Perhaps the one film in this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival that could be as ambitious and as monumental is iOptions Ventures Corporation‘s first foray in producing a film with such magnitude as CULION.
To some people who are frequent travelers to Palawan, Culion as an island is somehow familiar. Palawan is not just rich in beautiful island beaches, but a history waiting to burst for people to discover and embrace. The multi-awarded international screenwriter Ricky Lee penned the story of three women (Anna, Doris, and Ditas) as the focal characters in a historical-drama helmed by Alvin Yapan.
After its world premiere on the island of Culion (dubbed as #CulionsaCulion), it further redefines the image of the people in Culion. It reflects the three Rs–the resilience of the people, the inspiring restoration of their pride, and their right for reverence.
In the film, Lee imagined flawed, three women in the persons of Ana, Doris, and Ditas as assumed by Iza Calzado, Jasmine Curtis-Smith, and Meryll Soriano, respectively. Culion isn’t the first time Lee wrote a story about three women. Himala is one of those.
He did it again. He’s able to put together the traits of Filipinos in the three lead characters.
Curtis-Smith‘s Doris mirrors how Filipinos once had the fantasy of pursuing the American dream, but realize later on that it’s not as rosy as it seems. It’s a misery instead.
Soriano as Ditas shows what it is to deal with tragedy. She snaps out and embraces reality. That reality includes the things that she holds dear and even to the things she no longer has the power to possess.
Lastly, Calzado’s Anna is a symbol of the collective action of the Filipino nation. Despite the ravages, the people are going through, the community has one common goal–and that is unity. One strength that Filipinos are known–it is about resilience amid adversity.
Unlike the staples in the yearly film festival, like romantic-comedies, heavy dramas, slapstick humor, and action-comedies–Culion’s genre is different. Though uncommon to the masses, it aims to reach a wider audience and to [subtly] inculcate the love for the country and its history.
There are other aspects of this film that are worthy of applause and maybe awards. The supporting cast members like Joem Bascon and Mike Liwag are two intense actors as Kanor and Jaime. The former as someone who knows how to fight for his love and the latter who regrets being useless.
A relatively newcomer in the film, Nico Locco is hard to miss as the American soldier who sought solace in the island and shattered Doris’s American dream.
Two other actors who are noticeable in their scenes were Suzette Ranillo and Joel Saracho. Both exhibited shifting emotions.
Neil Daza‘s cinematography is breathtaking. He was able to capture the appropriate moods and even the necessary shots to help forward the story. That scene with Soriano facing a mirror was already a beautiful shot to behold.
Daza’s perfect shot was that of Ditas’s and Greg’s (John Lloyd Cruz). He was able to encapsulate the emotions both the actors were showing as they tell their love story. Indeed, that particular scene of Cruz will surely send a chill down (one’s) spine.
Culion is a film not easy to devour. It’s like a dish that one needs to savor [each sub-story] to fully appreciate the grandness of what it offers. It is not just about the story of three women, but how they interconnect with each other to make a communal story altogether. The three female leads are representations of struggles and triumphs of the Filipino people.
Though the film is not perfect, it still deserves the BEST PICTURE and the BEST ENSEMBLE ACTING awards. The production employed local talents from that island to be part of the ensemble. With those efforts alone, cast deserves the best ensemble award.
If one is too keen on the details since it is a period film, some inconsistencies are easy to spot. The English subtitles were at times literally translated, but if one gets to focus on the story, these minor errors won’t totally hurt the intention of the film–to stop the stigma about Hansen’s disease.
After Himala, Lee has succeeded in replicating a piece that could transcend beyond time. Love as the main ingredient in this film can be contagious in many ways. Just like what the Scriptures say: ‘So faith, hope, love remain, these three;h but the greatest of these is love.’ (1 Corinthians 13:13)
With a few days away from its opening, Culion is waiting to be re-discovered. Catch it on December 25 in cinemas nationwide.
To know more about CULION, visit its official site.