The latest film of director Louie Ignacio, billed as Papa Mascot, is not about the Philippines’ most favorite bee that spawned fast food chains all over the planet. With a screenplay written by Ralston Jover, produced by Wide, it makes you angry and affirmative on the equal parts of bafflement and heaviness.
This contemporary drama gives not only a voice but a vision of the sorrowful state of informal settlers and how they become victims of lawlessness and injustice. It also shows how the affluent, new moneyed, and well-connected, get the indulgence of lady justice.
Flickering on the silver screen, many scenes are puzzling and confusing and appear to be inspired by tabloid news programs. The resolution of the plot is also abrupt and leaves the viewer feeling perplexed.
The most outstanding aspect of the film is the sterling performances of the trio con brio composed of Ken Chan, the child wow wonder that is Erin Espiritu, and the why is she always damn good Miles Ocampo.
As the motion picture’s protagonist and antagonist, Chan challenges himself by fully fleshing out his character – facial hair, greasy and sweaty, dirty clothes, cigarette puffing, curses, and even fist fights. Emotionally, his Nico is the perfect combination of saint and sinner, oppressed and aggressor, with the lunacy that not only lurks at the corner but consumes and makes his obsession dangerous.
The young actress who steals her scenes without employing the tired and tested cutesy and playing crybaby to the peanut gallery, Erin is all heart and sincerity. She is a wow! Just wow! A premium example of the no-acting kind of acting with her delivered lines – with mature emotions as if she has been acting forever.
It still comes as a pleasant surprise to watch Miles as Irish as she showcases the truth that there is no such thing as a small part and limited screen time, and a role makes a mark when you invest brilliance and honesty.
Proof of this is the acting duel with Chan that proclaims the units and objectives of the two and the emotional commitment to their respective characters are on point.
Another truly impressive part of this motion picture is the black-and-white flashback sequences. It must be director Ignacio’s homage to the films of Lino Brocka specifically those that presented the lives of the downtrodden. The black and white flashback titillates the senses and as an spectator, the stench and squalor, the mayhem and misery, the dog eat dog world, make the hearts scream, “tama nana, sobra na, ayoko na!”
Adding another layer of greatness to this part are Sue Prado and the legend Joe Gruta.
The rich getting away with anything and everything is the most immoral take home from Papa Mascot. And that is where the heaviness comes in. That a poor man like Nico, who strives to get a piece of happiness, is robbed by the people who are supposed to protect and serve, is the grimmest of reality, and it wrecks a massive portion of your heart. That hell is other people, a quote credited to Friedrich Nietzsche, is for real and not just words, and the only means to shake or even defeat the societal status quo is with, as commanded by Russel Crowe in The Gladiator, “At my signal, unleash hell!” is both biblical and end of days realness.
Papa Mascot on cinemas this April 26, with an R-13 rating from the MTRCB.