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Mama Says Mercy

Discovering ‘Ang Nawawala’

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Lately you might have heard about Marie Jamora’s debut film “Ang Nawawala,” from relentless musikero retweeters and Facebook sharers, from the boys on 89.9 if you’re on the road, or maybe even from Dawn Zulueta on “ASAP” talking about her latest indie film role.

A lot of what you’ll read will offer you great, meaty reviews—but with no introductions. For a film like this, people might just need one; its cast, crew, soundtrack, are a close-knit group of friends, and friends of friends, who gather around live music and tiny studios that might seem like another world right under our noses.

“Rakenrol,” created by Marie’s close friend Quark Henares, screened in last year’s Cinemalaya, is also a music-venerating film that led me to realize how much fuller an experience it was to have known some of the people in the film, and why they were there in the first place. It’s like approaching a film about Andy Warhol’s Factory, a cool, relatively influential scene you’ve only read about, and in everyone’s “two degrees of separation” mindset, they often assume you’re in it too. Sure, you can read about them in local culture magazines, and catch them at an alcohol-sponsored rock festival—but to see the big picture, that is, to see why this film they made about themselves is a great effort, might require a little background story.

So if you can’t find Saguijo on the map, which is to say, where films like “Rakenrol” and “Ang Nawawala” are based—then for all the coming-of-age high schooler misfits and the titos reading this column, let me walk you through it with wallflower-colored lenses.

Marie Jamora

I first came across Marie when I was drunk at a gig. I went up to her and told her she was the coolest person to have ever come out of my otherwise straight-laced high school. She looked perplexed. I went up to her without shame and left with it.

Marie Jamora, the director and creator of “Ang Nawawala,” is one of the local scene’s bigger guns. Like many an indie “raket”-teer, she’s had her share of consumer goods commercials and network shows to get by, but what she really does is more interesting. After she directed a tight shelf of music videos, you just have to hand it to her when she gets Edu Manzano walking slo-mo into a warehouse with revolvers in both hands, killing off members of the local band Sandwich.

Now she’s managed a full-length feature film. Ten years after her college screenwriting class, “Ang Nawawala” is finally showing in this year’s Cinemalaya Film Festival.

‘Ang Nawawala’

The story moves around a teenager, Gibson Bonifacio, who was left “mute” by post-traumatic stress, and comes home after three years of studies abroad. In the process of readjustment, he relives familial tensions. He explores the local indie music scene and becomes infatuated with Enid, probably a namesake of cult icon from “Ghostworld.”

The trailer tells us this much, and the spoiler police will catch me if I say more. (I am also too excited to see it this weekend to spoil it for myself.)

The voyeuristic promise of this film—discovering when the lead character discovers, combined with the “only in the movies” draw, is hard to ignore. Being sheltered, introverted, and a late bloomer, I have always wanted to demystify rock-and-roll by living it—of course, I could only do so through characters like Gibson, Carl from “The Boat that Rocked,” and William from “Almost Famous” (if I saw it not last night, but at 13 when I really could have used a little bit of cool).
Back then, I was sure that if I played in a band popular for not wearing bras, a record label would have picked up our low-angle band photographs and forgave many of our “MTV Most Wanted” influences. Of course, it would never happen.

So in my 20s, when I started getting writing assignments that had me interview people in this scene, I was completely wide-eyed. As Lou Reed sang, “hey babe, take a walk on the wild side.”

Having Marie Jamora’s film around music allows me to see what being “that kid” would have been like. That kid who could fix a guitar, stay cool without being popular, and fall in love with live music playing in the background. A possible world for the selves we weren’t quite—isn’t that why we love watching films like this?

The local indie music scene

If the local indie scene were an elephant, the rest of its massive but under-the-radar eksenitas is beyond my scope. I’m only talking about the “Ang Nawawala” scene, and I’m barely scratching the surface.
Here are a few things I’ve observed. 1) They won’t pose for a street fashion blog. 2) They won’t ever walk their wallets out to a club full of bub. 3) They usually make great work so one and two don’t matter to them. And in many cases, 4) I don’t know them enough at all.

My jumping into this scene is much like getting on a treadmill belt when it’s in jogging mode. In a way, it’s like William Miller getting dragged along to the Stillwater tour, where music journalist Lester Bangs tells him, “They make you feel cool. And hey, I met you. You are not cool.”

Music scenes are enigmatic. With talent as filters, they belong to a few. They require a set of shared references and terms. This scene knows its forefathers, it knows everybody’s influences. But then, if you can find a gig poster, show up, pay the door charge to longtime Saguijo doorman Kuya Pete, and head bob to bands in the small institution where bands of different genres and followings take over night after night. There’s nothing to stop you from discovering this scene. Sandwich, Pedicab, Blast Ople, Ciudad. Huwag kang matakot, rakrakan lang ‘yan.

No, a thousand words aren’t really enough to explain it. If anything I hope to at least have alerted you to the “scene” and to a character in the film. That, I believe, I have done.


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