El Presidente (2012)
Written and Directed by: Mark Meily
Should you see it?
Yes, definitely! But its not for the easily bored.
[Spoilers Ahead, You’ve Been Warned]
It’s a very difficult film to pull off – But somehow they did it.
It was very long, like Cloud Atlas long. It’s very difficult to maintain an audience’s interest especially if you’re tackling history as your films subject. If the directors and the producers decided to tell only Aguinaldo’s story, then it might have been a tad shorter, but they didn’t. The complete subtitle of the film actually was Emilio Aguinaldo and the story of the First Philippine Republic. So it wasn’t actually just about Aguinaldo. You have all these characters whose names sound familiar because you remember them from First Year Philippine History class. Felipe Agoncilio. Gorio Del Pilar. Mariano Trias. Antonio Luna. That lawyer guy from Biak-na-Bato (Pedro Paterno?). Then you have all these Places and Events to fit in a 2 and a half hour long movie: Every single battle in Cavite against the Spaniards that showcased how actually the revolution was more successful in the Provinces than it was in Manila, the Magdalo vs. Magdiwang fiasco, Bonifacio’s Death/Execution, Luna’s Accident, Aguinaldo’s Exile, how each Historical Figure came and went, heck, even Felipe Agoncilio’s lobbying in Paris and the US congress was shown. It looks like they didn’t leave anything from Aguinaldo’s memoirs, where the film was based from. This fact alone – that they incorporated so much content and scenes in a coherent film is a feat in itself.
In real life, a revolution looks ugly, in this case though, it’s Eye Candy.
Come to think of it, it was so easy to just show every battle as it is: a plain musket battle between Spanish troops and Katipuneros, or Americans versus Filipinos, but the film chooses not to show it that way. Quite the opposite, majority of the film’s exciting parts are the battles themselves. They’re eye candy, and surprisingly genuine-looking. No bida na hindi tinatamaan kahit marami nang bumabaril failures in this film. Muskets get cocked before firing another shot (both sides), people fought with Balisongs and canons, Baron Geisler was actually fencing -to kill- in battle, in fact the battle scenes looked too astig they must’ve been choreographed but it still looked raw somewhat, looked like they got the uniforms right (White for the Early Philippine Republic Days, Striped Blue later on). There were some gratuitous shots during battle for the bidas which made for awkward moments but it’s tolerable. And speaking of shots, the way the scenes look, it’s not overly dramatic, but it’s gritty enough for a battle, you have this sense that everything looks correct.
All those actors
Yes, they’re correct in saying that it is the most star-studded film in this year’s MMFF. It’s as if they hired all the Male veteran Indie actors and action stars in the Industry. The mestizo looking ones for Spaniards and Mestizo-Filipinos, the Pinoy looking ones for Filipinos. Kulang nalang si Coco Martin, baka masyado na siyang mahal. Good job for Baron Geisler, John Regala, Christopher de Leon, Ceasar Montano and Ronnie Lazaro. They even speak long lines in Spanish, and Tagalog in bulol Spanish accents. Talk about being in character. Strangely enough, George Estregan fits his role this time. His sometimes helpless, sometimes commanding demeanor is something you can easily imagine Aguinaldo being, with all the circumstances he was in. Sorry but I can’t take Bayani Agbayani Seriously. Especially with his mustache.
Bonifacio looked like a fool in the movie, it’s sad. Was it really like that? I can’t really remember my Philippine History lessons that well, but I have with me this image of him leading the 1896 revolt in my head. And I don’t really know what happened during that time and the establishment of the Philippine Republic. Yeah there was this Treaty of Paris, blah blah. But was it really like that? Did he really force people to “contribute” to the revolution by threatening to burn down their homes? Did he really acted the way he hid so that Revolutionary Government had no choice but to execute him? (And Aguinaldo had no choice but to sign it?)
It makes me want to contact Sir Ambeth to ask if everything Aguinaldo’s claiming to have happened is true. (kung close lang kami, haha)
If it was, it’s sad. It’s ironic that this person, this hero who wanted freedom for the Filipinos, whom a lot of monuments were built for, a lot of roads were named after, whom we named a sprawling Business District after, was reduced to a disturbance and executed with his Brother at Mt.Tala.