IN the recent Cannes International Filmfest, the Philippine entry, “Ang Hupa” (bitchy gay writers say it would have been more fun if they put the letter C before H), starred Piolo Pascual and Shaina Magdayao, as directed by Lav Diaz. As expected, some writers continued to allude to the romance between Piolo and Shaina, which we know is really non-existent, as Shaina herself attests to.
In the nearly five-hour, post-apocalyptic movie set in the future, where the Philippines is in perpetual darkness and it’s raining everyday, Piolo plays Hook Torollo, a rebel leader who’s the foil of the country’s tyrannical president that he wants to assassinate, while Shaina plays Haminilda aka Baby Love, a history teacher who sidelines as a high end prostitute and who becomes the object of affection of two female members of the secret police, Mara Lopez and Hazel Orencio.
But it’s not any of them who actually shone in the prestigious filmfest. The reviews singled out instead Joel Lamangan in his role as the abusive Philippine president. This is what one reviewer, Ela Bittencourt from Lyssaria, wrote about Direk Joel: “Joel Lamangan‘s fearless portrayal of President Nirvano Navarro is one of Cannes, and indeed the year’s, absolute finest. With his pet crocodile, his propensity to hear voices, his love for knitting and his maniacal persona, Navarro has its cinematic rival perhaps only in Issei Ogata’s portrayal of the Emperor Hiroshito, in The Sun (2005).”
And this is what critic Jonathan Romney of Screen Daily wrote about Joel: “The nation is ruled by a paranoid, posturing dictator, President Nirvano Navarro (Joel Lamangan), who claims to rule by divine right - his regime enforced by armed militia that executes dissidents on site. Indeed, it’s easy to recognise the monstrous Navarro as both a satirical version of former Filipino president Ferdinand Marcos and his successor today Rodrigo Duterte (plus, one suspects, a considerable side order of Trump). Joel Lamangan is hugely impressive in the role, by turns frightening and grotesquely comic, not least when having a child-like imaginary conversation with his absent mother. It makes a somewhat humanising, even poignant foil to scenes in which he feeds raw meat (supposedly his recent victims) to his pet crocodile.”
Congratulations to Direk Joel! This confirms his prodigious talent not only as a filmmaker but also as an actor. But of course, he remains to be a director first. His movie “Because I Love You” will be shown on June 12 and he has also finished another movie, “In the Name of the Mother”, a family drama starring Snooky Serna which is an entry in the coming nationwide 3rd Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino this September.