable than life and death combined.

(The film made me contemplate, smile, cry…and cry again.)

Kristian Cordero, only on his second outing as a filmmaker, deftly utilizes the poetic time mode to breathe pathos and philosophies into his complex, non-linear storytelling: a eulogy on a mother and child’s unbreakable bond that intersects a deconstruction of an old Bikol legend as a socio-political commentary. Or vice versa?

(As part-Bicolano myself--my late beloved father hailed from Daraga--I encourage Mr. Cordero to further his cinematic exploration of Bikol myths, local color and latter-day realities.)

Nora Aunor exhibits pain-- her rawest and most real to date--that is multiplied three times or more. And that sturdiest love of all, eloquently communicated by her facial and body language, is magnified many fold. Hearing the artist speak in her native Rinconada is akin to hearing her crooning live.

Commendable is Jess Mendoza for his affecting yet still unaffected performance. Memorable, too, are the Bicol-based actors: the old priest, the blind caretaker, the two young Lucases and the school administrator.

Clocking more than 150 minutes, “Hinulid” is rife with phantasmagoria, repetitive and hard to fathom at some point. Perhaps, it can stand some editing; add some trimming of the fat in the screenplay, without minimizing its scope and impact. Meanwhile, the music, special effects and cinematography are done well.

Some may quibble that “Hinulid” is a film that does not want or know how to end. But they ought to ask themselves: does a mother’s love and grief for her child, living or dead, ever end?

(PS. They say that "Hinulid" is a homecoming project for La Aunor. To our literati and film-literate Noranian kabsat overseas like Wilfredo, Mykeo and Jojo, this film is a homecoming for all of you as well.)

QCinema 2016: HINULID

By:  John Tawasil
Present Confusion


There's a certain kind of lyricality in the interconnected scenes of Kristian Cordero's Hinulid; with its non-linear, almost abstract narrative, the work feels more like a poem than a film. Collectively, its themes limn a cinematic pieta, a mother searching her memories for the meaning behind her son's seemingly meaningless death. These memories are interspersed with religious iconography, treatises on law, justice, and flashbacks. The film ends up loosely constructed as a result.

Nora Aunor's star shines among her fellow actors, giving us a spectrum of emotions, at times impenetrable, at times vulnerable. It's always a treat to see her in action, although without an equally formidable foil her co-actors pale in comparison.

While the film's poetry holds for most of the running time, the work starts to crumble under its own weight during the last half hour, as it tries to tackle too many things. During this period we see several scenes where the film could have ended perfectly, but didn't. The end result proves exhausting as the film tries to include as much as it can into an already full package.

Despite that, the film's poetry cannot be denied, and certain scenes prove mesmerizing. Parts of Hinulid can be quite challenging, but the rewards may be worth it in the end.



By Wilson Manobo

What does "Hinulid" mean to me? Life is a slow, breezy but sometimes painful journey (train) that transports us to the different worlds of facts (science) and imagination (poetry), the deceit and domination of evil (pretentious school officials, brutal military men, hideous frat men}, and the promise of eternal life (religion/ theology). Only by having lived a good life exemplified by Sita and her son will guarantee us the blessed justice we are hoping for ( stars and fireflies). Real justice can never be experienced here which was denied of Sita and her son. It is only by having lived a faith-filled life like Sita ( her memories , good deeds, and tremendous love for her lone son) will make us resign to the divine will and will lead us to a consoling death ( La Muerte). Only in heaven can we really experience the perfect justice (Three Images of The Dead Christ) which was denied of us here on earth! How blessed are those who hunger for justice, for they shall be filled!


QCINEMA 2016: Review of HINULID: Maternal Musings on Mortality

By:  Fred Hawson
Fred Said: MOVIES


It did not seem possible at first, but barely had we reeled from her mystical and metaphorical film "Tuos," Ms. Nora Aunor is back with a film even MORE mystical and metaphorical.

