Flicks and Reruns: Mana
Every family has its secret.
And this secret figures prominently in the film "Mana" (Inheritance) directed by Gabby Fernandez and produced by De La Salle College of St. Benilde.
Set amidst the sprawling sugar plantations of Negros Occidental, the film centers around an upper-class mestizo family- the Villareals, the widowed matriarch Doña Concha (played by opera singer Fides Cuyugan Asencio) is in the throes of death and the rest of the children comes to the ancestral home to discuss the inheritance.
Their is something with Doña Concha's inheritance, while in most cases the children will fight over inheritance, the Villareal siblings dread it, fearing the consequences of their mother's bequeathment.
What is it with the Mana which has thrown the family in disarray? and why is there fear and tension in the impending death of their matriarch? the dread overlays the emotion of genuine sorrow and morose. The secret of the inheritance is hidden behind the equally grieving Negrenses who are curiously glued to the blow-by-blow accounts provided by Bombo Radyo reporting the state of health of the well-loved matriarch.
This is the dynamics that powers the film. the pace of the film is deliberate and slow echoing the rusticity of agrarian Negros the secret unravels slowly as each Villareal try to carefully navigate their lives around the secret. Roly (played by Jaime Fabregas) the eldest of the brood tries to take charge of the family but is having difficulty meshing the different personalities of the siblings, Sandra (Cherie Gil) is a liberal-minded urbanite, Mike (Ricky Davao) is a scheming politico who has the propensity of exploiting his mother's illness for political gains, Lino (Mark Gil) is an alcoholic, Bernie (Epy Quizon) plays the youngest son and his mother's favorite and Ces (Tetchie Agbayani) as the trusted half sister of the Villareal siblings.
Despite being technically a horror film since it takes a spin on a familiar creature mythology, Mana doesn't give you the usual shocks and gore associated with the genre. Instead it places the lore as the centerpiece of a family drama set in a fading grandeur of a haciendero family.
The dimensions of the conflict is well-played out by the actors in the film, a virtual tour-de-force performances coming from the finest actors and actresses of Philippine cinema. Standing out from the ensemble is the performances of Mark Gil who provides the much needed texture to his tormented character. Cherie Gil gives out another remarkable acting performance as the desperate daughter wanting to end the enveloping fear of waiting for the inheritance.
It is a great drama movie but a bad horror film if it is marketed as a horror movie. Direk Gabby tries to bring in ghosts and creatures but it pans out notably as the atmosphere of the film wasn't shaped for horror and is not helped by badly-made CGIs as if the scare tactics was just forced into it for embellishments.
Fortunately the fear and the whirlpool of tension is communicated by the fine acting performances and accentuated by the film's cinematography and art direction.