QCinema 2018 reviews (Part 1): 'Shoplifters,' 'Burning,' 'Billie and Emma,' 'Dog Days,' and 'Hintayan ng Langit'

Oct 26, 2018
hintayan ng langit qcinema 2018 movie review

(This is the first part of our QCinema International Film Festival 2018 coverage.  There are over 40 films set to screen in this year's edition. Let's talk about some of them.)

QCinema International Film Festival 2018 opens with Hirokazu Kore-eda’s ‘Shoplifters,’ which tells the story of a group of people who formed an unconventional family out of their longingness for compassion and support over their own damaged selves.

shoplifters qcinema 2018 opening film
Shoplifters (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2018)

Like Whammy Alcazaren’s ‘Never Tear Us Apart,’ recently shown in another film festival this year, this film is a deconstruction of the family mythos. It seeks to define what truly makes a family, and what doesn’t. Does blood unify people, given the norm that it is thicker than other substance? 

READ: Everything you need to know about QCinema International Film Festival 2018

Kore-eda never establishes. It puts you on the spot that there’s an already existing bond within this family, allowing the film to just be a narration of how these people will continue to conquer and save their relationship above else. Despite becoming an ensemble piece, ‘Shoplifters’ shine the most on quieter, individual moments, from erotic dances to frequent shoplifts perpetuated by kids. 

burning lee chang-dong movie review 2018
Burning (Lee Chang-dong, 2018)

Lee Chang-dong’s ‘Burning’ is an adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s ‘Barn Burning,’ touching on the material’s theme of loneliness and obsession. However, the film goes for something political and at times satirical. Putting Chang-dong’s home country South Korea in the spotlight, the film narrates a socio-cultural display of class disparity. 

It is perfectly exemplified in a scene in which the lead character from the lower class, who in the middle of self-pleasure shifts his view from a woman to the high-rise building. On the surface, ‘Burning’ is a mystery thriller. It’s not a whodunnit story, but about the search for evidence. The search for meaning in life, and at the same time, the decay that involves in the process. 

This year, QCinema has five narrative and two documentary titles for the local competition. I will discuss three here, and the rest on another post.

billie and emma qcinema 2018 movie review
Billie and Emma (Samantha Lee, 2018)

Billie and Emma’ works just fine as a story of lesbians in a period where homosexuality was treated as an infectious disease. High schoolers Billie and Emma were forced to partner up for a project. The former is confused whether to fit in a school populated by straight women or remain isolated, while the latter got pregnant. The two’s middle ground, the affection between them, was treated very innocent and sweet in the narrative. 

As a film about teenagers falling in love, there’s a genuine charm and hype on how the relationship blooms on-screen. It is anchored on the small talks, lingered by frequent stares and hidden smiles. It’s a film that’s intentionally charismatic on how it was patterned. I’m just not a big fan of how one character resolves her issue. 

dog days timmy harn  qcinema 2018 movie review
Dog Days (Timmy Harn, 2018)

Dog Days’ is frenetic and a complete delight to watch, at least for its first hour. A story of a young man injected by cult rituals to become a basketball superstar, the film boasts of promise. The mix of mysticism and basketball underdog drama is an already exciting premise, but the whole thing just disappointingly falls down when it tries to stray away from the two ingredients that initially make it work. 

It’s hard to stay in put with a lead character that isn’t worth investing in. The lead named Michael Jordan Ulili is fierce, never takes no for an answer guy that in the end, seems to stay the same. The protagonist is just someone I don’t think I can place my bets off. 

In the end, when chaos was topped with even more chaos, the redemption seems irrelevant at this point. But the film was able to redeem itself narrative-wise over its final scene. Oh boy, that closing shot. 

hintayan ng langit  qcinema 2018 movie review
Hintayan ng Langit (Dan Villegas, 2018)

Like ‘Exes Baggage,’ ‘Hintayan ng Langit’ expands on Dan Villegas’ fascination over guilt and unfilled baggage in relationships. In this film, unsatisfied guilts are challenged for the dead people, who before going to heaven, has to stay first in a purgatory known as the “middle.” 

Former lovers, played by Eddie Garcia and Gina Pareño, are accidentally reunited here. As they are forced to live in a room together, wounds are reopened, emotions will rekindle. 

I have never seen the original play by Juan Miguel Severo which this film was based on, but I can see how a story like this would appear better when created for cinema than theater. The world created for the dead is a delight to uncover, as if a neverending hotel but equipped with the right resources for its people to recall their memories.

As a love story, the film really got me. But I feel it could benefit more if it delves more to its commentary of mortality. Most of the time, the characters just remember and recall their previous action. The effective catharsis really comes from them discussing the possibilities, the “what-ifs” of being dead and the baggage left behind before passing away. It’s heart-wrenching stuff, impressively delivered by Garcia and Pareño. It’s not surprising to say they are good at this time, but they are superb here!

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