Sita Dimaiwat is a very religious Catholic woman who lived in Naga with her one son named Lukas. As a young boy, Lukas was very close to their parish priest, memorizing all his catechism and prayers. As a young man though, he chose to take up Law in Manila instead, memorizing his jurisprudence textbooks. One day, he joined a political rally and was killed. Sita went to recover her son's remains and rode a train to bring him back to their hometown.

Such, simply put, was the bare bones of the story. However, what we saw on that big screen was a complex masterpiece of abstract film art draped on this framework. Nothing was simple about this film, everything seemed on an otherworldly plane, only occasionally resting on solid ground for us to get our bearings straight. The whole film felt like a vivid dream floating in the subconscious of a mother struggling to deal with the death of her only beloved son. The imagery may be whimsical (like the multitude of fireflies, the falling stars, the solitary islet), or disturbing (like the rape of banana trunks, the unspooled cassette tapes, the three dead Christs floating down the river) -- either way they are open to any form of interpretation by the viewer.

Spoken in Ms. Aunor's native Bikol language, the whole script by director Kristian Sendon Cordero was written like poetry, if I were to gauge the words as translated in the subtitles. It sounded like poetry the way the lines were delivered, very deliberate and measured. Nothing it seems sounded like regular daily conversation, even those shared over a meal or a drink -- between mother and son, between two lovers, between mentor and student. There was never a shallow line, as everything seemed to have a deeper meaning. It waxed philosophically about various topics ranging from legends, religion, astronomy, discipline, mathematics and death.

Ms. Nora Aunor of course felt so right in her present element -- the independent film milieu -- where she can delve into the grittiest, most esoteric and most ethereal subject matters unexplored by mainstream cinema. The three actors (portraying Lukas as a precocious boy, as a curious teenager and as a studious law student) on whom she shared her maternal wisdom all did well. In particular, Jess Mendoza, who played Lukas as a young adult, held his own against the Master herself. He was charming and sincere in his performance, you will certainly feel why his mother is suffering so much after he left her.

I do not claim to fully understand everything in this beautifully-shot yet thematically profound film. It was extraordinary in the enigmatic delivery of its message. The storytelling style of Cordero was not linear by any means. I sense he may be going for Terrence Malick's style, ala "The Tree of Life". The film flashed back and forward and sideways, at times unmindful of conventional logic, as it melded reality with fantasy, memory and imagination. The final product was entrancing in its overreaching intentions, although admittedly there were times when its sheer depth and emotional heft could get too heavy for the audience to bear.  8/10.

REVIEW: Nora Aunor mesmerizes in philosophical and poetic HINULID

By:  Mari-an Santos
Philippine Entertainment Portal (PEP)


To watch Hinulid is to enter a mystical otherworld, or so it seems. The film by Bicolano director Kristian Sendon Cordero is based on the short story “The Night Express Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore” from “Nagueos” by fellow Bicolano Carlos Ojeda Aureus. Both of them are Palanca literary awardees as well.

To watch Hinulid is to experience a visual poem--and experience you do. This writer is a self-confessed admirer of Nora Aunor’s acting talent. But, and without diminishing the Superstar’s role, this film is more than a movie that stars Aunor. It is a work of art in visuals and in screenplay.

BICOLANO PRIDE. That it is completely immersed and steeped in the Bicolano sphere is not only obvious in the language--using Bicol Rinconada, but also in its steadfast Roman Catholic religiosity. To say that the story is about Sita (Aunor), an OFW and single mother who comes home to Bicol to find her son Lukas (Jess Mendoza) and lay his ashes to rest, is to chip only at one layer of the narrative.

It must be said that the film employs non-linear storytelling. It goes inside the mind of Sita as she sits in a train from Metro Manila to Bicol, the night express, to access her memories and thoughts. Cordero himself has pointed out that one of the themes is the more enduring power of memory over justice, in this case, the musings of Sita skip from one point in Lukas‘ life to another--mimicking how people remember.

STEEPED IN FOLKLORE. The film starts out with a folk tale, a local one, of the Tandayag, which is a primordial and celestial element that is given the characteristics of a mother, who has a child.

