Jowable, like much of the films of Darryl Yap and the Vincentiments team, is undeniably problematic. It needs a closer look and examination in order to understand why it remains popular with their audience. Aside from issues of political correctness and awkward visual story-telling, Yap’s films have supported questionable politicians and ideologies. In this video essay, we identify how watching the full-length film adaptation of the short film Jowable has become more unbearable to watch. In this discussion, we touch on the nature of feature-length movies and how they may be different from online short films. You may find this discussion relevant to the current debate on the definition of cinema.
Darryl Yap and his band of filmmakers have had their fair share of online success. Their short films have amassed millions of views, mainly coming from the young audience.
In their latest film offering Jowable, the group courageously took the task of creating a full-length film. From their 10-minute shorts, they decided to make a two-hour film using the same techniques and narrative style.
Based on their short film with the same title, Jowable follows the life of a young woman who is obsessed with having a romantic partner. She then finds out that she does not need a love interest. Instead, her family and friends are more than enough.
Watching the film, it is apparent that Viva Films has provided enough creative leeway to the production team. Vincentiments has brought much of their “style” to this film. And there lies their mistake. While the audience can miss flaws while watching short films, the long length form of a film is less forgiving.
For a film where the audience has more time for reckoning, filmmakers must adopt a new mindset. In the past, political correctness might have stirred the crowd. Rape victim-blaming, phallocentrism, and teenage sex captured the attention of the online community. But, in the case of Jowable, the raunchy storyline loses its appeal by the second half of the film. The vulgarity, talk on sex, and the use of cuss words become empty and unnecessary.
While the audience can listen to a long monologue in a five-minute short, it becomes unbearable to listen to the repetitive nonsensical mumblings of the characters in Jowable.
While their short films make a pass for pounding a joke for a whole five minutes, the viewers in Jowable have to bear watching the same joke exploited for an agonizingly long period.
It seems that Darryl Yap, alongside his crew, fails to understand the medium of cinema and the form of feature-length films. While he can get away with poor acting, awkward editing, lazy cinematography, and bad writings in his short films, full-length filmmaking is another art form.
In feature-length films, the audience is basically forced to sit inside the cinema for about two hours. In an enclosed space, they are presented with a series of moving images paired with sound. For two hours, they are tasked with nothing but to make sense of this audio-visual information. The cinema prepares and guides the audience throughout the film viewing experiences. It gives them a darkened space, air-conditioned room, and comfortable seats. The cinema gives them a conducive space to think about what they see or hear.
In the case of online shorts, viewers are easily distracted. They watch through their mobiles with minute screens often in a noisy, people-filled environment. The viewers are not as focused as compared to when they watch inside the cinema. They cannot afford to be critical of what they see and hear because the initial task of understanding the story alone can be challenging.
The makers of Jowable continue to act as if they are making online shorts. They insist on using the same formula that made their shorts popular.
As a result, Jowable is a series of monologues stitched together to give the audience the false sense that they are watching an actual film. Taking out these monologues, the audience is left with a nonsensical storyline. Yes, the banters of Kim Molina and Cai Cortez are entertaining. The monologues with Candy Pangilinan and Kakai Bautista are a great reminder of unappreciated talents in the industry. But, what motivates their personas?
Why did the character need to undergo such a painful journey just to realize the basic lesson that love and companionship can come in various forms?
With the wide following of Vincentiments, why choose a basic premise of finding a “jowa” when they could have gone as deep as discussing the issue of women’s need for a man’s approval? Why not deep dive into the issues of prostituted women in Olongapo? Or the insatiable drive of the younger generation for sexual intimacy?
Darryl Yap may have been bestowed the power of cinema and full-length filmmaking, but his mindset continues to lie in the boundaries of online shorts. In a film form where he has the undivided attention of the audience, he could have respected the audience by giving them a story with complex characters and intelligent storyline while fulfilling the technical requirements of feature-length filmmaking.
Click-baits and political incorrectness could not sustain a two-hour cinema-viewing experience. There are no shortcuts in creating good films. Yap and other filmmakers rising through the online platforms have to understand and appreciate the medium they are working on. The nature of full-length films requires them to pay attention to details and craft storylines that go beyond gimmickry.