‘Babagwa’: Internet scam gone terribly wrongBy Lester G. Babiera
Philippine Daily Inquirer
There is no safe place in the world. Not even in the online world.
Jason Paul Laxamana’s “Babagwa” tells the story of Greg (Alex Medina) who uses a fake Facebook account—“Bam Bonifacio” (Kiko Matos)—in an Internet confidence scam. He befriends random people online, whether male or a female, and makes them fall in love with him. When he gets the trust of his victim, he’ll ask for a big loan and when the money is delivered, he burns the connection.
This modus operandi is the creation of Greg’s talent manager, Marney (Joey Paras). He administers the account of Bonifacio and makes sure that the operation goes smoothly while Greg acts and talks to their potential victims as Bonifacio.
But having problems with his girlfriend and unsatisfied with the payment he gets from the illegal operations, Greg finds himself getting cozy with his new prospect, Daisy (Alma Concepcion).
But is Daisy for real?
“Babagwa” talks about the hazards of the online community where the world has become smaller and access to people’s lives has become easier. It tackles deceit, love and lust in the virtual arena.
The film also focuses on what appears as the inherent unstable situation of people who easily take to social networking. Set in Pampanga, the film effectively discusses the motives of these people that lead them to come up with the elaborate scheme of creating a bogus account, inventing stories and changing phone numbers, as seen from the lives of Greg and Marney.
On the one hand, Greg, a frustrated model and actor, is confronted with pressure from his girlfriend who nags him to take her to Palawan, a trip he can’t afford.
On the other hand, Marney is having problems with his family since the local government plans to demolish their house.
Tough Greg succumbs to his emotions and confides to Daisy, making the big mistake of falling in love with his victim. The film shows that even in the virtual world, human emotions seep through, so that one person shares his feelings with a stranger at the other end of the web space, resulting in disaster.
Marney is quite an interesting character. He is a talent manager who has lost much ground in the cutthroat entertainment industry and also a makeup artist who only gets a few gigs. Under pressure, he resorts to online scamming.
As Marney, Paras delivers a superb performance. Viewers can see his obsession as a scammer to hit it big and to continue the illicit job despite the dangers, the mishaps, and the twisted personal relationships.
Laxamana’s second full-length feature, however, could be trimmed down. The film could stand whole even if some parts were deleted: To be sure, there are excessive sex scenes which may really be unnecessary and the suspension of the twist takes too long. Nevertheless, the successes overshadow the problems.
“Babagwa” is one of the interesting films in the New Breed category of the recently concluded Cinemalaya Film Festival. It garnered Paras the Best Supporting Actor award.
The film will compete in the 29th Warsaw Film Festival, the Dragons & Tigers Award for Young Cinema at the Vancouver International Film Festival, and the Halekulani Golden Orchid for Best Narrative award at the Hawaii International Film Festival.
It will be also be screened in selected cinemas in the Philippines starting Sept. 18.