Confessional: Interpreting truths through conversations
By Gigi Javier Alfonso
Confessional is a film produced by Creative Programs, Inc. through Cinema One Originals and Oddfield Productions, directed by Jerrold Tarog and Ruel Antipuesto with screenplay by Ramon Ukit (aka Jerrold Tarog). Early I would like to make mention of the acting as the core of this narrative. The performers are real and believable. This is a reflection of mature direction. Truly outstanding is Publio Briones III as the former Mayor, Lito Caliso. Lead actor Jerrold Tarog gives a sincere performance, he is likewise the co-director, writer, editor, sound designer, and he does the music score.
The film successfully takes the camera and puts it at the center of the story. Eloquent language merges with the filmmaking. The story telling seems participatory as viewers feel the closeness and intimacy that the film shares and as the directors make their many statements. There are shifts in points of view since sometimes the filmmaker Ryan is the editor cum videographer of a documentary film about the celebrated Sinulog Festival. He is the subject and the rest are the subjects of the camera through the eyes of Ryan the filmmaker, the lover, the adventurer, the philosopher and the “just another person” in this complex society.
Where is the consistency in point of view? The consistency is in the shifting truth… depending on who is viewing it. Works, making use of a film within a film structure, have always declared that the filmmaker is creating film texts not pretending that the answers given by the film are the only possible answers. The film asks more questions in fact. And the film keeps echoing that we just have to ask better questions.
“Confessional” is stripped of pretentious cinematography with theatrical dramatic lighting reigning the screen. It is a visual conversation making use of daylight to create the natural three-dimensional characters. It likewise says so much about visuals and audio creating texts that create our realities. Ryan, already tired and disillusioned about the many non-truths that create our realities, goes on a journey with his girfriend Monet who is also looking for meanings in their relationship. However they are parted when the ship docks in Cebu as she doubts Ryan’s feelings for her. Alone, he starts to take footage of how people perceives the Sinulog Festival.
Ryan takes a montage meant for the documentary on Sinulog that he plans to enter for a competition: an entertaining homosexual who takes pride in what he is doing mentions tourism as a motive of the festival, a nun who is a former glamor girl gives the religious explanation, and another person who talks about a festival considers both Magellan and Lapu-lapu heroes.
It is a popular culture form that carries the textured contradictions which powers the narrative and the film and the many interesting images of the Sinulog parade with the extravagant floats, colorful attire and vibrant choreography of street dancing. At this point let me mention that Ryan is in search of that Filipino spirit that is being celebrated.
Then he meets Lito Caliso, a former mayor of a southern town in Mindanao. He is intelligent, witty, strange, weird, and has many stories to tell. Here is a plus for this film—the many details that go with the story that the filmmakers manage to weave in the film contribute to the complexities of our lives but still they manage to make us see the main narrative flow. Example is the scene in the mayor’s home. As he calls it his abode, he shows Ryan with pride that he is well-traveled and is materially satisfied with his life, pointing at a vase from Cambodia, a camel saddle from Damascus and a bench from Pakistan. He shows the things that a politician values. After the getting-to-know-you part between the politician and Ryan, Lito declares that he will soon die.
Then he reveals his past as an exploiter of very young starlets and Miss Sinulog contestants, as a killer in cold blood of a business partner potential and now simply waiting for some people to get him. As these are happening there is seeming realness with authentic dialogue used in the entire film. The tension mounts when they are in the forest. Lito is still talking about his views and his sins.
Even if Ryan thinks that here is a politician who just wants attention and media exposure, he starts to feel a mounting fear as he walks in the forrest with him. Lito still talks of being involved in election and how some local officials murder… Ryan starts to think he is going to be killed so he runs for his life. This gives some inner tension as the storytelling becomes darker and darker.
The latter part of the film moves hastily into a climax that is eloquently captured and edited.
We are bothered when we see the protagonist in the end goes right back to his usual life after seeing brutality and sordid reality…how calloused, almost desensitized he has become. Is this the Filipino spirit? Accepting that life is a circle and it does not change… lies plus lies equals truth. Seeing such the viewers are appalled at the insensitivity. This is what makes this film effective …it leads us to quietly reflect on how much our society has become insensitive and too forgiving. Where is the anger?
We welcome intelligent and piercing films like “Confessional”.