On earth, there are the “Tolong Hinulid”, three statues of the dead Christ who, according to ancient belief, were discovered floating in a river in Bicol, and have been charged under the care of the people there.

“La Muerte” is a folk figure almost synonymous to death. But unlike the more popular personification of “Kamatayan”, she is not sinister.

The film tackles the day to day, side by side existence of religious fervor with folk beliefs--yet not subjugating one with the other. The blind village shaman and seer is as much a respected and revered figure as the learned parish priest.

MULTIPLE LAYERS, THEMES. As it is set in 1999, it tackles the impending doom and dread over the coming new millennium. Yet, the film is not constrained by timeframe, as it also tackles stories and histories that happened before Sita’s life.

It lays logical thinking and the law alongside folk religiosity and faith.

It also touches on lofty convictions that drive militant groups and excuses of brotherhood that fuel violence in fraternities.

The film even delves into issues of religious orders among each other.

It is in its philosophizing and poetry that the film excels. When it delves into day to day chatter, it becomes weighed down by the mundane. Then, it becomes a chore to pay attention. There is a popular quote that says: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among stars.” There is a lofty aspiration here and the film certainly packs in many themes and meanings. But the film’s strengths lie in the visuals and in the wordless acting that is heavy with emotion and meaning.

STRENGTH IN VISUALS. Even beyond being played out in another language from the mainstream used in film and popular media, Cordero tells the story in visual clues and blocks of anecdotes, with the audience depending on Sita’s memories, while also calling into question what is real and what is imagined.

The visuals are dramatic, may shots are visual poetry created with Director of Photography Boyet Abrenica, aside from capturing the natural environment.

This writer found three among several scenes noteworthy. One is part of the early montage, from above, the audience looks down to see three floating bodies on the water and a banca coming in to meet them. Another is the most powerful scene between a man and three bamboo tree trunks, weighed down by politics and power. Third, is Nora Aunor’s only scene where she lets out the combination of fear, anger, and desperation (among others) in a long but silent scream.

The animation in the film increases its mystical quality. It also binds together the folk element of the shooting star to the science in astrology.

Cordero’s opus recalls Spanish surrealist Luis Buuel’s That Obscure Object of Desire and several works by American David Lynch, as well as Filipino indie film maverick Kidlat Tahimik’s Turumba. Yet, it inhabits its own space, like a mystical forest that we stumble upon Bicol or in the memories of those who know it.

Visually satisfying and sometimes uncomfortable, Hinulid (The Sorrows of Sita) is in the Circle Competition of QCinema 2016.

Hinulid is one of the official entries of the 2016 QCinema International Film Festival running until October 22 in Gateway, Robinsons Galleria, Trinoma, and UP Town Center.


By: Tito Genova Valiente
Business Mirror


AN old song is recited, and it pleads with all the torment of love: “Sa aldaw, sa banggi, di ka malingwan pa [At day, at night, you will not be forgotten].” It is the voice of Nora Aunor, the timbre recognizable all over this nation.  The voice continues: “Mga inagrangay idulot mo sa Diyos [All your torment you offer to God].” It is a love song that fuses religion and sensuality, coming from a region where faith flows in the narrow strait of the mythical and the real.

