Saving Septic Tank: The Metro Manila Film Festival 2016 Experience

Indie vs. mainstream: it’s the never-ending debate of Philippine cinema. It’s a battle between film festivals vs. TV artistas. One rakes in money while the other rakes in awards. It’s a very black-and-white view towards an art form we all try to revive.

But with the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), they try to blur that line. Director Jose Javier Reyes explains in his blog, Choking On My Adobo, that it’s not a battle anymore. 2016’s MMFF celebrated Filipino cinema as a revered art form without stereotypes. Forget how they produced / funded the film… if it’s a Filipino film, it’s a Filipino film. No other labels, period. Naintindihan niyo ba?

What separates this year from the rest, though, is change. By change, I meant the lack of the familiar titles we would’ve linked to MMFF. You wouldn’t see Enteng KabisoteMano Po, Shake, Rattle, and Roll, and/or (!) a Vice Ganda slapstick this year.

Let’s just say that it’s refreshing to see the festival’s content for 2016.

In Preparation

My friend Arrah and I bought our tickets first at SM Mall of Asia’s cinema ticketing booth. After buying our tickets, we ate lunch at Aristocrat. I craved chicken barbecue a lot since I left for my trip. But because of time, I only ordered their one-piece boneless chicken barbecue. For dessert, I ordered a scoop of strawberry ice cream.

What I thought was a quick lunch ended up us having to be a few minutes late from our first film. I can understand how service was short because it was a holiday. But we both didn’t order that much and for the amount of food we ordered, serving took more than a while. I feel like Arrah and I would’ve appreciate the first few minutes of the first film… But luckily, we didn’t miss much.

After our first film, we looked for our second cinema because SM MOA only had 6 cinemas before. We wondered, where was Cinema 8? Turns out, Cinemas 7 & 8 were beside the Cyberzone at the North Wing of the mall.

The new cinema area is smaller than its older neighbors, but there’s a sleek look with this area that I truly appreciated.

Don’t you see how sci-fi this place looks? Straight outta Star Trek.

Anyway, now to my main point. Arrah and I watched Saving Sally and Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank 2: Forever Is Not Enough. Originally I wanted to watch Die Beautiful, but Arrah already watched it so we just went with Septic Tank 2. Fortunately, I enjoyed both films and they were worth seeing in the theaters. A couple of moviegoers didn’t understand behavior in cinemas, though… But that didn’t stop me from enjoying .

Saving Sally

I love collages and mixed media. As if my thumbnails don’t say that enough.  Mixing real photographs with graphics gives me funk, ya feel me? And that’s what I loved about Avid Liongoren’s Saving Sally. It’s a live-action animated film with your classic story: sensitive guy Marty (Enzo Marcos) has feelings for Sally (Rhian Ramos), a girl with a troubled past. We’ve all heard about mysterious muse inspiring the keen creative with their work.

What sets Saving Sally apart though, is magic realism. The story happens in a fictional town filled with quirk-named venues. We see Marty’s POV through the vivid stylized scenery and the switch from live characters to animated versions of them. The mix between 2D and 3D animation flows finely with the live actors.

Some people wondered why 90% of the script was in English. It didn’t sound gratuitous or burgis the further we went on with the film. I do commend Charlene Sagwit-Esguerra’s writing for avoiding cliched paths within the story. But what’s got me thinking is TJ Trinidad as that guy™. I’ve seen two films and one show of his where he’s that guy. (Google Sana Dati and Hiram Na Mukha. You’ll get it.) Is there something I’m missing? Or is he just typecast to be a dick? Just look at his cartoon version here! LMAO.

Production wise, Saving Sally is impressive! The film took 10 years to make, with very limited resources. Green screen use is very common nowadays… But Saving Sally creatively used the chroma walls to expand on a story we’ve heard before. The central story of the film is as real as it gets. But the fantastic elements made it interesting and new.

Ang Babae Sa Septic Tan 2: Forever Is Not Enough

One film is not enough to mock Philippine cinema’s tropes. And there’s no other film that does that better than Marlon Rivera’s Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank. It targeted indie filmmakers obsessed with awards and poverty porn. Meanwhile the second film tackled mainstream productions.

In Septic Tank 2, Eugene Domingo (played by Ms. Eugene Domingo) invites her former colleagues to a luxurious hotel as a way to accept their project offer. However, as “an actress”, she has some small suggestions triggering director-writer Rainier (Kean Cipriano). Hilarity ensues per request as Eugene shares her ideas to the team.

Septic Tank 2 steps up the camp and the humor from the first. But I wouldn’t call it an improvement or a downgrade. Because this movie mocks mainstream tropes, the camp is appropriate for the “scenes” in Eugene’s mind. There were a lot of recurring jokes. Martinez reused some of the jokes from the first film too, although they still got us laughing.

In both films, Eugene Domingo plays a theatrical version of herself. Unlike the first film, however, the Septic Tank 2 Eugene is more of a two-dimensional parody. Most of the joke is only relayed through her. There’s much more to the mainstream film industry than an actress making outlandish demands. Sadly, Septic Tank 2 failed to show more of that.

But Septic Tank 2 proved their point clear. Yes, mainstream films can get campy and tacky. Yes, awards bring merit and recognition to our country’s filmmakers. But there needs to be a balance of sorts to keep Filipino cinema alive. It both called out indie’s pretensions and mainstream’s silliness.

Septic Tank 2 is not up to par with the first film. However, it perfectly embodied the MMFF spirit of blurring indie and mainstream to make way for Filipino cinema.


Disclaimer: All content here belong to their respectful owners, Rocketsheep Films (“Saving Sally”) and Quantum Films (“Septic Tank 2”). Thumbnail for illustrative purposes only.

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2 Comments

  1. I haven’t watched any MMFF film yet. I would say it’s because I’ve been really busy, but I got no excuse. I heard some are still extended until the 10th so I’m hoping to watch at least one. Wanted to either watch Septic Tank or Die Beautiful!

    xx, Richel V. | Richel Goes Places

    1. Well you got a day left! Haha I suggest Die Beautiful for a good feels *and* quality film while Septic Tank 2 is pretty smart entertainment.

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