30 January 2009 | charliekoon
Loosen up a bit
I try to be as democratic as possible by reviewing all Filipino films, even the ones that I am anxious to see. Walang Kawala (No Way Out) is a bit of a surprise. It is like a balloon that is rapidly inflated. One instance, it suddenly bursts in your face. Walang Kawala is a story made by Joel Lamangan in collaboration with Manny Valera and his screenwriter Enrique Ramos. It is Lamangan's first venture in independent film-making. Hopefully it is the start for mainstream directors to be roused from their periods of complacency.
With the return of Joaquin's (Polo Ravales) wife Cynthia (Althea Vega), Waldo (Joseph Bitangcol) suddenly feels jealous with the lack of attention he expects from Joaquin. To his dismay, he escapes the province in search for a better life in the city. Joaquin is saddened by the incident and he left his wife in search of Waldo. In the city, Joaquin was clued-up that a police officer named Rufo (Emilio Garcia) is spotted last with Waldo. An awful twist of events happens when Rufo abducts Joaquin and makes him his human sex slave to take pleasure from his craving of younger men.
Walang Kawala does not qualify to be criticized in terms of moral values. So critics must be flexible enough with the use of different tools and criteria for every film. Walang Kawala has qualities that are perfect for such objective evaluation. It is so evident that Lamangan has been in the industry for decades. He has done quite a number of mainstream films and has been a hundred percent behind some of the important films that the Philippines has. He is part of Ishmael Bernal's Himala and Lav Diaz' Hesus Rebolusyonaryo. Walang Kawala is no different from his other works' endeavor to be accessible to audiences. He imparts his skills in mainstream to independent film-making. It is quite easy to notice that Walang Kawala has ideas that might be very useful to sustain independent film works.
Non-linearity has been in the works for most filmmakers. Its usage consists of flashbacks within the story and yet it is still cohesive if and only if it is executed adroitly. It is quite good to see that the flashbacks in Walang Kawala are woven within the story with great skill. The progression of the story is quite overloaded with tension and melodrama which has been a guilty pleasure of most Filipino audiences. Spectators are like diners. They are drawn into more scrumptious dishes. Sadism has been an active element within the film. The sight of the brutality is quite gripping. Walang Kawala is effective with its aim of a definite sense of apprehension.
I was not surprised that the film got a tamer rating from the MTRCB than other films that recently got an X rating (Next Attraction, Imburnal, and Melancholia). I think it only needs common sense to persuade the board of their works. Evidently, our 'indie' artists today lack persuasiveness. They merely hate the entire system. As a result, their ego is inflated to such an extent that they consider their works as victims of uneven judgment. But how do we apply simple common sense in the defense of a film's unashamed nakedness. In gay bars, obviously you get to see naked male bodies with their schlongs out in the open. Lamangan has confidently made a film with much blatancy, he will never go wrong. He might have been just honest about it. Plus the fact that Lamangan is very good in dealing with the bureaucrats which other artists try to avoid.
Nothing is pretentious in Walang Kawala that is why it is surely well-regarded all on its own. It has incorporated a love story between two men. You might revolt on how they dealt with this kind of relationship but their characters have human dignity and respect for love. The crude depiction of life within the film's story is maneuvered confidently. It is evocative to a society that has tumbled down and its harshness will always be malodorous despite its good outer surface. Walang Kawala might not be the best film made in recent years. But how would we know in this period in time where we don't even know what is best? If the film doesn't stick to a certain narrative it is doomed to failure. If it tries to sugarcoat a simple story to attract more audiences, it will be quite repulsive to some. If a certain artist tries to be unpretentious, direct and integrates conventional film-making, will he be cast out? Lamangan certainly knows what he wants. He knows a lot about the process of film-making. Walang Kawala has a lot of good ideas that could be of better use in improving independent films. Independent films must strive for aiming a wider audience in order to survive (unless they're damned to self-indulgence). Lamangan might have done a few silly mainstream films, but I think he does not even care. He will certainly know better than any of us and I believe that Walang Kawala is better than any Mano Po Series he has done.