By Heinrich Domingo
In the famous words of Chef Gusteau in our Disney-favorite Ratatouille, “not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.” Anyone has the chance to create good films but not all those who try can create one. Actor turned director Mike Magat is laudable for courageously joining the director’s club. After all, filmmaking is exclusive for the brave of hearts. Yet, it seems like his audience have to pay for his inexperience. His film Isang Hakbang joins the rank of the worst films made last year.
A working student (played by director’s son Miguel Antonio) dreams to get an education despite being poor. He believes that diploma alone can take him and his mother (Snooky Cerna) out of poverty. Yet, he cannot afford to leave his janitorial job and attend schooling because he has to provide for his and his sick mothers’ needs. When destiny finally allowed him to achieve his dreams, his mother can no longer be with him to celebrate. This is a clichéd success story told with no creativity and artistry. It is too bland testing the viewers’ self-control to remain seated until the credits roll.
Magat takes pride in making a film that will “inspire audience of all ages.” But looking into Isang Hakbang’s plot, one cannot fail to notice how the story is weak and superficial. It is a monotonous tale with an ending that anyone from the crowd can guess. A bullied kid with a sick mother receives a scholarship and later becomes wealthy. There is no intention to deepen the discourse and tackle Philippine educational system or the healthcare system. What the film does is it blabs on innocence appeal and life of the poor in an effort to conceal a shallow plot.
The movie fails to establish a dramatic vibe because of its amateurish production design and cinematography. Shots do not follow basic photography principle and set design does not help in the portrayal of scenes.
It is understandable but independent films like this have meager budget. But this is the same case for the majority of independent films in the country. The filmmakers’ job is to turn the resources they have into an exquisite and intelligent art piece.
While the director started his career in acting, he wasn’t able to help his cast enough. Actors and actresses, including veterans Snooky Cerna and Buboy Villar, gave disappointing performances. Newbie Miguel Antonio added to the movie fails. His awkward performance is painted all over the movie’s frame.
This movie is too painful to watch. It is true that the film industry must be more supportive with the new players coming in. But passing off his practice sessions at the expense of viewers, Mike Magat put himself in the blacklist of directors to watch.