The Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) has deservingly gotten flak over the years for featuring what many perceive as low-quality, cookie-cutter films. That said, the Christmas tradition has also featured hidden gems that deserve more attention.
For this year’s MMFF, this hidden gem is Kun Maupay Man It Panahon, which tells the story of three Filipinos struggling to recover from the aftermath of the 2013 Super Typhoon Yolanda. The characters, portrayed by Charo Santos-Concio, Daniel Padilla, and Rans Rifol, attempt to survive and overcome the challenges around them.
What is real?
Directed by Carlo Francisco Manatad, the film takes a different storytelling approach from what the audience might expect. While other disaster-themed movies choose a dramatic portrayal of tragic events, Kun Maupay Man It Panahon opts to highlight the struggles of the survivors through an interesting mix of realism and the surreal.
Stories of bodies piled up on the streets, widespread looting, and chaos in evacuation centers emerged right after the impact of Yolanda, as if a post-apocalyptic story had come to life. In this movie, these scenes were mostly used as background, adding to the chaotic environment created by the storm.
Instead of focusing on said actions and their consequences like in other films, Manatad instead portrays them as if the main characters are ignoring their surroundings to better deal with what they see as more pressing matters.
For Norma (Santos-Concio), it is about finding her missing husband, showing increasing desperation as she holds on to her past. For the strong-willed Andrea (Rifol), it is about leaving her life behind to seek greener pastures in Manila. And in the middle is the more passive Miguel (Padilla), also hoping to move forward with his life.
The film stands out for its use of a dialect throughout its running time, in contrast to the predominant use of English or Tagalog in others. This could be a sign that perhaps the local film industry is ready to take the next step in becoming more inclusive and creative. Subtitles are not meant to be barriers, after all.
Meanwhile, it makes use of absurd scenarios to depict how the characters could be seeing a distortion of their perceived reality. Sights ranging from a silly dancing crowd to hearing a child growl like a hungry dog subtly depict the trauma, anxiety, and psychological issues that the survivors have gone through.
These events may also be viewed as showcases of escapism from the harsh realities created by the disaster, adding dark humor to the story. Seeing animals appear out of nowhere could be as good of a coping mechanism for some folks as carrying statues of saints and praying on the beach for days.
The unconventional portrayal of a disaster-themed film is further emphasized through other stylistic choices. Elements such as the relatively optimistic musical score and the lack of focus on grief and loss in the narrative also reflect the hopeful, “bounce-back” mentality for which Filipinos are known. The rougher visual style also adds to the feeling of a disaster aftermath and stands out in contrast to mainstream films of today.
As timely as it gets
All of these elements combine to present to viewers the famous culture of resilience in the Philippines. It is an experience that Filipinos can readily relate to, especially for those who have endured and survived numerous typhoons, like Yolanda eight years ago and Odette this month.
Kun Maupay Man It Panahon can also be an invaluable way to educate the public about the urgency of addressing the climate crisis. Many sectors in the Philippines, one of the most vulnerable to this threat, remain ill-informed about it. With the climate crisis still projected to worsen in the next few decades, works of art like this could help quickly raise awareness and mobilize people to implement solutions in their own ways.
What the viewers should take away from this film is that while this type of resilience is admirable, it could also be unsustainable. We deserve better than focusing on responding and recovering from climate-related disasters, like what a proposed Department of Disaster Resilience currently targets.
Avoiding calamities of this magnitude is doable, if our current and future leaders actually take this matter seriously. How much more loss and damage can Filipinos endure before finally saying enough is enough?
That said, we must address the question of whether most Filipino moviegoers are truly ready to embrace films like this. For so long, many have wanted local movies to figuratively step their game up, on par with those from the likes of the United States and South Korea. Yet the same people would make fun of these films on Facebook for having much lower ticket sales compared to yet another adaptation of the same story made in Hollywood on the big screen.
It is no wonder our local filmmakers face an uphill battle when trying to create projects like this, which took seven years and 11 production companies to finish. To each our own, of course, but we must hope that local movies like this would become more popular sooner or later.
With its timely messages, innovative storytelling, and even some star power, Kun Maupay Man It Panahon is a movie recommended for Filipinos to watch…whether the weather is fine. – Rappler.com
John Leo Algo is the Deputy Executive Director for Programs and Campaigns of Living Laudato Si’ Philippines and a member of the interim Secretariat of Aksyon Klima Pilipinas. He is also an avid moviegoer, and has been regularly watching MMFF movies on or right after Christmas Day for more than a decade.