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Monday, February 17, 2014

HISTORICAL FILM CRITIQUE

MOTHER OF GOOD COUNSEL SEMINARY
History of the Church in the Philippines


HISTORICAL FILM CRITIQUE

1.     Watch the Film “Pedro Calungsod, Batang Martir (2013)” from the beginning.
2.     Write a Historical Film Critique based on what was presented in the film and what is presented in the scholarly writing of Augusto V. de Viana, Visayan Martyrs in the Marianas, 1668-1672, as provided.
3.     The general format for the review is

a.     Pertinent details of the film (cast, running time, etc.)
b.     Synopsis
c.      Rating[1]
d.     Review
e.     Recommendations

4.     Also provided are some evaluation about the flm.
5.     You may also consult other academic sources or Internet resources with proper citations. You may also add other parameters such us

6.     This will serve as our academic exercise for the entire morning.

7.     You may also have a break after the movie and then, proceed individually with your review.

8.     DEADLINE OF SUBMISSION: You may submit it online via chubiop@hotmail.com on February 26, 2014 (Wednesday)

9.     REMEMBER: This is a Historical Film Critique although you may also tackle the inspirational/spiritual aspect of the film.

10. February 25 is a holiday.



EXAMPLE 1:

What makes a saint: A review of the ‘Pedro Calungsod,
Batang Martir’ movie

Why storybooks and theater plays about the life and martyrdom of the second Filipino Saint cannot portray, the movie “Pedro Calungsod, Batang Martir” successfully delivers. 
Finally, a film about Calungsod is now on theaters to educate Filipinos on what sacrifices he had to make and persecution he had to endure in the name of the Catholic faith: everything that eventually made him a saint. It’s a book turned into a film so everybody expects how the story will develop. But you don’t feel suspense reading a book or sense pity watching a play. It’s the magic of cinematography and music score that contributes to the intensity of the plot that will make one wonder if he really knew Calungsod before watching the movie. 

Calungsod (Rocco Nacino) was the young assistant of Spanish Jesuit priest Diego Luis de San Vitores (Christian Vasquez) during a mission to catechize the natives of Guam. Books and stage plays always portray Calungsod as the hero but true to historical accounts, film director Francis Villacorta subdued Nacino’s portrayal that he could qualify as supporting actor to Vazquez. After all, San Vitores was the leader of the expedition on the territory, which was later on called the Marianas Islands. 

What Villacorta did that books and stage plays failed to do is to humanize Calungsod and portray his youthfulness. Historical accounts said the Bisaya was only 14 when they went on mission and he was personified in the film both as a boy deeply longing for his biological father whom he had not seen in a long while and a young man faced with various issues a typical teenager confronts. 

Aside from being portrayed as a young playful person, Calungsod was also personified as very passionate in his work. To make young natives appreciate better God as the Good Shepherd, he pretended to be a sheep and then a shepherd who would leave the herd of 99 just to look for that one sheep that’s missing. 
His being prayerful was also highlighted consistently in the film of one hour and 47 minutes. The images of the crucifix, the Doctrina Christiana, and the harp were used alternately to depict the depth of his prayerful life. He would be seen in various scenes in deep prayer while polishing the crucifix or while serenading God with music. 

Calungsod’s sincerity was also another trait of the lay martyr that existing media has failed to picture. He was more than an assistant to San Vitores in the film but the priest’s faithful companion. When the visually impaired San Vitores decided to forego using his eyeglasses, Calungsod became his eyes. The young Bisaya turned out to be his shepherd’s own guide, such that he tied himself to him so that he would not stray during their walks. 

Amid the hostility of the native Chamorros, Calungsod was also portrayed as vulnerable as a boy his age would be. There were violent scenes depicting the merciless killings of both religious and lay missionaries in the hands of the armed natives resisting the influence of the foreign visitors. Somewhere along the film-viewing, one would stop and wonder if he was watching the right kind of film because there was too much bloodbath, enough to make regulators to give it a Parental Guidance (PG) rating that requires parents to accompany children who are below 13-years-old while watching the film. Sure it is a religious-historic film, but it would qualify too as a suspense-thriller with the perfect dose of drama. Besides, persecution is the meat of Calungsod’s story of martyrdom. It’s his blood that earned for him his sainthood. 

Admittedly, Calungsod’s life was simple and short. He didn’t do anything impressive compared with his fellow lay missionaries except taking the spear meant for San Vitores in an encounter with Mata’pang and Hirao and dying for it. But his story of simplicity is a proof that God delights in simple things if we sincerely do them as an offering to him. The film will not only educate more Filipinos about their second saint but also help them realize that sainthood is for everybody—including those who are young and simple yet faithful.


EXAMPLE 2:

Pedro Calungsod: Batang Martir

--> RUNNING TIME:  147 minutes  LEAD CAST: Rocco Nacino, Christian Vasquez, Robert Correa, Ryan Eigenmann, Jestoni Alarcon, Jao Mapa,  Isadora Vilasquez, Marc Justine Alvarez, Johnron Tañada, Mercedes Cabral  DIRECTOR: Francis Villacorta SCREENWRITER:  Francis Villacorta  PRODUCER:  HPI Synergy Group  EDITOR: Tara Illenberger  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Noel Espenida / Emlyn Olfindo Santos CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Dexter Dela Pena / Steven Flor / Randy Cura GENRE: Drama/Documentary  DISTRIBUTOR: HPI Synergy Group  LOCATION:  Batangas, Philippines 

Technical assessment:  2.5
Moral assessment:  3.5
MTRCB RATING: PG 13
CINEMA RATING: V 14

Pedro Calungsod: Batang Martir is a biographical picture of the second Filipino saint, who is put to death for his faith. Pedro Calungsod (Rocco Nacino), a young catechist, leaves his Visayan native soil to join Spanish Jesuit priest Fr. Diego de San Vitores (Christian Vasquez) for a mission to the Marianas Islands (Guam) in 1668. Trained as a catechist, Pedro assists Fr. Diego de San Vitores in baptizing the Chamorros, preaching the Good News of salvation amid doubts, paganism and disbelief. Together with other catechists and priests, the missionaries face the challenges and dangers of life in the missions, particularly the antagonism of the natives. Undaunted by setbacks and the death of their companions, Pedro and Fr. Diego continue their missionary work throughout the islands. In the end, both of them give up their lives for the sake of the Gospel.

