Cast: Nora Aunor, Ricky Davao, JC De Vera, Jason Abalos, Ronwaldo Martin and Victor Neri
Directed by: Real Florido and Arturo San Agustin
Produced by: Firestartes Productions and Silver Story Entertainment
Not even the great Nora Aunor can save this disaster of a movie, Kabisera, one of the eight so-called official entries to the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF).
Its directors (!), Real Florido and Arturo San Agustin, turned what was arguably a well-intentioned movie that deserved to be in the MMFF about small-town life in these parts into an accusatory political propaganda that ironically missed its intended target.
Moral lesson: Two heads are not better than one, as was the case with Florido and San Agustin, who probably were never on the same page when they began toying with the idea that they could logically fashion the film into a passable product worth its admission ticket of P250.
Kabisera is supposed to be a study in Philippine politics but it tries to tackle a lot of controversial issues like it were Hekasi, leaving moviegoers confused, not enlightened a bit, for moralizing (which is not why films are made because, if it is, then, we’ll take Little House On The Prairie anytime).
The MMFF Screening Committee had cited Kabisera not only for its “sure, steady directorial hand, conscientious script and effective cinematography” but also “for the lead actors’ faultless performances.”
The people behind this screening committee may have watched the wrong movie.
The “hand(s)” of the directors are shaking, the script is nowhere near punctilious and the cinematography itself (okay, if you want big words but it simply refers to “the art of making films”) is ineffectively amateurish.
Meanwhile, the pretty boys in the movie—JC De Vera, Jason Abalos and Ronwaldo Martin—do not have to do anything great so how can they and the rest including La Aunor be “faultless?”
They can’t just rise above a mediocre script, can they?
Kabisera is the story of a family headed by a barangay captain who inexplicably wields enormous political clout that the bise (we are not sure if he is a vice mayor) and the vice governor are on his side after an attempt on his life is made not once but twice.
Tunying (Ricky Davao) is the patriarch who survives a grenade attack, then a shooting, by well, a “riding in tandem” (to give the movie a contemporary feel where criminal jargon is concerned) and who moonlights (how convenient!) as the leader of a bank robbery gang, towing one of his sons Andy (De Vera) as a gang member.
Aha! So that is why he is being targeted by unknown and unseen enemies who are never found partly because Florido and San Agustin skip the part where an inquiry into the two attacks against Tunying should have been conducted.
Well, the grenade used in the first attack is made to disappear because the directors apparently do not think that the small bomb is a necessary piece of evidence.
And so the gunmen in the second attack go scot-free because Florido and San Agustin also apparently do not think that putting in the script an investigation of the shooting will add anything to the flow of the story.
Finally, Tunying becomes a victim of extra-judicial killing.
Cases closed? End of the movie?
No, enter “Leila De Lima,” complete with the scarf and the smirk, as chairman of a hybrid human-rights commission who is played by Ces Quesada in what could be the campiest performance of this theater reliable’s career.
Here is where Florido and San Agustin lose their marbles.
They do not know where to set Kabisera, a dead give-away that they do not know an extra-judicial killing, or summary execution, if they see one.
When “Leila De Lima” appears, she heads the “commission,” which should place her in the “Aquino administration,” but Kabisera apparently is trying to pin down the “Duterte administration” on the summary executions allegedly pulled off during the “Duterte administration.”
The Duterte camp must be chuckling at the monumental blunder of Florido and San Agustin, whose mentors, if they have any, apparently are as clueless as their protégés.
Another moral lesson: If you do not do your homework, you should be made to sit under the dining table, not the kabisera, or the central seat around the dining table that is symbolically the seat of power in the Filipino home.
It makes us wonder if Tunying is made to die so that the directors can justify the movie’s title by giving Aunor’s Mercy (the barangay captain’s wife) a chance to sit on the kabisera.
Mercy is able to occupy the central seat of power not twice but only once.
Kabisera could have been titled “Extra-judicial Killings” instead so that we would know where the directors are coming from.
At least for the 20 or so of us who watched the movie on New Year’s Day in a movie house that sits, maybe, 200.