They come in threes. The Three Dead Christ, real in the town of Gainza, is shown being worshipped by devotees. Three corpses float, disturbing in the velvet garb of the Christ. Three woman are raped and three men—triplets—are tortured. Men and woman violated are transformed into banana stalks, a belief that is common among Bikolanos and their tales of enchantment. Against the verdant field is seen the statue of Death, a skeleton dressed in red velvet, an icon in the land of icons. The woman who pulls Death is also the woman who appears and reappears with the icon of Death and, in unexpected places, is seen before an old sewing machine finishing something that can never be finished. Death is there but separate, the healer explains. A song of lament is sung by a male choir, the phrasing unique because the singers are from Buhi, the Bikol language which is marked separate from the other Bikol languages. The non-Bikolano need not know this but for the Bikolano audience, a crisis has been averted in the film: the actors have been allowed to use their own “first” Bikol language. Nora herself uses her Rinconada language from Iriga. Raffi Banzuela, who plays the priest, speaks his own Camalig-Albay Bikol. (The mother tongue expert should watch this film.) Against all this, a train seemingly with a life of its own navigates the marshland and meadows of the land called Kabikolan, on a trip with no beginning and with no end. Like memory. Like the endless violence that wracks this land. Images and images, with tension created between some of them, with meanings apparent in many of them, abound in this film called Hinulid. The title, which literally means “laid to rest”, refers first to the three images of the Dead Christ, unique and aberrant. But the title could also mean the grief that comes with Death.

Nothing is laid to rest, however, in Hinulid. By the fact that the people have made three statues resurrects the Tres Persona Solo Dios (Three Persons in OneGod), a system of belief prevalent in mountain cults. Nothing, indeed, is finished and resolved in Hinulid. It’s on this that the poetry of the film soars and takes us on a journey that works of great art are able to do. Instead of  being diminished by the absence of resolution, the film, in fact, produces a discourse that is politically realistic out of scenes and events that are magical, mythical and full of marvel.

But if we notice and are touched by the poesy in the film, it is because there are prosaic moments. These are the realistic moments when we see Sita talking with the school authorities and the character of Lucas is evaluated. If not for the consistency in the presentation, where Sita is almost an audience, not engaging the other characters, the scenes would have weakened the film. As it is, some of the scenes that are devoid of the poetry appear to stop the mind travel. The audience, thus, waits for the train, and when it does pass—because it never arrives—we are enthralled by the seemingly boundless procession of personages and personifications.

Those who compose the local cast don’t disappoint. One can’t imagine it is their first time to appear before a camera for a film, and without the benefit of a workshop.
The Night Express Does Not Stop Here Anymore is the title of the fiction written by Carlos Ojeda Aureus, which, according to Kristian Sendon Cordero, the director, inspired the film.

The train is the magical motif that rumbles across the screen, connecting sorrow with rage, loss and recovery, justice and disorder. As this train moves, a story is told about a mother who comes home to bring her son to rest in peace. But this is merely no coming home, and this is merely not a train. It is the land where mountains come alive and where distant islands are monsters that fell as stars from the sky. The train knows it and Sita, the keeper of the urn of memory and justice, is also the keeper of the tale.

Predictable as it may seem, the coming of the train at every turn of the film, something inside that train is not within our control. The film offers us the interior of the train, the inner workings of remembrance. For inside the train is Sita and her son Lucas, appearing bodily beside her at different junctures of youth—at 9 years of age, at 15, at 25. Each appearance brings us the life of Sita with the son. Terrific and terrifying is the image of Sita carrying the urn with the ashes of Lucas, while Lucas sits there beside his mother. The proximity of  life to death, or the lack of difference between Life and Death, is the message of the film.

We know where the journey is going when, at last, the older Lucas now appears beside Sita. Tender, yet horrifying, is this moment, with Lucas grabbing a kiss from his mom who does not, of course, feel it. But we feel it, this love that cuts across space and time.

As the older Lucas, Jess Mendoza has reached a maturity, the rawness of which was already greatly visible in his first film, The Natural Phenomenon of Madness. With a masculine charm not present in our crop of actors, Mendoza rightfully claims that space with Sita, as played by Aunor. Mendoza is the rightful object of Sita’s memories, with a face that seems to be of the Past and now glows because it is part of another world, not distant but not anymore within grasp. Mendoza has a presence that hovers. We can watch him over and over again because he makes eternity possible.

