by Rosy Mina
Still building on your binge-watching list during the quarantine period? FDCP's Binging During Quarantine series can help you by highlighting Filipino films available in online streaming platforms. Our first two featured films are official entries of the Philippines to the Foreign Language Film category of the Academy Awards: "Birdshot" (2016) by Mikhail Red and "Signal Rock" (2018) by Chito S. Roño. For our third installment, we have a classic this time: Gawad Urian Best Picture "Bayaning Third World" (1999) by Mike de Leon.
“Bayaning 3rd World” (1999)
Directed by Mike de Leon
Available for free on iflix
If you're looking for something different to view during the lockdown, the black-and-white mockumentary "Bayaning 3rd World" on national hero Jose Rizal is a must-watch. It's an out-of-the-box flick that does not just give you a linear story. It throws you questions, gives scenarios, and brings up possibilities. It challenges your beliefs and makes you think about new ideas. It then makes you rethink about what you have just surmised about Rizal as well as about history, nationalism, and society.
It's a film about making a movie on Rizal. Two filmmakers, played by Ricky Davao and Cris Villanueva, go about setting the stage for their Rizal film. "Kung kasalanan ang pagdudahan ang pagkabayani ni Rizal, mukhang magkakasala kami sa pelikulang ito" is one of my favorite lines from the film.
The filmmakers' brainstorming sessions turn into insightful and sometimes satirical or philosophical exchanges, not just between them but with other pivotal characters in the Rizal story such as Jesuit priest Vicente Balaguer (Ed Rocha), Rizal's lover Josephine Bracken (Lara Fabregas), the hero's siblings Narcisa (Cherry Pie Picache), Trinidad (Rio Locsin), and Paciano (Joonee Gamboa), and his mother Teodora (Daria Ramirez). The screen especially illuminates when the filmmakers encounter Rizal himself, portrayed by Joel Torre.
Ricky Davao as Filmmaker #1 and Cris Villanueva as Filmmaker #2. Photo from the “Bayaning 3rd World” trailer (Citizen Jake on Vimeo)
A major point of contention in the Rizal debate is whether or not he made a retraction of his writings against the Catholic Church on the eve of his death. The filmmakers get to confront Rizal to tell him everything they want to say and ask about the alleged retraction, among other issues. Rizal gives them answers, some providing clarity while others leading to more questions.
Weaving fiction with fact could spell confusion or danger in filmmaking, but it is seamless, to the point, and in-your-face in "Bayaning 3rd World." As the film's online trailer (remastered) on Vimeo points out, "sometimes fiction is more useful than fact in bringing us closer to the truth."
"Bayaning 3rd World" went on to win six Gawad Urian awards in 2000. It bagged the trophies for Best Picture, Best Direction for de Leon, Best Supporting Actor for Torre, Best Cinematography for Ding Achacoso, Best Sound for Noel Cruz Bruan and Raffy Baladjay, Jr., and Best Music for Lorrie Ilustre. It was also nominated at the Gawad Urian for Best Screenplay (Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr. and de Leon), Best Actor (Cris Villanueva), Best Supporting Actor (Ed Rocha), Best Editing (Armando Jarlego), and Best Production Design (Roy Lachica).
One of the many questions asked in “Bayaning 3rd World.” Photo from the “Bayaning 3rd World” trailer (Citizen Jake on Vimeo)
"Bayaning 3rd World" is an independent production of de Leon, Pinky Ibarra, and Eliza Tamayo. The Cinema Artists Philippines film, rated A by the Film Ratings Board, was distributed by Solar Films. It scored nominations at the 2001 FAMAS Awards for Best Story and Best Screenplay for del Mundo,Jr. and de Leon and was a Best Picture Nominee at the 2001 FAP Awards.
The 2001 Young Critics Circle, Philippines (YCC) hailed it as the Best Film. YCC Awards were given to Achacoso and Lachica for Best Achievement in Cinematography and Visual Design, Jarlego for Best Achievement in Film Editing, and Baladjay, Jr., Bruan, and Ilustre for Best Achievement in Sound and Aural Orchestration. Locsin was nominated for Best Performance by Male or Female, Adult or Child, Individual or Ensemble in Leading or Supporting Role.
The cover photo features Joel Torre as Jose Rizal. Photo from the “Bayaning 3rd World” trailer (Citizen Jake on Vimeo)