by Lei Landicho
Much has been said about Filipino independent films being mirrors of reality; being bastions of hope for what’s left of Pinoy creativity. In this age when indie films are placed on a pedestal, one film boldly exposes every nook and cranny of unapologetic, budget-bound, and “honest” filmmaking. Ang Babae sa Septic Tank relishes and abhors itself at the same time for bearing the tag of an “Indie.”
What set Marlon Rivera’s (director) piece apart from its indie contemporaries is that it cooked up a fresh concept that is easy to swallow. It is a comedy acted therein by familiar mainstream faces. Casting Eugene Domingo, JM de Guzman, and Kean Cipriano was instrumental in the film’s success. Witticisms are thrown precisely when they are needed while presenting humor that does not belittle the intellect of its viewers. Instead of the indie overcast palette, the overall setting is vibrant. It is a film that is different from the grim feel of Filipino independent film.
The film also lacks the intimidating nature of a “normal” indie. It does not alienate local viewers in the appreciation of what could be considered as elite media. This is may be why Ang Babae sa Septic Tank has managed to cross the fine line separating the two worlds of independent and mainstream audiences.
As the film departs from being a stereotypical indie, Ang Babae sa Septic Tank took another step forward by appraising its own genre. An indie film that critiques indie films is refreshingly ironic but it was able to shed light on what independent filmmakers are too anxious to discuss. Indie films have developed a formula of their own. They have a menu of ideas to choose from which they are certain will interest their audience and will land them recognition. Among this list are what Ang Babae sa Septic Tank succeeds to lay bare to the public.
Impoverished Philippines is one. Indie filmmakers seem to be obsessed with the country’s growing population and seemingly insurmountable poverty. They have exploited and commodified impoverishment to the extent that it became a norm in the indie film arena. In fact, there is hardly any indie film that does not tackle interplays among social and economic classes. Ang Babae sa Septic Tank criticizes just that. It is not even a matter of mirroring reality since JM and Kean’s explicit intent in producing Walang-wala was to win international awards.
Satirical. Comic. Smart. Ang Babae sa Septic Tank is a meta-indie film that is revolutionary in its own right. Hopefully, it would spawn a more diverse breed of independent films that will effectively capture the ingenuity the Filipino independent filmmakers have been known for.
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