Aunor as Sita, as the one who remembers, makes everything possible. She helps us endure the long travel in the train, because we believe in her character. Leitmotifs are literary tricks and they can be tricky but with Aunor as the mind that recurs and connects the points in the cosmos, the return to the train turns into an act so magnificently compelling. Each time the train comes in all splendid angles, we look forward to being there with Aunor as Sita. Each time we are with her, we see a different face, a different emotion. We see her silent but with rage somewhere in that frail body. We see her smiling through the tears as the landscape moves outside the window. We see her in darkness. We see her standing, as if burdened by all kinds of loneliness. We see her tired, with memories about to fade. Then we see her again, recoiling, grabbing from the night the thoughts of her son, and her mother’s love. The night train could go on because the mind of Aunor, as Sita, makes visible the invisible. Toward the end, Lucas seen and unseen, felt and unfelt, longingly moves Sita toward him, telling his mother to rest because the night will be long. The camera crawls toward Aunor. As her eyes begin to close, sadness and joy and aloneness and anger flit back and forth, nuances of emotions painted in hues. Then rage and love, frustration and fulfillment, even sleep and death and all the multitude of contradictions, begin to be etched in that old face, growing older each second, aging because the land is ancient as only Aunor—as Sita, as Mother Incarnate, as Life facing Death—could summon to obey.

It is said that Aunor mockingly sighed as she watched the rushes and said: “I am old.” She has, indeed, grown old in this film, a testament to her dedication to the craft. But more that, she has, in Hinulid, became an even greater actor, if such were still possible with an actor who has already been hailed as the greatest.

Cordero can heave a sigh now. He has completed a film that he thought, like the train journey, could never come to a stop. An awarded poet, Cordero has brought his keen confidence in what words can do to this film. His use of voiceover has brought the old device into a different dimension. Jesus Volante is the voice behind those lines.

But don’t ever think that Cordero is saying memories could heal. Memory is more powerful than justice and, in some of the words of the healer, memory also serves a great warning. The romantic in Cordero, however, remains: in the sublime and highly textured cinematography, in a grand animation done by animators from Ateneo de Naga, meteors fall and light up the sky behind the sacred mountain. The train blazes with the fire of a thousand fireflies and resumes its journey through mythical time, where mothers can never forget their sons, where villages will not be ignorant of the politics of violence, where numbers rule our destiny because sons are murdered and we turn to memory for justice.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Poetics Of Costume, on "Hinulid"

By:  Paolo Sumayao


There is of course very little room for a Valeran edifice to be erected right in the middle of Pasacao's quiet waves, nor the rolling hills of Camarines Sur's middle earth, but we identify the Pantoned-down story of costumes in this poetic film starring the Superstar from Iriga(a city known for ostentatious beading on gowns, but that isn't where our seams are heading). First, coccooned in the sorrows of a widow's blouse, embroidered to the hilt with detailed lace cut outs on sleeves as she looks up to Lukas' trifecta of ghosts, we note that this is the film's key piece: quiet blossoms against a background of sadness. Her dewy nape, what with the heat of the Pacific sun, informs us that this piece of clothing was not purchased elsewhere but the segunda mano stores lining the streets of nineties Naga. We are then taken to canaries and taupes and faded maizes in outgrown tailoring to remind us of the thinly-veiled intricacies of provincial life--something that registered on her face everytime a collar tip falls on the wrong place on her neck, with her hair slightly curling up when they tough the fabric. And then the high, torrential contrast of chiffon veils and velvetine religious tailoring on macabre statuettes against a backdrop of meadows and hills and ricefields would precipitate into post-colonial discourse, to an indefinite return. "Hinulid" as a film did not in any way insinuate the musings of a Coleen Atwood nor the accessories of a Patricia Field, but it sang a song only the old-schooled seamstresses can sing--that of a sewing machine relentlessly roaring into the night--hauntingly beautiful, provincially grand.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Condensed from:
Festival Report: QCinema International Film Festival 2016 (Part 2)




Kristian Cordero’s Hinulid stars Nora Aunor as a woman bringing the ashes of her recently murdered son back to a small village in Bicol where truth and myth seem inseparable. Throughout her long train ride through the darkness, past and present mix freely, her memories breaking through the shroud of her present reality as she tries to come to grips with the pain that she’s feeling.