Pedro Calungsod: Batang Martir is a very courageous attempt in bringing the life of Saint Pedro Calungsod to the wide screen. It boasts of picturesque shots of pristine beaches, azure waters and lush vegetation, magnificent sunsets, peaceful, bucolic scenes – a visual feast of the Philippines (and Guam) as both locations were shot in Batangas. But while the nature scenes are impressive, others fall flat and monotonous. Establishing shots proved insufficient for the viewer to enter the scene or story. There is inadequate exposition of the Chamorros, their culture, beliefs, practices, etc., what makes them a people. This is exacerbated by a weak screenplay which assumes too much of its viewers. In an attempt to be faithful to scant resources, the storytelling suffers so that the viewers have to put the story together from disjointed scenes that are dull and stagey.

Flashback is used to show tender moments of the young Pedro with his father but there is hardly any development of character. Nacino shows a certain depth in some scenes but his character is not defined and ends up like a caricature of a saint from beginning to end. It would have been good if we see the development of this young man’s faith so that he can, in the end, offer his life. And enough has been said about the wig.  Vasquez looks too soft as if to convey holiness—and isn’t his character supposedf to be a sick and aging priest?  Why, he looks just five years older than Calungod! Alarcon is more convincing as the Spanish captain, while Correa as Hirao is believable but some of his lines are too long.  Eigenmann as Choco is supposed to have a significant role in the conflict but it does not come out clearly in the film.  Dialogue, even in the most profound scenes, is too long, convoluted or stilted. At some point it feels like reading a book or listening to the radio because it repeats the same point over and over.

The material is great! What can be more inspiring than the life of our very own saint who, in spite of his youth and inexperience, left Philippine shores to share the Good News abroad, and in doing so witness to the faith, not just by his words and deeds but by the offering of his life? Pedro’s faith in God did not waver even in the face of danger. He prays and devotedly clings to the crucifix entrusted to him. He also tries to creatively make the Gospel understandable to the children, and becomes a pillar of strength for his fellow catechists. The film also highlights Pedro’s deep bond with his father from whom he learned the faith and shaped his character. It shows that parents have a strong influence in the formation of their children.

As Padre Diego’s personal assistant, Pedro eventually becomes his eyes when the priest could no longer see clearly. Pedro proved his love and loyalty towards Padre Diego when he put himself in the line to shield him from stoning, and from the spear that would take his own life. “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).  The film emphasizes the missionaries’ dedication to the mission despite the dangers, and the conviction that nothing is won through the sword but through peace and love. Mission work will always have its risks, and missionaries need to learn to respect the culture of the people they are trying to evangelize.  Violence, even in the name of evangelization, will always beget violence. The hostility of the natives is shown without a sufficient reason for it, so much so that the lengthy and multiple scenes of bloodshed come out gruesome and unnecessary.

CINEMA commends the producer and director for the effort in transporting the life of Pedro Calungsod to the movie screen. It is a shame that a compelling story of faith and courage is not told in a more potent and inspiring way. An average film instead of a powerful witness, Pedro Calungsod: Batang Martir feels like an uninspired sermon which lulls the churchgoer to sleep until theSanctus, where the lead character is nothing but a sidekick to the main actor, Padre Diego.

But maybe that is the point of the movie. A simple catechist who does his job with love and dedication need not do anything great. Being at the right place at the right time and doing the right job with the right intention is enough. That in itself is daily, bloodless martyrdom. The grace to offer one’s life is a gift--one that is bestowed to a few privileged persons when the above conditions are present.

“Ganon lang ba kadaling maging santo?  Maging caregiver lang ng pare, santo na?” a Catholic moviegoer asks after seeing the movie.  We can’t blame him or the others who feel like him but are silent about it.  The impression is created by the lack of tension and intensity in the portrayal of the would-be martyrs, aggravated by a script that fails to delve deeply into the psyche of the characters. Mission seemed like a mere question of baptizing as many people as possible, and sanctity appeared to be demanding nothing more than piety in a person. 

Portraying something as abstract as holiness and martyrdom is a challenge few directors and performers can convincingly hurdle. Sanctity and the road to it is so hidden, and a person’s lifelong struggle to attain it would be extremely difficult to condense into two hours.  But for all its technical shortcomings, Pedro Calungsod: Batang Martir deserves commendation, if only for its enthusiasm, devotion and noble intentions.  At least here’s one festival movie that trains the viewer’s sights on things other than bad news, politics, and the commercialism of the season.  Not bad at all.




[1] RATING & EVALUATION GUIDE
VA for viewers of all ages
V13 for viewers aged 13 and below with parental guidance
V14 for viewers aged 14 and above
V18 for mature viewers aged 18 and above
NP not for public viewing

Technical assessment
5 Excellent
4 Above average
3 Average
2 Below average
1 Poor

Moral assessment
5 Exemplary
4 Wholesome
3 Acceptable
2 Disturbing
1 Abhorrent

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