BY GIL M. PORTES
Finalist, Directors Showcase
2010 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival and Competition
After a horrific collision between a passenger bus and an 18-wheeler truck in Nueva Ecija claimed two dozen casualties, two families await the arrival of their dead.
In Tuguegarao, Cagayan, the devout Catholic family of Carmela “Charm” Buensuceso—a beautiful hotel receptionist beloved by her community—is consumed by grief that borders on hysteria.
Her casket is brought home by her father, Cito, and her fiancé, Gerry.
Unfortunately, the body inside turns out to be that of a hulking, mean-faced middle aged man. Charm’s feisty mother, Pilar, is outraged.
She leaves for Gapan, Nueva Ecija with Gerry, determined to claim her daughter’s body. They are joined by two men from the local funeral parlor, who ride a hearse carrying the strange man’s coffin. Upon reaching the funeral parlor in Gapan which handled the victims of the accident, Pilar goes ballistic when she is told that Charm’s body has been sent by mistake to Matnog, Sorsogon.
Pilar and her party travel to Matnog, over a thousand kilometers away, down at the southeastern tip of Luzon. It is hometown of Dodong (Salvador Buenviaje), an escaped convict turned killer-for-hire. Charm’s coffin is received by Dodong’s younger brother, Mulong, a witless bum who lives in a remote hillside village where everybody hated Dodong. His drinking buddy, Lucio, convinces him that he could profit from his brother’s death—never mind if it’s not really Dodong’s body in the casket.
An orgy of gambling, drinking, singing and dancing ensues n the remote village while Pilar, Gerry and a hearse carrying Dodong’s body journey through Manila, Laguna, Quezon and much of Bicolandia. Along the way, details emerge about the disparate lives led by two people whose bodies were unwittingly switched.
GIL M. PORTES is one of the leading independent filmmakers in the Philippines. He belongs to a select group of indies who continue to produce and direct films that dramatized social issues about the country. His first film Tiket Mama! Tiket Ale! Sa Linggo ang Bola! Is a fine example of that genre.
He holds an M.A, in Film and TV from the Brooklyn College of the City University of New York and a Diploma in Film from the BBC School of Film & TV as a British Council Fellow.
He has won producing and directing awards from almost all award-giving bodies in the country. A number of his films won awards and were exhibited and hailed in film festivals in North America, South America, Asia and Europe.
He has the distinction of having the most feature films – three – selected as the official Philippine entries to the U.S. Academy Award (OSCARS) competition for Best Foreign Language Film. His 2002 film, Mga Munting Tinig (Small Voices), is the first such Academy Award submission of the Philippines to land U.S. and Canadian distribution deals, and is also the first Filipino film to be distributed by a major Hollywood studio—Warner Brothers Pictures—in the Philippines. His 2003 film, Homecoming, was also distributed in the Philippines by another major Hollywood studio Columbia Pictures and held its international premiere at the Moscow International Film Festival. His two other official Oscar submissions for the Philippines were Gatas sa Dibdib ng Kaaway (In the Bosom of the Enemy) 2001 and Saranggola (The Kite) 1999.