Flicks and Reruns: Ang Nawawala
Finally I was able to catch up and watch "Ang Nawawala" directed by Marie Jamora, the film which won the audience choice award during the 2012 Cinemalaya is a wonderful coming-of-age film that shines with honest poignancy.
The movie revolves around Gibson Bonifacio (Dominic Roco) who comes home after studies from the U.S. Gibson has long stopped speaking after witnessing a traumatic accident which cost the life of a favored sibling. He comes to a home he had wanted to avoid, but repressed tensions is gripping his family and Gibson retreats to his room editing his personal videos and also goes partying within Manila's underground indie scene immersing in its music, in his escapes he meets and falls in love with a lovely, enigmatic hipster girl named Enid.
His first romance eventually forces him to come out of his near hermetical existence and his heartbreak, a catalyst to outgrow the trauma head-on.
What a pity many people would have missed their chance in watching this cinematic gem, this was supposed to be shown on a regular one-week theater run in Davao but was pulled out earlier due to disappointing ticket sales.
Why do I like the film
1. The cast- one of the hallmarks of the movie was its great casting particularly the leads Dominic Roco and Anicka Dolonnius, they were a breath of fresh air, they were simply refreshing to watch- Dominic Roco could give our young mainstream actors a run for their money and Anicka, reminded me of Zooey Deschanel, Hollywood's beloved "manic pixie dream girl."
2. The drama- Just like several indie films, Ang Nawawala doesn't dwell on melodramatic confrontations or cheesy dramatic one-liners, it is set after the mourning (in the case of the Bonifacio family) or after the break up (in case of Enid and Deacon) when the characters are in the process of moving over- there are quiet moments in the film, characters still bearing the burdens of their past. This is the part where Dawn Zulueta playing Gibson's tormented mom shines best, acting so grounded, so organic- a performance which reminds you that years ago she was not just one of the prettiest actress in Philippine cinema, but was also one of its best.
3. The music- my brain is currently humming Ciudad's "There's a Lonely Road to Sunday Night." Aside from Ciudad the film presents unreleased songs from indie bands like Flying Ipis, Tarsius, Pedicab, Sandwich, Ang Bandang Shirley among many others. But aside from indies, hipster eclecticism is evident with its array of music even including old vinyl era kundimans. The film won Best Original Score in the recent Cinemalaya.
4. Production design- Jamora creates a world that strays away much from the third-world poverty slums or buccolic agrarian settings common in indie films. Some of the sets particularly the Bonifacio house seemed torn out from the pages of a Gregorio Brillantes short story, sort of a late 60's early 70s affluent middle class family home, or those still-life photos you see from a hipster's Tumblr account. The vintage Bonifacio house is actually the hidden character in the film despite obvious affluence of the owners, the house remained trapped in a time warp, signifying perhaps the characters' psychological stagnation after a tragedy.
5. Cinematography- The cinematography is vibrant, sharp and crisp. the lighting blends well with the textures of the sets, it also emphasizes the facial quirks of the characters so effective since it is sort of a movie with minimal dialogue.
6. Portrayal of Hipster subculture- unlike other Filipino movies with cliched stereotypical portrayals of certain demographics (ex. rich kid= conyo, poor kid= jologs) Ang Nawawala provides a slice-of-life mirror to the hipster subculture; the vintage look, the indie music, the characters' penchant for photography and visual images, the ubiquitous presence of Apple gadgets etc. gives us a peek to a seemingly enigmatic subculture.