Day two at Cinematografo was filled with a couple stunning, and remarkably different, documentaries along with a delicate experimental film. Following Signal Rock, the festival has kept churning out intimate looks at Filipino culture and society from many angles. In the two documentaries, I got to see two very different films that worked as an interesting double feature, one which explored the wonders of Filipino food and the challenges it faces trying to be a force in the culinary industry in the U.S. There was also a sneak peek at a beautiful new project from Cinematografo, Yellow Rose, a film I am beyond excited to see. Without further ado, let’s dive briefly into what was seen at day two of CIFF.
Nervous Translation: short, sweet, but a very slow roll at times. There were many beautiful elements to this that I missed and would love to get another viewing to see it in its full context. The cinematography and camera work of this film are exceptional and delicate. It’s score and the music blend together wonderfully to create an almost hypnotic sense of hyper-reality. By no means is this film easy to manage. It is loose, admittedly too loose in many parts, and challenging to follow, but the beauty and simplicity is masterfully crafted with the medium burn throughout. I would recommend a double viewing to really capture this 90-minute experiment on nostalgia.
Ulam: Main Dish: the first of the documentaries I viewed at CIFF was all about the food. And at possibly the worst time. Screening promptly at 4:15, this film felt like a trap from the beginning. This was a tasty, albeit looser Ramen Heads. Where Ramen Heads kept with its tightness, Ulam went for the broader strokes and widened its scope to look at immigration and culture and the impact that has on the first, second, third, and later generations of immigrants. Some amazing themes and ideas that were wrestled with here. It felt either too short or too preoccupied with being about the food, then being about the culture and the people, and then trying to return to the food again. It needed to find one voice and stick to it.
The Cleaners: a stark contrast to Ulam. Where Ulam went light, The Cleaners went for shocking. Watching these back-to-back was a fascinating view and gave me a gaze into an idea about niceness and harshness. While Ulam explores the beauty and diversity of Pinoy culture, The Cleaners look not only at Filipino culture but social media and the cost it has on individuals. The Cleaners is a dark, immersive look into the people who screen social media posts and ultimately decide what can stay and what can go. It shows how mentally damaging work like this can be while wrangling with what should be free speech and what isn’t. It is a different perspective on a very challenging issue that I don’t think anyone has an answer for yet.
Yellow Rose: I saw some sneak peeks about this film and can’t speak much on it, but I just wanted to add this here because this was one of my favorite things I have seen this weekend so far. The story and characters are so riveting and honest. I connected deeply with this film and I hope it can find a place to reach many people, because it is an important film that deserves to be seen and talked about.