‘Bonifacio’ serves up history

Karen Kunawicz

Karen Kunawicz

History is written by the victors,” so goes a quote often attributed to Winston Churchill. History is also written by the entertainment industry.

I’m glad the story of Andres Bonifacio was told—like the stories of many of heroes, they need to be told time and again—to give us perspective, an appreciation of Philippine history and what it took to help build the nation.

The effort is laudable, there were a few highlights in the film: the light shed on the character of Gregoria de Jesus (Vina Morales), Bonifacio’s lady love who believed whole heartedly in his struggle for an independent Philippines, the bucolic scenes of the Philippine countryside, the well done animated story of the “Legend of Bernardo Carpio” (one of my favorite parts) and the brief exchanges of Jose Rizal (Jericho Rosales) with Andres Bonifacio (Robin Padilla).

However, there were times when I felt this laudable effort sputtered. Unlike Marilou Diaz Abaya’s Rizal (my personal benchmark film for Filipino historical biopics), the pace and rhythm of the narrative was uneven as the film shifted from the tail end of Spanish colonial rule to present day. The historical parts felt more episodic than scenes following a solid narrative thread. It would have helped to have dates and locations included in the scenes.

In the present day parts, Eddie Garcia a.k.a. “Manoy” is a guide at the KKK Museum and he offers his perspective—on how some historical accounts have unfairly accused Andres Bonifacio of being a traitor. He appears in this scene with teen heartthrob and lead actor’s nephew Daniel Padilla.

I am not sure if this device was to help make Bonifacio relevant to a younger audience or if it was needed to spoonfeed the audience with the film’s message.

A stronger, more solid narrative could have made that unnecessary. However, after the film, I felt I needed a round table discussion with historians and academics. I wanted Ambeth Ocampo to materialize so I could have tea with him and give a background certain events in the film.

Also, now that the movie used everything in its arsenal to exonerate Bonoifacio of his “traitor” tag and focus on his courage and love of country, it has also cast his rival, Aguinaldo in a very unflattering light—cold and unwilling to negotiate with Bonifacio or members of his faction.

Now that we’ve had an Aguinaldo film (which I didn’t watch) and a Bonifacio film, I’d love a well-researched documentary or a series, which tackles in depth perhaps both sides of the rivalry.

Bonifacio is one of the entries in the 2014 Metro Manila Film Festival.

Part 2 of 15 Films to Look Forward to in 2015 comes out next week.


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