By Patricia Simone Dauz

A film like this based on real life would’ve worked best had it capitalized more on making the situations more believable.

Iisa (As One) served as the full-length directorial debut of acclaimed editor Chuck Gutierrez (Cinemalaya 2008, Star Awards 2009 and Urian 2009 Best Editor for Jay, Cinemalaya 2010 Best Editor for Halaw, and Urian 2014 Best Editor for Riddles of My Homecoming). Award-winning filmmaker Arnel Mardoquio (Riddles of My Homecoming, Ang Paglalakbay ng Mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim, Sheika, Hospital Boat) wrote the script about a group of rebels who were given the responsibility of rebuilding the homes of people lost amidst the chaos of the storm. The storm named Pablo, is the strong typhoon which hit Mindanao in 2012, and left 600 people dead in its wake.

The strongest asset of the film is its silence strengthened by the nuances of its formidable cast. The close-up of Angeli Bayani’s (Ross) face is a gem to look at when she was put in a ‘hot spot’ by her comrades because of her alleged misallocation of funds. The silent moments between Ross and Rufo (played by Jess Mendoza), after their short talk about the state of their marriage is enough for the audience to understand that things will never be the same again. The iconic scene of Emma (Mitch Valdez) holding a shotgun atop the balcony looking down on Ross is something for the books. The change of dynamics between the two characters was very clear in those precious moments of silence after Ross informs her that something happened to her Lance (his rebel name is Rufo). From the confident house matriarch wanting to possibly kill this strange woman on her porch, Emma shifts into a confused mother who remembers the emptiness inside her because of her son’s departure.

However, the film was not able to maximize silence. Instead, it resorted to a musical scoring reminiscent of a teleserye. Something tragic happens…boom…..cue the sad music. It’s as if the music is feeding the audience what to feel about the heavy scenes. Another area of concern is the way the costumes are rendered. The set is believable enough but the costumes were not. They are too clean. For people who were sleeping without a roof on their heads, the clothes sure didn’t look dusty and tattered.

“Kung magsama-sama lang all of us, as a community, any hardship, maano natin,” said Gutierrez regarding his vision for the film. For this writer, the opposite message came across onscreen. It is truthful that the characters were written in such a way that squabbles can’t be avoided even though they were fighting a common cause. It made them more human that way. However, the characters’ suspicion with one another, and their personal agendas, led to the failure of the mission. The film had a very noble intention which was shown onscreen in a counterpoint sort of way.

The film is part of the 2015 QCinema Film Festival. Its remaining screenings will be on Oct. 29 (5:20pm at Trinoma) and Oct. 31 (3:30pm at Gateway). Other cast members are Rio Locsin (Sister Jo), Perry Dizon (Monir), Mon Confiado (Mao, and Rocky Salumbides (Soldier).

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