The ‘Barber’s Tales’ strategy – a double-edged sword

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Jun Lana receives the Best Director Award at 2014 Madrid International Film Festival for ‘Barber’s Tales’

Jun Lana receives the Best Director Award at 2014 Madrid International Film Festival for ‘Barber’s Tales’

Award-winning playwright and director Jun Lana admits that he intentionally took his latest masterpiece, Barber’s Tales, around the international film festival circuit before showing it in the Philippines, in the hopes of enticing a bigger Filipino audience to come and see it in local cinemas.

After all, the movie has garnered accolades in various prestigious awards abroad, namely the Crystal Mulberry Audience Award (third place) at the 2014 Far East Film Festival in Udine, Italy; a Best Actress Award for Eugene Domingo at the 2013 Tokyo International Film Festival; a Best Project Award at the 2013 Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum; a Best Director Award for Lana himself at the 2014 Madrid International Film Festival.

“’Yun talaga yung naging strategy namin para sa pelikula,” he conceded just before a special press screening of the movie days before it began its commercial run on August 13. “Na sana, dahil maganda ang naging reception sa Barber’s Tales sa ibang bansa, suportahan din ng Pilipino ang pelikulang ito dahil ang storyang ito ay tungkol sa ating mga Pilipino.”

Barber’s Tales is a touching and inspiring story of women empowerment during the height of Martial Law in a fictional Filipino town in the 1970s. Domingo plays the role of Marilou, a widow who bravely takes over her husband’s bar–bershop despite the resulting mockery from the male town–sfolk. She draws courage from her friends, women like her who had long yearned for their own self liberation


Eugene Domingo in the central role of Marilou, a widow who takes over her husband’s barbershop at the height of Marital Law in a small fictional Filipino town

Eugene Domingo in the central role of Marilou, a widow who takes over her husband’s barbershop at the height of Marital Law in a small fictional Filipino town

Barber’s Tales is the second piece in a Palanca Award-winning trilogy written by Lana that is focused on small town life in the Philippines in the face of political and social turmoil. The first is Bwakaw, a story about an aging gay man who rethinks his views on death, also swept local and international awards when it was turned into a film in 2012; while the third, Ama Namin, which follows a boy’s plight into a seminary, has yet to be turned into a movie.

“Masasabi ko na sa karera ko, ito ang pinakamahirap na pelikulang nagawa ko,” continued Lana. “We shot in the mountains of Quezon for three straight weeks. Walang kuryete, walang signal. Kina–kailangan naming tumawid sa tubig para makapag-shoot. It was exhausting and physically draining, but what held us during the entire experience ay pag napapanood namin yung mga eksenang nagawa namin at nabubuo ang istorya ni Marilou.”

Indeed, the physical sacrifice that Lana, his highly com–petent cast (Eddie Garcia, Iza Calzado, Gladys Reyes, Daniel Fernando, Nonie and Sha–maine Buen–camino, Nic–co Manlao, and Nora Aunor in a cameo), and his production staff paid off as the movie’s cinematography and continuity is striking and seamless.

However, in returning to Lana’s “strategy” in drumming up noise for the film before its local showing, he may find it to be a double-edged sword now that Barber’s Tales has opened to the public.

How so? A moviegoer will come in to the cinema with very high expectations and might be left wanting.

The Manila Times, in watching Barber’s Tales with several members of media, agreed that with the crescendo of publicity regarding the movie—including Domingo’s declaration that it may be her swansong—one cannot help but expect a more powerful rendering of the story from start to finish, but will only find it dispersed throughout.

For example, the beginning, which establishes Marilou’s character as a submissive and unappreciated wife, tends to drag out, precisely because of the level of anticipation a viewer will bring into the cinema. But again, in setting aside the “strategy’s” effect, it can also be taken as an effective means of building empathy between Marilou and the viewer who will certainly feel frustration over her sad, uneventful and male-dominated existence.

Mid-way through the film however, the story picks up pace, with the unraveling of characters and the injustices of Martial Law on the Filipino. These finally spark the mix of emotions which Barber’s Tales sets out to evoke: sympathy, anger, shock, pride, nationalism and triumph over Martial Law’s very tangible effects on the ordinary Filipino.

Despite these few minor points on the film’s pace, Barber’s Tales is highly worth watching both for Lana’s undeniable gift of weaving the Filipino’s plight into a touching and compelling story; the passion with which his actors and pro–duction team gave life to his vision; and of course, the movie’s his–torical value, which even to this present day is an eye-opener for the Filipino to shun and to act on enduring political and social injustices in the country.

And yes, Barber’s Tales should be watched and embraced by the Filipino, precisely because it has brought pride to the nation in many parts of the world. Jun Lana, his cast, and his team deserve the gratitude and support of the Filipino audience for doing so, notwithstanding his “strategy.”

Barber’s Tales is produced by APT Entertainment and Octoberian Films. It is now showing in cine-mas nationwide.

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