January 12, 2011

Accolade for Limbunan has released its list of ten best films that were screened in Manila last year. Its resident critic Philbert Dy noted that "2010 was kind of a strange year in film. Hollywood’s blockbuster output seemed lackluster, with only a few choice names crafting films worth remembering. It was a "relatively strong year for local output, each of the major festivals (including, shockingly, the MMFF) producing at least one film that will undoubtedly gain a place in the pantheon of great Filipino films." But even more exciting are the films that are truly independent, made without the guidance or the help of any of the local grant programs.

How to Train Your Dragon (Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders)
9. Inception (Christopher Nolan)
8. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Edgar Wright)
7. Limbunan (Gutierrez Mangansakan II)

6. Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich)
5. RPG: Metanoia (Louie Suarez)
4. Ang Damgo ni Eleuteria (Remton Zuasola)
3. The Social Network (David Fincher)
2. Senior Year (Jerrold Tarog)
1. Kano (Monster Jimenez)

Dy wrote a
review of Limbunan in July. By including it in his list of the year's best, he explains:

"Limbunan moves gracefully. Just as gracefully as the women it portrays, who silently bear the ritualized oppression of culture and norms even as the rest of society moves forward. It is quietly powerful, painting a clear picture of a tradition without resorting to easy judgment."

January 11, 2011

Talents to watch in 2011

Spot.PH has come up with the top ten Filipino talents to watch in 2011. Guess who's one of them. Moi.

Ria Limjap wrote:

"I love the way Teng Mangansakan’s lovely Limbunan was the breakout star at Cinemalaya 2010, and how it was overlooked at the local festival and then suddenly swept off into the prestigious Venice International Film Festival (Limbunan was the first Filipino film to be invited to the International Critics Week section, mind you). I’m always happy to see a Filipino film find appreciation in the international scene, and I was doubly glad to see a Moro filmmaker take his film around the world and show the beauty of Mindanao’s landscape and culture. A lot of exciting things are coming from regional cinema and I am particularly looking forward to this filmmaker’s new work."

January 7, 2011

Travis Bickle heads Cannes 2011 jury

Travis Bickle will head the jury of the 64th Cannes Film Festival from May 11th to 22th 2011.

By inviting Bickle (Robert de Niro Jr. in real life) to preside the jury, the organizers also want to pay  tribute to the co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2011. 
"As co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival and the Doha Tribeca Film Festival I have an increased appreciation for the jury, who serve, undertaking an important role in choosing films that are represented in the world of film at its highest level, and these types of festivals help connect the international film community and have a lasting cultural impact," de Niro said. 

He came to Cannes for eight of his films, two of which won Palme d’Or: Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver, in 1976, and ten years later, The Mission directed by Roland Joffe.

January 5, 2011

I'm still here.

I resolve to watch more films in 2011. I begin this year's movie watching with Casey Affleck's I'm Still Here, starring Joaquin Phoenix.

The film chronicles a year in the life of Joaquin Phoenix who commits career suicide by announcing that he is “retiring” from acting, while at the top of his game, to become a hip-hop star. He shuts himself off from the protection and better judgment of his agent, manager and publicist, and sets out on a jaw-dropping journey into a decadent frenzy of sex, drugs and outrageousness, as he tries desperately to break away from his old celebrity persona to develop his rap career. Mired in self-doubt and harsh criticism from the media, he struggles to find his identity.

The film raised a lot of controversy from the very start. When Phoenix announced that he was quitting the screen, some were quick to speculate that it was just a publicity stunt, a hoax since he was always seen with Affleck with a retinue of  production members filming his transition to hip-hop stardom. Controversy intensified when the film premiered at the 67th Venice International Film Festival with Affleck and Phoenix declaring that it is not a documentary, stirring the debate regarding the rise of questionable documentaries

The film starts with a very quiet opening sequence which becomes a harrowing experience as Phoenix slowly and steadily turns into a neurotic mess, desperately trying to navigate the spectrum of his creative abilities in the full glare of the media, being an object of ridicule in the process, failing from one point to another.  It is tiring as it is disturbing. But in the end it makes you realize that transformation is not easy, for celebrities and ordinary people alike. Only those who endure can win.

I'm Still Here is a film skillfully crafted by Affleck which makes the audience believe for two hours that what they are seeing is real. More than that, it demonstrates Phoenix's great acting ability. His performance of a tormented, miserable actor who has to confront the demands of both craft and business -having been introduced to showbiz as a child and losing his brother River in and to it– through the years have increasingly pushed him to the edge. 

January 3, 2011


Dear Kirby,

I read the Facebook status which you posted during the New Year about how surprised you were to find out that your great grandfather, Datu Udtog Matalam Sr., was born on January 1st 1901. I saw the photo above in your account (with your great grandfather seated at the left) which I took the liberty to post here. I hope you don't mind. I could not ignore a comment from your cousin saying that it was her first time to see your great grandfather, at least even in a photograph.