The film immediately establishes a very poetic tone. The opening scenes introduce motifs that will run through the entire movie. There’s clearly been a lot of thought put into all of this, but the end product is kind of a real slog. My good will for this film ran out about forty-five minutes in. At that point, it felt like the film was just throwing in one abstraction after the next, putting way too much stock in the power of its symbols. One can’t fault the film for its ambition. The scope of what it’s trying to cover is certainly admirable; the story touching on grand themes that study the intersection between faith and myth and culture and the ways that all three can be suppressed. But the back half of this film just becomes exhausting, offering so little to hold on to. And the thing is, the film is really good in its simplest scenes. The most affecting scene, for my money, is a very low-key sequence where the main character is playing a game of shooting stars by herself, her son no longer there to play with her. That one scene speaks more eloquently about the emotion of this story than the rest of the film.

"INSTANT NOTES" on Kristian Sendon Cordero's 'HINULID'


I JUST CAME from the Gala Screening of Kristian Sendon Cordero’s “Hinulid.” I must put down a few notes before I turn in for the night.

There is a pleasant irony in watching one of the saddest, most elegiac movie I’ve seen in years, and starring the reigning drama queen of Philippine cinema, Nora Aunor, and yet nowhere in the almost three-hour "magical drama" does she shed a tear. It is probably the director’s conceit, or the actor’s challenge to herself, or both.

Not in any negative manner, after the movie I felt like I was coming from a wake and I half-desired to perform the post-wake practice (perhaps superstitious) of “pagpag.” But perhaps it was a wake. An ambivalent lament for lost values whose opposites were expressed by people in the “wake” of the main character, Lucas, and their distorted sense of what’s important in terms of recalling the virtues of the dead. “He was a lady’s man,” said the militia leader. In an earlier scene (in the movie’s flash-back, flash-forward narrative), the academic was enumerating the grieving “favors” from the dead’s alma mater—mass cards, corporal acts of mercy, requiem masses by the school’s priest-officials, etc., like accumulated indulgences. Then there are the frat men.

It was a poet’s movie, not only with liberal quotations from the director’s favorite poets (Hopkins and Rilke, and later the director’s own lines), but in the visual execution and the use of visual symbols to move the narrative, and the simultaneity of the time element (the past, the present, and the future crisscrossing all throughout), among others.

The poet-director is firstly a poet who is comfortable in the visual medium, conversant with movie techniques and adding some of his own. Thus thoroughly contemporary. And it will take lots of courage, actually, to somehow impose the imaginative or imaging “quirks” of the poet on the more than partially commercial nature of cinema. Fortunately, it won initial funding in a festival (QCinema International Film Festival), but had to crowd-fund itself later as it may have underestimated its “realization cost.” As I told the director half-jokingly as the crowd milled around after the screening, it was a poem more than a movie.

Perhaps there is a new or emerging tradition in either the national cinema or the Bikol portion of it—as I’ve seen some samples from Director Alvin Yapan and the previous work I’ve seen form Cordero, and what Vic Nierva’s (Victor Dennis Tino Nierva) new short film is promising. Are our newer films becoming more “literary,” or perhaps is there a new “thinking cinema”? Or is it only the Bikol portion that might be even straying from current tendencies towards “poverty porn” or the unremitting urban noire? Or is “regional” cinema less constrained and thus more free to weave in the already extant “magical realism” that lurks in the provincial hinterland?

The film’s theme line is “Memory is stronger than justice.” Because memory is the only human weapon against unjust death and death by injustice. Perhaps it is the only human weapon. It may also be said that to remember is human, to be just divine.

Enthusiastic applause at the end, not at all hesitant or tentative, indicated that even if there were some hints of a longueur in some segments, these were probably ignored by the instantaneous tribute. 'Hinulid' (incidentally, the word means “laid to rest” or “laid on a bed and tucked in,” like an infant fast asleep; but which also refers to the dead Christ enshrined in one of the barrios near Naga City) is opulent in substance and form.

