<script async src="//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js"></script> <!-- Showbiz Portal Bottom 1 300x250, created 10/15/10 --> <ins class="adsbygoogle" style="display:inline-block;width:300px;height:250px" data-ad-client="ca-pub-1272644781333770" data-ad-slot="2530175011"></ins> <script> (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); </script>
Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Aug 11, 2016

Tuos Movie Review: An Art Film Well Acted By Nora Aunor And Barbie Forteza

JUST LIKE ‘Kusina’ of Judy Ann Santos which comes out as a filmed play, Nora Aunor’s “Tuos” is also an art film that will cater to a limited and special audience of serious film aficionados. It’s likewise told in a stylized manner, combining live action with animation and shadow play. Written by Denise O’Hara and directed by Derick Cabrido (“Children’s Show”), “Tuos” is about an ancient tribe deep in the hinterlands of Panay (not specified whether it’s Antique or Iloilo) where a “binukot” princess is chosen to be the keeper of their tribe’s chants and dances. She’s like a nun who has taken a special vow and serves as the sacrificial offering who protects the tranquil life of their people from an evil spirit with whom their ancestors made a “tuos” or pact several generations ago.

The current princess, Pinailog (Nora Aunor), is now old and she is grooming her granddaughter, Dowokan (Barbie Forteza), to be her heir apparent. Both of them are treated like royalty, patiently served by the respective ladies in waiting assigned to them, Mayhoran (Flor Salanga) for Pinailog and Anggoran (Elora Espano) for Dowokan.

The conflict is in Dowokan’s resistance in following her grandmother’s footsteps. She doesn’t believe in the traditions being upheld by Pinailog and she doesn’t see herself growing old sheltered and secluded like her grandma. This is because she has found love in Dapuwan (Ronwaldo Martin), to whom she has surrendered herself. Because of this, Pinailog gets mysteriously ill and Dowokan realizes that it’s because she defied tradition and didn’t honor the pact that’s supposed to appease the malevolent spirit.

The narrative is aided by some beautifully animated sequences combined with shadow play, telling the story of the tribe’s ancestor who fought the evil spirit. It is told in a haunting chant (voiced by Banaue Miclat), about the epic saga of Tikum Kadlum that’s part of the oral tradition of the Panay Bukidnon tribe, as mentioned in the end credits.

Mainly, this is about an enchanted dog who serves as a guide in the spirit and real world, giving the film a magical touch of whimsy and mysticism. He warns his master, Paiburong, not to cut down the magical bamboo tree in an enchanted forest but his master doesn’t listen to him, resulting into the monster coming out to threaten them.

Ultimately, the film is about the old and the new, tradition and modernity in conflict, with young people today no longer really caring for ancient traditions that they feel have ceased to serve their original purpose. Barbie Forteza says she’s just playing a supporting role, but it’s not true. She and Nora Aunor both play lead roles as the main protagonists.

Nora’s Pinailog requires her to wear a long gray wig that reaches up to her hips. Her character is mostly quiet, controlled, but she stands out in the scene where she is required to do a traditional native dance very convincingly. After this, she gets sick and is shown mostly lying down or being carried, until her final transformation in her last scene where it is inferred that she has realized that old traditions may be allowed to wilt and die for life in the present to go on.

In contrast, Barbie’s Dowokan is more volatile, more intense, more human. She manages to match Nora’s restrained portrayal every step of the way and even has a love scene to boot to show her rebellious ways (although a very harmless one for a wholesome teen star.) Barbie is so fortunate to be part of this project which will surely boost her filmography.

Although some questions remain. If Nora was allowed to marry and have her own kid (Barbie’s mom), how come Barbie is forbidden to do so? And if Barbie was reared to be a binukot from childhood, where did she get all the modern ideas she has in her head, including the modern dance movements she’s showing off to some friends.

The film is very good in orienting us on the exotic rituals of this indigenous community and it's quite well crafted with first rate technical aspects. The production design is laudable from its costumes to its choices in the forest primeval settings. The cinematography by Mycko David captures the pristine beauty of the mountains in a drone shot while Nora is inside a big “tiklis” being carried down to the hospital in the city below. There are also well lighted meaningful mirror shots that highlight the main characters’ thoughts and emotions as they converse. This should be a companion piece alongside with another Cinemalaya entry, “K’na The Dreamweaver”, to help introduce viewers to our ethnic people.