Sunday, May 4, 2008

MOVIE REVIEW | Batad (2008)

BATAD is a story about Ag-ap, an Ifugao boy living amidst the traditional mountain people, who badly wanted a pair of shoes. He takes several jobs hoping to earn enough to buy the shoes he saw in the market. However, his family would ask him for money so in the end, the money he earns disappears and he was not able to buy the shoes. It was while he was guiding tourists that Ag-ap finally had his dream came true. One of the tourists gave him the shoes. 

Things suddenly changed for Ag-ap. He now wants to move out of Batad down to the urban city and leave the provincial life. He slowly became obsessed with his shoes. He does not go out with his friends anymore, he does not accompany his sister and he becomes more ill-tempered. Day after day, his desire to move to the city grows. Along with this mood come the issues in the mountain such as the lack of enough food for the people aggravated by pests in the field, and the selling of bulul which are considered sacred for the Ifugaos. 

Before long, Ag-ap had a row with his father. Their stand-off changed their father-son relationship. One day, Ag-ap was startled when he heard his friend shouting that his sister fell off the cliff and needs to be rescued. Impeded by his shoes, Ag-ap finally decided to put them aside to save his sister. After that, everything went back to normal. Ag-ap no longer wants to leave the mountain and smoothens his relationships with his family and friends.

Worthy of praise is the cast of Batad. Chris Alchura who played Ag-ap deserves to win as best actor because he portrayed the character well and convincingly. Supported by other caliber stars such as Nonoy Buencamino and Gina Alajar, performance of Ag-ap really stood exceptional. It is not pretentious and second-rated. Other extras were also good and their acting is relatively splendid. The casting was done to project a realistic film where characters typify mountain people.

One important aspect of mise-en-scene is the costumes. Through costumes, characters become not their natural features but other creations. For instance, Gina Alajar as a personality star would not be as effective if she were made to wear an Ifugao outfit (not the traditional one though) and her complexion is still fair, her manners still refined. Also, the costumes help the audience understand and express distinctive qualities. In this case, the period which is the present and modern day, and place which is Batad, somewhere in the Mountain Province. The Ifugao costumes vis-à-vis modern clothes signifies the clash between the preservation of a culture and domination of modernity. I think the question here is how long can a group of people shield their culture from the inevitable penetration of modern development and thinking.

The way the sets, costumes, and locations were organized as the film’s production design intended to evoke the provincial way of life. But more than that is the beauty of the scenery. Predominant is the color green and green has always been associated with life and hope. With this movie, I think life is defined as the continued existence of something i.e. culture, acknowledging its past and anticipating its future. Using long shots to make the background wholly appear in the set up, the film began showing a panoramic view of the rice terraces and ended with full shots of Ag-ap and his family. 

In general, I find the film good. However, I still felt that it has that predictable atmosphere. As an audience, I develop the idea that it will have a happy ending right from the start. Also, there is no much novelty that the film has to offer. The timeline is linear and used a realistic lighting technique. The musical scoring is distracting too. The ethnic music which I think aims to create a tribal atmosphere was overkill. The music just does not fit.

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