ALL THE SCAM QUEEN’S ALLIES

Film Notes
ALL THE SCAM QUEEN’S ALLIES
by Pablo A. Tariman

There is one thing that will strike you when you watch Adolf Alix, Jr.’s “Whistleblower.”

Nora Aunor and Cherry Pie Picache in "Whistleblower." Brilliant is an understatement.

Nora Aunor and Cherry Pie Picache in “Whistleblower.” Brilliant is an understatement.

The story is over familiar and so are the characters.

But in the film’s closing credits, we are reminded that the characters in the film are fictional.

In this one-hour-fifteen-minute film, the shift of character turns to Nora Aunor as the financial consultant of the scam queen played by Cherry Pie Picache.

The reporter (played superbly by Angelica Panganiban) is an objective witness but is soon shocked that her concern might cost her her own life.

Meanwhile, the NGO employes caught in the crossfire of controversy are scared as hell as they are being led from the comfort of their homes to the NBI protective custody called the safehouse.

Scriptwriter Rody Vera gives us an idea how these small people cope with scenes of mother (Nora Aunor) calling her son (Carlo Aquino) to stay put and not to worry.

But the characters playing employes of the fake NGOs know that they are being made into virtual pawns by the powerful men who helped set up this scam. They know the truth but in the process of saving their families’ lives, the truth has to be selective, names of powerful people should be deleted from their collective memories and so on.

Midway into the movie, you see one of the main protagonists, the reporter (Panganiban) who got to interview the scam queen with an urgent favor asked. But she too is put into a bind and suspects that her editor is recipient of a lucrative pay-off.

Panganiban has her good moments in this film and she connects admirably with the plight of the character of Nora Aunor.

Angelica Panganiban as the concerned reporter in "Whistleblower."  Her character connected very well with that of Nora Aunor.

Angelica Panganiban as the concerned reporter in “Whistleblower.” Her character connected very well with that of Nora Aunor.

As it is, the movie gives us a good portrait of the scam queen (Picache) as human being. The children are spoiled, she has a philandering husband and her employes are virtual slaves reduced to to the regular routine of withdrawing millions from the master’s fat bank accounts. One character says that in the past when her income was just modest, she was generous to a fault. But when the millions started coming, she held on to her money as though her life depended on it. As the story went, she could only afford a salary increase of P200 for employes withdrawing millions from her bank account.

In the senate hearings and in the closed-door meetings, you could see evil in the soul of the public servants played incredibly well by Laurice Guillen and Ricky Davao.

As it is, this is a star-studded movie. All character actors of consequence are in this film from Anita Linda to Vangie Labalan, Liza Lorena, Art Acuna, Sharmaine Arnaiz, Ina Feleo, Vangie Labalan, Dennis Marasigan, Bernardo Bernardo, and Carlo Aquino, among others.

Alas after a glimpse of the characters and what their families are going through, the film is over at one hour and fifteen minutes. After watching the 8-hour Lav Diaz film, this regular feature film looked like an entry in the short film category.

What one can say is that after the MRT and NAIA 3 debacle, the Bangladesh bank heist and the perennial traffic, “Whistleblower” only managed to give us another nauseating slice of the rotten political system in the country.

The characters in the film are deemed fictional but the highlights looked like another news sequence from Channel 2’s TV Patrol and Channel 7’s State of the Nation.

But after all the exposes and a litany of small lives coping with big time power-brokers, you end up yearning for something substantial to wrap up your encounter with the ultimate scam queen and her helpless allies.

Picache carved a hateful but vulnerable portrait of the scam queen, one’s eyes were on Laurice Guillen as her face twitched wickedly to reveal a scheming character.

Indeed, one reason you should see this film is the topnotch acting of Nora Aunor, Cherry Pie Picache, Angelica Panganiban, Ricky Davao and Bernardo Bernardo, among others.

True enough, the painful truth “Whistleblower” says about our public servants is horrible enough to make you skip the coming elections.

There is utter hopelessness in this film as it ends with the news reporter ( Panganiban) crying out in disgust for the subject she thought she could help but couldn’t.

The film reveals a lot that we already know from just reading the newspapers and following the evening news on television.

One expected some kind of catharsis or illumination to follow after being numbed to death by these shocking man-made scams.

The film characters as whistleblowers complete with bulletproof vests. The state of the nation as stable of scared  whistleblowers.

The film characters as whistleblowers complete with bulletproof vests. The state of the nation as stable of scared whistleblowers.

But none came and here we are almost given the go-signal to ignore the coming elections as they are most likely another instrument with which future scams will follow.

The film has its share of shock value but it doesn’t guide us how to right the obvious wrong.

We are told that this government sucks and it will most likely continue to be such after the elections.

Rightly or wrongly, Alix’s film is an indictment of our democratic processes.

Sadly, it doesn’t give us a glimpse of any hope for the future.

“Whistleblower” is now showing in cinemas.

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