It might be funereal and elegiac, esp. in its use of poetry and the traditional and chanted 'pasyon', but at the same time it probes the sources of our grief and interrogates the causes of our somnambulant peace. Kristian Sendon Cordero, the poet I know, continues to show his deft and confident hand in the complex genre of filmic poetry or poetic cinema he has chosen.


Initial Thoughts on "HINULID"

By: Christian Dy

Padre de la Rama, the sagely priest Raffi Banzuela plays in the film, says something about men being caught between remembering the past and imagining the future. Memory then is behind us, and imagination, in front of us.

I am tempted to play around with the idea, and to think that the ideal state of affairs would be the reverse; that imagination were behind us, and memory were in our future. Would it not be the most Christ-like of conditions if men were imagined (and thus anticipated) before being conceived, and then remembered after their time had come to pass? Perhaps, but this most ideal of conditions is not given to everyone.

Indeed, there are even those whose births are accidents of circumstance, and whose lives and deaths have been long forgotten.

This is worse than suffering injustice in life. Hinulid, then, delivers excellently when it asserts the converse: that memory is greater than justice. Indeed mortal justice could not do final justice to broken bones and wounded flesh and emptied spirit. The laws of mere men are meaningless in the face of eternity. Christ asked not to be avenged, but to be remembered, and his Church finds sustenance in that final instruction. The repentant thief asked for nothing more than to be remembered when the Lord ascends to paradise. All hope in our faith, all meaning to our existence, and our only chance at cheating on our appointment with oblivion is the prospect of being remembered. It subverts all the pain.

Death is no incident if it does not offer passage into memory. We owe it to our beloved dead to remember them.

They say that the sense of hearing fades away last when one nears death. If anything, this reveals the intimate relationship between sound and memory. Without devaluing its visual quality, Hinulid is primarily an aural experience. The film's sounds evoke, invoke, and provoke.

Finally, I have debated with myself whether to include a brief note on what I saw to be artistic influences of the director pervading the film. The literary quality of the film is palpable; Cordero's opus would make an excellent tribute to Borges. It is also, certainly, a tip of the hat to Jesuits, under whom the director studied, and to pedagogy in general. Most pleasingly to this convert of a writer, Hinulid is highly reverential of the Church, without worshiping it. This is a breath of fresh air from the stale atmosphere of contemporary independent cinema, where speaking ill of ancient institutions seems to be the norm if not the prerequisite.

In summary, Cordero has extended the boundaries of cinema, without having to say so. In the Bikolano risorgimento, Cordero is often called the enfant terrible. The reverence, the humility, the genius in the film make me think that he merits the additional (if not alternative) title of "enfant adorable." Hinulid is a Bikolano film first; but it is Bikol with a loving view to the world.

Critique of HINULID

By: Jason Pilapil Jacobo

Part I

There is a scene in Kristian Sendon Cordero’s sophomore film “Hinulid” that emblematizes the predicament of mourning that the narrative seeks to work through in its iterations of how forlorn the human can be when abandoned permanently through that event: death. It is dusk in Iriga. Sita Dimaiwat (Nora Aunor) traverses the cemetery arch on which the Latin phrase “Via Omni Caris” is painted; the bodiless cannot trespass. Sepulchres are built not to hold the remains of the departed; the funerarium is such a place, because we are all alone, we fear ourselves also fading. Do not leave me just yet; here, a monument. Through a labyrinth of tombs fortified by cement and marble, Aunor blends in with the shades of a tropic crepuscule: ochre, as the waning sun; obsidian, like the cloak of night. When she finds her son Lucas (Jesus Mendoza) weeping before the tomb of his priest-guardian (Raffi Banzuela), she participates in a frame of grief: she sees the one she has yet to mourn for, mourning. That the rhythms of sorrow commingle in this instance points to the opportunity where the film locates the time where one is entitled to grieve---memory, that interregnum in the mind where one labors too hard to come to terms with passage: what has gone is not only lost; it is foregone to be found as missing. Even when the injury is not total, the site of ruin tells us: here lies all the hurt, every inch speaks of an insufferable damage. So, one asks: Did it happen? Was he here? Were all of it true? The act of yearning is that moment of provenance.

