Review: “Felix Manalo”
DENNIS TRILLO SUCCEEDS IN RELIVING 76 YEARS OF A RELIGIOUS LIFE
by Pablo A. Tariman
The religious odyssey of Felix Manalo – the founder of Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) — is chronicled in a three-hour film directed by Joel Lamangan.
Its premiere night at the Philippine Arena (reportedly the world’s biggest) also made history when it broke the current Guinness world records for largest audience for a film screening and largest audience at a film premiere.
Easily the most outstanding features of the film are the cinematography of Rody Lacap, the superb production design of Edgar Martin Littaua, Joel Marcelo Bilbao and Daniel Red captured in sepia color in various hues and the musical scoring of Von de Guzman which captured the epic elements of the film.
The cameo roles of various actors – they portrayed the relatives, friends associates of the INC founder – gave the film a massive, if, historic appeal and thanks to a very cohesive direction of Joel Lamangan, they blended superbly in the story without the least awkward moment of their individual appeal sticking out in the film.
As it is, the film recalled the life and times of the INC founder from his birth in Tipas, Taguig in 1886 to his untimely death in 1963.
The premiere night crowd connected very well with the courtship phase of Manalo (played by Dennis Trillo) and future wife Honorata de Guzman portrayed with some sensitivity by Bela Padilla.
Like it or not, the film has its idyllic romantic moments (“kilig” to the showbiz crowd) and they added to the very human, if, composite portrait of the INC founder.
Viewed by over 43,000 people during the premiere night, the audience reactions over specific scenes in the film were indeed hair-raising.
One has never watched a premiere night of this magnitude and on a 120-meter by 40-meter screen and the reactions indeed gave the film an undeniably awesome resonance.
With a screen this big, good acting is at once magnified and it is easy to see how actors made a big moment out of those screen appearances some of which didn’t last a minute.
Great acting was what Elizabeth Oropesa delineated as Cianang and so did the Lilia of Alice Dixson, the Avelina Manalo of Gladys Reyes, the Teofilo Ramos of Joel Torre, the Quintin Rivera of Bembol Roco and yes, and the Bonifacia Manalo of Mylene Dizon.
As for the film narrative, it was of course expected that it will dwell a lot on Bible readings and how the INC founder connected deeply with the intricacies of the Holy Bible.
Baptized as Roman Catholic, Manalo turned to the Methodist Episcopal Church, entered the seminary and became a pastor at one phase of his life. For a while, he turned to the Seventh-Day Adventist and left it due to some doctrines he found untenable to his Bible findings.
With his close study of the Bible and what he finds contradictory as to how they are practiced by existing religions, the young Manalo further closeted himself and made what to him amounted to astounding discoveries on what the Bible preached and didn’t.
What followed was the birth of the INC in its early stages into what it is today.
To a non-religious, those Bible reading scenes would seem too tedious for comfort but as one reflected on their significance, you can see a man tied to his Bible and a man willing to fight for what he believed in.
On the whole, Dennis Trillo made such an impact he actually brought back to life the man’s religious odyssey some phases of which did look complicated as it is.
From the early stages of the life of Felix Manalo to his dying moments, Trillo was surprisingly brilliant he actually portrayed the man inside and out. He was even more astounding as an ensemble actor connecting with his future wife and the various personages involved in his coming of age as husband and servant of God.
Director Lamangan’s cohesive direction was a big unifying element.
As it is, “Felix Manalo” is your guide to the man and his faith and why he was loved by millions.
One will not be surprised if the film attracts more converts to the denomination.
But for a cineaste looking in, “Felix Manalo” is a solid reference the man and his faith. One need not be a convert to realize what he fought for all in the name of the Holy Bible.
“Felix Manalo” opens October 7 in 300 theaters.