Busong : Visually Rich and Moving
A powder white sand bar peeks out of crystal blue waters. The ocean stretches as far as the eye can see. The sky is also perfect, everything seems like a dream. Toti (Vince Magbanua), a 10 year old child happily brings his father Lulong (Dax Alejandro) clams for their lunch. For him gathering the shellfish is more like a game than anything else. After Toti almost steps on a stonefish his father teaches him a prayer to protect him from its poison. Toti then happily runs out afar to gather more clams again.
When he’s gone the silence is shattered by a large speedboat. Men with M16 rifles look menacingly at Lulong. They get off the speed boat and tell Lulong that he can no longer fish here. A tall Caucasian man bearded with shades and a hat shows the land title to Lulong, then slaps him. In reply he screams, “Bago pa nagingPalawanang tawag sa mga islang ito.Palawanna ang tao dito!” The men with rifles tear down his kettle and and tether his small banca to their speed boat so they can never return. Just then the Caucasian man steps on a stonefish and is in terrible pain. The armed men ask Lulong to pee on the foot to relieve the landowner. Lulong mutters under his breath, “Yan ang kanyang busong.”
“Busong (Palawan Fate)” by Aureus Solito is in the Director’s Showcase category of the Cinemalaya film fest which will run from July 16-24 at the CCP and Greenbelt3 cinemas. The Awards night will be on July 24th, also at the CCP Main Theater. It was the only Filipino film to participate in this year’s Cannes Film fest and got rave reviews from French and European newspapers.
Along with “Busong” in the Directors showcase category are: “Bisperas” by Jeffrey Jeturian, Isda (Fable of the Fish) by Adolfo Alix Jr. and Patikul by Joel C. Lamangan. The finalists of the Directors showcase each received a P500,000 seed grant from the Cinemalaya Foundation. The Best Film in the Directors Showcase will receive a prize of P300,000 and the Balanghai Trophy. The Director’s Showcase is open to full length feature works by Filipino directors who have directed at least three full-length commercial feature films.
Alessandra De Rossi is in the lead role as Punay. She is a metaphor for their people who have been oppressed and damaged. Aris is played by Clifford Bañagale, a Fil-Am actor who gained fame via Sacha Baron-Cohen’s “Bruno”. Clifford was cast as Bruno’s boyfriend Diesel. As good as the professional actors were Solito may have found gems of performers right in hisPalawanauditions. Bonivie Budao as Ninita has that hot morena appeal and female curves similar to Mercedes Cabral. Walter Arenio and Rodrigo Santikan also have bright futures as actors.
“Busong” is a combination of Palawan myth and events that actually took place in very recent history. The feature is almost like a more emotional version of a documentary film also by Aureus Solito called “Basal Banar.” The documentary was recently screened at the French Film festival at Shangri-La Plaza Cineplex. The documentary shows the: who what, when, where, how and why of a land grabbing incident in the 1970’s. Native peoples who had lived in the last frontier for millennia were displaced through violent means.
“Basal Banar” while very informative, is at a disadvantage compared to “Busong.” It does not have the very skillful cinematography of Louie Quirino who captured the spectacular landscapes and seascapes ofPalawan. It also had underwater shots of the actors who had to cross rivers and turbulent seas. Alessandra De Rossi seemed like a ‘Diwata’ or forest goddess while bathing in the placid pool by a small waterfall. The jungle was alive with green foliage and the sounds of rustling waters. Her wounds are the pain and suffering meted out to the true people of Palawan.
The prosthetics of her open wounds by make up artist Ron Sambile were so convincing that audiences cringed upon seeing them close up. At a later scene when butterflies slowly emerged from them, a collective gasp could be heard even from the viewers inFrance. Solito assured me that none of the effects were CGI or computer generated. They were a combination of prosthetics, props and real chrysalis of butterflies about to emerge from their cocoons. I believe it’s a shoo in for Best Cinematography and Original Score in the Director’s Showcase category. There would be no surprise if it gathered several more awards. All the images and sequences tell the story and travails of his people. After seeing the magnificence of the land, you cannot help but be moved and understand why Solito wants to share it with the world.