I can’t believe I am writing about “Ang Nawawala” again. It’s not because I feel like I have spoken about this film more than brand ambassadors do ice cream (I actually have) but because “Ang Nawawala” is finally having its run at mainstream theaters beginning Sept. 12.
After winning the Audience Choice Awards at this year’s Cinemalaya film festival, director Marie Jamora and the gang have managed to sock it up to an industry where independent films play second fiddle until they fade out before they hit the cinemas. “We always had the idea that we are going to make it ourselves,” Marie explains, always getting the response of “we love the film—no offers” from big studios. Using social media and putting local bands on the soundtrack were some of the ways that brought them to mainstream projectors, but it is also as Mikey Amistoso of Ciudad (who scored the film alongside Jazz Nicolas and Diego Mapa) says, “hard work and luck.” Marie nods.
Twenty-year old Gibson Bonifacio comes back from studying abroad after three years to be with his family over the Christmas season. He comes home to familial tensions taut and delicate as fairy lights rounding a Christmas tree. Gibson hasn’t spoken in ten years, and being in close quarters with his family, the silence magnifies how much needs to be said. Meanwhile, he falls in love, for the first time, with a “manic pixie dream girl” named Enid, and in the cradling arms of the local music scene he bobbles around the affects of love that some of us can be so unexpectedly occupied. While family and love hover over Gibson and he finds a way out or back in, we discover a story that makes for one of the most memorable coming-of-age stories to come out of the local independent film pool.
Friends who have seen the film find the characters in themselves and other people. Director Marie Jamora, with the help of Ramon de Veyra, have written these characters in such a way that people can find Gibson in themselves, or if they’re a bit luckier, they’ll find Enid. The constant referencing got to the point where I asked Annicka Dolonius, who played Enid—“so how much of Enid is there in you?”
“She’s like me drunk, but sober,” Annicka explains about Enid, surprisingly forgiving, perhaps because outside the boundaries of film, some people have actually mistaken her for her character. “I’m much more idiotic than Enid.”
I looked at Dominic Roco, who played Gibson, and wondered how much like Gibson is he? Later on, he does a thumbs-up and I gasp at the Gibson move. “Dude,” I say, surprised. “You do that in real life?”
But this is ultimately a film made by people who live and breathe music—and music is one of its most important characters. Marie Jamora said to Diego Mapa: “Do something you can’t do with your clients.” This labor of love brought back the three scorers the award of Best Original Music Score in this year’s Cinemalaya.
“Wildest sa Meiday,” explains Dominic, of one of the bigger music parties that local bands come together and play for, where some parts of the film were shot. “Parangakongnagswimmingsapawisko.”
“Any other film made here will always bank on something familiar,” Buboy Garovillo ponders, playing Gibson’s father (Dawn Zulueta plays his mother). He explains that the film had a “soundtrack that did not rely on any hit. After you’ve seen it, ganda. Seamless.” Other than being amused by the APO Hiking Society song that found its way into Gibson’s vinyl player, he felt particularly drawn to the soundtrack. “I realized the connection,” he tells me, of the film’s spirit. “When we were a band, that was our music, and it’s the same as the bands today. When we went mainstream, our sounds changed.”
And while for some the eccentricities of the world seen by Jamora can seem to some a little ridiculous, these still stay true to their upbringing and their lives. “Why am I wearing a bowtie?” Buboy Garovillo ponders. “Can this family actually exist? To a certain extent, yeah, there are families like this.”
Marie Jamora explains that she wanted the film to be “sincere and authentic, not trying to say a sweeping statement about life and class.” These are just stories she’s been collecting for years, and while Gibson’s experience is not hers, in many ways, this film is her life.
As Kelvin Yu, who plays Gibson’s friend, and who in real life plays bass for the band Itchyworms, says before a drumroll cue, “sanaAngNawawalahindimawawala.”
Follow them on Twitter @angnawawala for Twitter contests, movie schedules, and high fives.