Two deadly enemies representing two antipodal forces of Philippine society—the soldier and the communist rebel—are brought together and somehow reconciled ironically through a teenager representing rebellion and defiance.
This is the subject of Gil Portes’ latest film, “Ang Tag-araw ni Twinkle,” which will be screened this September during the Sineng Pambansa All Masters Edition festival, which is organized by Briccio Santos and the Film Development Council of the Philippines.
In the movie, retired army general Cenon (Cris Villanueva) and former communist rebel Ruben (Arnold Reyes) find themselves brought together again in the battlefield by drug-addicted teenager Twinkle (Ellen Adarna), Cenon’s daughter who finds out that she’s adopted.
Back when he was in active service, Cenon took under his care an infant whose mother had been shot down by the military during hostilities with the rebels. He named her Twinkle and raised the child as his own.
Eighteen years later, Twinkle has become a drug addict and someone has come forward claiming that he’s her real father; he wants to assert his paternity and parenthood before he dies of cancer. As a result, two men confront each other in a hostile territory that’s vastly different from the one where they have squared off before, but just as deadly.
Portes takes on a familiar subject of domestic conflict but situates it in a larger geopolitical context of contending political, social and emotional loyalties.
The polarities inherent in the problematic of the movie may lend themselves to sensationalism. It takes discipline to apply restraint, and Portes shows his mastery, so that the movie avoids the usual melodramatic route that stories like Twinkle’s often take.
In an interview with Inquirer, Portes said he wanted to tell a family movie about two fathers. Just like the titular character, he admitted that he was not close to his father until the latter’s dying days.
Portes said he had long harbored in his consciousness the imaginary story of a military general who finds an infant during a clash with communist insurgents. He said he asked writer Eric Ramos, his collaborator in the black comedy, “Two Funerals,” to flesh out the idea.
The result is a family film that admittedly is not your average Hallmark movie. In tackling the topic of the Filipino military officer as a father, Portes appears to provide a sociocultural criticism of how a regime of domestic discipline could ironically produce children who are undisciplined and prone to vicious habits such as drug addiction.
But there’s more to the movie than its portrait of disappointed parents: It shows how humanity inevitably can bridge the divisions wrought by the generations and ideologies.
Due to the complexity of the subject matter and the necessity of squeezing in everything in a one-and-a-half-hour feature film, some scenes have been condensed so that certain transitions may have become awkward. But Portes delivers through the economy of his narrative.
Portes said more than through dialogue and acting, he tried to paint the narrative visually.
He said that one particular sequence had to be shot in four different locations.
“We really did a meticulous location-hunting,” he said. “I want to present a visual film. I don’t want it to be just people talking. That would be boring.”
Adarna may be a little-known actress, but she fits the role of the junkie and has strong presence. What weighs her down is her occasional lack of spirit and the sometimes monotone delivery of her lines. But by and large, she shows promise in the movie.
Portes did not think twice of casting Villanueva and Reyes to play the roles of the two fathers. Reyes apparently took his role very seriously, so he lost weight severely in order to portray convincingly the role of an emaciated and terminally ill communist fugitive.
Villanueva, meanwhile, portrays a different character from his role in “Liars,” another Portes film that was one of the notable finalists in the last Cinemalaya festival. This time he plays it coolly, evading the histrionics required of method acting, and delivers a performance that is the result of many years of self-discipline.
Rina Reyes, who plays the distressed mother, offers an equally convincing performance that is both heart-tugging and humorous.
Other veteran directors who will showcase their works in the Sineng Pambansa festival are Elwood Perez, Romy Suzara, Jun Urbano, Maryo J. de los Reyes, Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes, Mel Chionglo, Chito Roño, Tikoy Aguiluz, Joel Lamangan, Carlos Siguion-Reyna and José Javier Reyes.
“Ang Tag-araw ni Twinkle” will have a gala premiere on Sept. 6 at SM Megamall. It will have a one-week run on Sept. 11-17 at SM Cinemas nationwide.