Movie Review: Ang Katiwala

Dennis Trillo used to be the promising actor in the Kapuso lot after his auspicious turn in the film Aishite Imasu: 1941. Then his handlers decided to transform him into a primetime soap star. He once took on the titular role of an intergalactic police officer. I am not sure if there is a good reason for confining his talents to such clunkers but these roles are meant for the likes of Richard Gutierrez. whose acting range runs from A to B. Trillo also became a tabloid fodder after impregnating one of her girlfriends and hitting another. So it is a breath of fresh are to see him act once more in the indie film Ang Katiwala. Though it is safe to conclude Trillo got his groove back the same cannot be said for the film.

Ang Katiwala is about a man named Ruben who works as a caretaker of the mansion of former President Manuel Quezon. After he was interviewed for a documentary, he felt embarrassed for not having enough knowledge about the former president. He perused the old materials around the house to learn more about him and soon developed a deep admiration for Manuel Luis Quezon.

I am a huge fan of history so the premise of the film excited me. However, right from the beginning, I was doubtful how the filmmakers will present the life of Quezon in the present time. So the filmmakers made Ruben read stuff about him and listen to his speeches while peppering the film with scenes that somewhat relate to it (and animation that reminded me of government informercials in the Nineties). This is arather decent presentation but felt awkward.

My loyalty to my party ends where my loyalty to my country begins. — Manuel Luis Quezon

In one of the earlier scenes, Ruben was putting up a streamer where the aforementioned quote was inscribed. Ironically, after he finished his work, one of the municipal administrators informed him that he can no longer keep his job because the mayor replaced him with one of his supporters. Ruben campaigned for his opponent. So much for ending party loyalties.

I would rather have a country run like hell by Filipinos than a country run like heaven by the Americans, because however bad a Filipino government might be, we can always change it. — Manuel Luis Quezon

The running joke is Quezon got his wish because our leaders have been running the Philippines like hell. But taking things in proper context, our country was fighting for independence so Quezon was simply sending out a strong statement that Filipinos can run the Philippines. This is some sort of a dig on the past administration because it, unless am mistaken, is the backdrop of the narration.

My fellow citizens: There is one thought which I want you to have in mind, and that is that you are Filipinos; that the Philippines is your country and the only country God has given you; that you must keep it for yourselves, for your children, and for your children’s children, until the world is no more and that you must live for it and die for it, if necessary. Your country is a great country. It has a great past, a great present and a great future. — Manuel Luis Quezon

The passage is an excerpt from the speech, Message to My People, and was played incessantly throughout the latter part. Ruben even orated it during a videoke-drinking celebration which looked and sounded preposterous. No doubt, the speech refers to a major sub-plot: land distribution and ownership in the Philippines. Issues such as rights of tenants in the rural areas and rights of  informal settlers in the urban centers were provided scenes in interim.

The mechanisms used to depict the discoveries of Ruben about the life of the former president is a bit off. One sequence showcased his demonstrative love for Quezon, e.g. memorizing his speech, creating a collage, and parting his hair like the president. I love historical biographies and suffer from reading hang-overs but never have I felt compelled to sound and look like the historical figures in the books. There should be a better means of presenting his admiration for the former president apart from transforming him into a bizarre fan. And the ending is just horrendous. Disappointing does not even begin to describe the film.


MOVIE TRAILER: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLKyV1tR1Ak&feature=related

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