Part II

Cordero is most anxious to pursue this cusp of thought that he conjures the testimony through a mode of retrieval that reduces the quadrant of interpretive possibilities someone like Dante Alighieri has offered to a mere if not a modest proposal. The mourning is grounded in a cosmogonic myth of how galactic light is split into maternal brilliance and cherubic luminosity and how the earth registers this scission upon a meteorite isle where fireflies surrender their final blaze. This autochthonous basis is inlaid with a colonial narrative of christological interment: the Messiah is dead, yes, but thrice, as a statuary of identical eburnean figures clothed in vermilion radiance and encased in cuboid glass. The triplication is a mnemonic to refuse the telos of a sorrowful mystery, much like the melismatic ululations of the folk which decorate elegiac enjambments of the Pasyon quintilla, preventing the lyric from punctuating itself quite predictably, in sheer loneliness. It has to be said that while this aspect of colonial idiom is now read as an act of sufferance and revolution, what remains to be articulated is how dolorous maternity intervenes in activating intransigence. Sita in "Hinulid" could have fulfilled that post-passional reading.

Part III

It is quite strange that while it is Sita who is portrayed as sorrowful, the dolefulness is not demonstrated according to her lamentational terms. Instead, the agony is projected upon her through this Christ thrice interred. This puts into question the memory that her consciousness is supposed to verify as the truth of her mourning. Sita needs to mourn a dead son thrice: as child, adolescent, man. What is amplified by this triplication? I’m trying to remember Nora’s face through the three hours of Cordero’s Rinconada mock epic and for the first time, after all those years, Aunor registers vacancy. There is magnification, yes. Mourning becomes Nora, and thrice so. And yet, each time this is staged, in distinction or in simultaneity, the dolour, because of the imposition, is not pithy.

Part IV

This peculiar Santo Entierro will only make sense if its triplication can be argued to originate from the Mater Dolorosa herself, and in a relation of correspondence that is less reaction than receipt. The peculiarity of this Pieta must also be mariologically immanent. If Christ could die thrice, of course, Mary should mourn in the same time signature. However, the cinema of “Hinulid” must elaborate how dolorous maternity is thrice possible from a Marian perspective. After all, the narrative is told by Sita, not by her son dying through three ages.

Part V

Fray Marcos de Lisboa’s "Vocabulario de la lengua Bicol" defines “holid” as “recostar al niño en el regazo, o en la cuna.” To lay a child on one’s lap, or in his crib: these are acts of maternal nurturance. But this scene also makes sense as the Pieta inasmuch as it alludes to the Nativity. If Sita must inter her son thrice, it is because his death reminds her of the emptiness of her womb through his childhood, boyhood, youth. His death affirms the terminus of her being a woman. Hollowed out by loss, she embodies a desert longing. This must be Aunor’s late style thesis. My well of loneliness has been depleted. I am nothing. I have known all manner of fatigue. I was all womb before. Now, let me be his sepulchre.

Part VI

Sita mourns the 1) body of her son: 2) the memory of the body she has reared; 3) and her own obsolescence, which she must remember and grieve in advance. Pace Blanchot, one is never present at one's own death. If his son has faded ahead of her, the hour of her own death looms large in solitariness. Nora's eyes are vacant to honor the imminence.

Part VII

If one's mourning of the memory of the dearly departed can only be worked through intimately, the privacy of grief must not be reduced to the domestic. Memory is not stronger than justice. Memory is as strong as justice. If Cordero has written a screed against the capillaries of power through a matrix of institutions which plot the murder of its most thoughtful activists, then an autopsy of power must be demanded, perhaps not through the parabolic distensions of folklore, but within a critical ethnography similar to Nancy Scheper Hughes study on "death without weeping" among mothers in a Brazilian necropolis.