LOWER DEPTHS

Film Notes
LOWER DEPTHS
By Pablo A. Tariman

Watching Joel Lamangan’s “Bhoy Intsik” is like looking into a typical DSW social case study report and reliving all the personas involved.

Raymond Francisco as the gay con man in a cemetery scene from “Bhoy Intsik.” A deeply felt portrayal.

It isn’t a gratifying subject because it involved two felons with contrasting characters and different backgrounds. One is a gay ex-husband whose only child was electrocuted while he was flirting with a lover and the other is an abandoned orphan who has learned to live by the skin of his teeth, so to speak.

When they meet, screenwriter Ronald Carballo provides the milieu in which they cope and manage and love beyond the call of flesh.

Probably one of the timeliest and the most powerful entry in the recently concluded Sinag Maynila film festival is “Bhoy Intsik” aided in a large measure by a riveting story and screenplay by Carballo.

Opening with a bird’s eye view of the Cavite public cemetery, “Bhoy Intsik” grows on the viewer like a social time bomb waiting to explode with distressing story of how small people cope with poverty. They are into small-time gambling, they are into selling internal organs and they offer young bodies to the well-off who want a good time on their natal day.

Raymond Francisco with his Sinag Maynila Best Actor trophy. His hard work paid off.

These are the disconcerting scenarios awaiting the characters of lead actors Raymond Francisco as the gay con man and Ronwaldo Martin as the young vagabond.

With a well-written screenplay, the film is at once engrossing with razor-sharp ensemble acting between two felons superbly played by Raymond Francisco and Ronwaldo Martin.

You know you are with stage actors as you notice the superb ensemble acting of the supporting cast namely Tony Mabesa (as the pastor), Jim Pebanco (the gay character who likes to call himself Digang de Lima),Shyr Valdez (as the ex-wife) and Elora Espano (Martin’s lover), among others.

Director Lamangan hewed closely to the powerful story by avoiding unnecessary musical scoring and used quiet moments to speak for themselves. The result is a poignant film re-exploring age-old social problems minus the hysteria.

Alas, the film is as timely as PNP’s Operation Tokhang with a concluding scene that highlights the brutal senselessness of extrajudicial killing. One character listens to the TV news clip with the President underscoring his anti-drug war. With a sense of detachment, he turns off the TV set and decides he will live his life the way he wants it.

Like it or not, “Bhoy Intsik” is contemporary sociology as it zeroes in on true-to-life characters doomed to live in the country’s Lower Depths.

It brought out the best of Francisco as the gay con man and the most compelling side of Martin as a natural supporting actor.

Surely, one would count “Bhoy Intsik” as one of Director Lamangan’s best output.

The cast of “Bhoy Intsik.” Commendable ensemble acting.

Happily, the film won the top grosser box office award and the well-deserved best actor trophy for Francisco who shared the award with Kristoffer King (for “Kristo”).

On the whole, the awards meant the audiences easily connected with the story of “Bhoy Intsik” enough to give it a well-deserved audience patronage.

Other Sinag Maynila entries worth watching (if there is a repeat screening) are “Hango” (Best Documentary), “Aliens Ata (Best Short Film), “Beyond The Block” (SM People’s Choice Award) and “Tu Pug Imatuy” (Best Picture).

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