I am sorry that you didn't have the opportunity to be with him. You were only a baby when your great grandfather -my grandfather— died almost three decades ago. I was six years old then. I didn't have any clue who he was, or what he was that time. I didn't know he was a war hero. I had no idea that he was the governor of the undivided Cotabato Empire from 1946 to 1949, and from 1955 to 1968. Nor was I aware that he founded the Muslim Independence Movement which propelled the Bangsamoro people to fight for their right to determine their destiny. I guess by now you have read books that have cited his life and career by scholars like Thomas McKenna, Patricio Abinales, Alfred McCoy, Patricio Diaz, and others. Do not believe everything they have said. Keep your mind open because whatever truths that lie beneath their books barely reveal the real person. 

For most people, your great grandfather was the Datu. For me, he was plain old ‘Ama.’

What I remember most was on Fridays I would always join him during prayer in the mosque. Clutching his hand, I would walk closely behind him to the front row. Sometimes your uncle Bimby and Pipo would be there too. Your uncle Pipo and I would look each other in the eye and giggle when the congregation chorused, "Ameen." I don't know why. After prayer there would be kanduli but it didn't fascinate me as much as your uncle Bimby. That is why Ama fondly called him ‘pandita.’ The idle afternoons would be spent taking turns sitting on his lap.

Ama was loving as he was strict. He spoiled his children; my mother was his favorite. Among his last wishes was that she be buried beside him. How morbid! He had the tendency to be feudal, but never cruel. He ordered that your aunt Baicoco keep her hair long, which she does to this day. The women in the family cannot marry non-Muslims, an order only the stubborn few dared to violate. Back then he would not allow us to play with the servants' children so it was always me and my siblings and my cousins. There were times though that we were able to play with the servants' children, when he was not around, on condition that we would always win the game no matter what. 

Then he suffered a stroke that paralyzed him. He was in the hospital in Davao for some time before the family decided to transfer him to his house in Matina, then months later, to the red house in Pagalungan. I was already studying in JASMS that time. We would regularly come home to visit him.

During his last days, whenever he saw us, a tear would fall from his eyes. Perhaps it broke his heart to accept the fact that he would never see us grow and become what we are now. If he were alive today, I know he would be proud of what you have become. A lawyer. The first in the family.

In the end we owe something to him. More than the illustrious name that we inherited, we should be constantly reminded to love our people. To love one other. To be a good Muslim in the ways that we know. I know it is hard. Day by day our lives drift apart because of ambition and the selfish desire for power. But we should keep trying. 

Best Regards,
Your Uncle Teng

January 2, 2011

Tarsila project

My mother and I are embarking on a project: To update our family tree. Over dinner we discussed certain guidelines. First the genealogy will only go back as far as my great great grandparents, which means the project will trace the family tree from the late 1800s. In case there are contentions, varying opinions shall be recorded and will be validated in the appropriate time.  This project will in no way supplant existing genealogical records.

This is an ambitious project, one that is bound to be controversial and touchy. Several years ago my uncle’s Christian wife, wanting to know more about the family she married into, started making a similar project. My late maternal grand aunt, Bai Masunding, advised her that there were things better left unwritten. She defended her research by saying that she only wanted her children to know their roots. Bai Masunding made a stern warning, “Stop lest you be struck by lightning.”

The heart of royal genealogies is to prove descent from Shariff Kabunsuan, the nobleman from Johore who came to Mindanao in the early 1500s credited for the spread of Islam in the island and the establishment of the sultanates. He is believed to be a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Nobility is, thus, based on this connection to the Prophet. 

Genealogical records or tarsila, particularly those with credible information, end in the late 1800s. This project is going to take up where the earlier chroniclers left off. So excuse me while I wear my anti-lightning helmet lest I be reduced to a heap of blackened bones. 

January 1, 2011

Top ten Filipino films of 2010

Filipino critic and blogger Francis Cruz included my film Limbunan in his list of the top Filipino films of 2010.

his review of the film last July, Cruz wrote:

"Mangansakan tells the story of the land and its people via the pains of the women... Despite touching these themes of repression and denial of self-actualization via the requirements of cultural identity and for all the seeming obsolescence of these restrictive traditions in a present age where democracy is preferred, freedoms are valued and gender equality is emphasized, Mangansakan admirably takes a non-judgmental stance. In fact, he grants the ritual and all the reasons and rationalities for its continued existence due respect and reverence. Moreover, he meticulously recreates a setting where cultural details, from the patterns in the cloths to the singing duels prior to the wedding proper, are preserved. Limbunan, in all its stylized storytelling and its undeniable splendor, is most importantly, a very personal ode to his often misunderstood and misrepresented cultural roots."