Rakenrol. Say it out loud and all it is is the Filipino spelling of the music that continues to influence generations. For the protagonists in Quark Henares’ film of that title, it’s their reason for living, loving, and dreaming. And yes, anti-fairy tales of bands coming together, struggling, and inevitably breaking up seem to be an easy way out in coming up with a hip and youthful plot for a movie or TV show. But you have yet to see such a sentimental ode to Filipino rock music over the years in a film, until you’ve seen Rakenrol. Filled with an eccentric mix of characters, celebrity appearances, all types of humor, love stories, and of course, an awesome soundtrack, Rakenrol is a different kind of modern musical dramedy.
You can likely play Six Degrees of Separation from Kevin Bacon, but can you play Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay? Probably not, because you are likely unfamiliar with the name Lilia Cuntapay, as are the interviewees in the opening of Antoinette Jadaone’s mockumentary. However, you may recognize her if you see her face—one that is toothless and fright-inducing—or if someone named off a Filipino horror movie and which small role she played in it, which is usually a witch or some variation of “old woman.” The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ (YBCA) New Filipino Cinema program presented the U.S. premiere of Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay to a delighted audience on June 9th, where program co-curator Philbert Ortiz Dy introduced the film as one where “fiction invades truth.” Though it may be difficult for the casual viewer to separate the facts from the faux facts in this highly comedic but bittersweet film, it can be agreed upon that Six Degrees is a fascinating exploration of celebrity status and its pitfalls.
Filmmaking is emerging as a dominant form of art and expression in the Philippines, and Bay Area audiences will soon have a first-hand opportunity to see for themselves just how strong and diverse it is. The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) presents New Filipino Cinema, from June 7-10 and June 17. The comprehensive showcase will feature 29 films—narratives, documentaries, and experiential shorts—many of them as U.S. premieres.
“There’s an incredible resurgence of talent and energy in independent cinema in the Philippines right now that is not really known internationally,” said Joel Shepard, YBCA’s Film/Video Curator. Shepard co-curated the program with Philbert Ortiz Dy, the film critic for Clickthecity.com and writer-at-large for Esquire Philippines. “It’s an amazing renaissance that I really wanted to celebrate and bring to the U.S.” Shepard took four trips to the country in the past two years to meet with filmmakers, critics, and production staff and watched over a hundred films in preparation for this program before narrowing it down to the final titles.