‘Dagitab’ (2014): counter-romantic, poetic

This is a review of Dagitab, a film by Giancarlo Abrahan that competed in the New Breed section of the 2014 Cinemalayà independent film festival. It is a rather difficult film; of course what I present here is merely my personal experience of the work. I imagine the film easily yields to many different interpretations.

Official movie poster for Dagitab (2014) by Giancarlo Abrahan

Before dealing with what the film is about, I’d like to take note of the film’s style. It is partly defined by vague sequences: whatever visual clarity Dagitab possesses is counter-balanced by the subtlety of their meanings. The scenes do not always have a causal follow-up, nor do they always have a sensible precedent. The film’s last scene exemplifies this: we find the characters nonchalantly discussing their next plans, and these are plans that seem to utterly disregard the build-up of the last few scenes. I was left with the feeling that after all that had happened, I still didn’t know the characters. The incongruity is likely meant to be a subdued twist, a subtle surprise that is unfortunately difficult to make sense of. Delightfully though, Dagitab is complemented by its poetic quality. There is a striking shot in the middle of the film of one of the main characters where, after turning on the radio, he sits on his working chair, leans back and closes his eyes. The camera lingers on the scene. It was quiet, and yet it was brilliant as a characterization of this mysterious character. I never understood what was going on in his mind at that point, but never did I feel the urge to know. It was a moment meant to be taken without question, a poetic image to be enjoyed on its own.

A movie still of Dagitab (2014) showing actor Nonie Buencamino sitting on a chair and leaning back
Nonie Buencamino in Dagitab (2014). (Image from cinemalaya.org)

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On the verge of real

I’m currently living in the neighborhood of what is called one of life’s milestones. It’s also a place someone has called a pre-departure area. I’m about to graduate from college.

I’m bracing myself for all the changes that society associates with these personal eras of transition. I expect quite a number of my living parameters to swing to new lows and new highs: amount of free time, financial dependence, and the importance of doing homework, among other things. We lose some things and gain others. It’s okay, they say, because change is simply always bittersweet. But what they don’t tell us is that it’s more of bitter at first, and the sweetness is only an aftertaste—because the pain of losing is stronger than the joy of gaining.

Lately I’ve been thinking about what people mean when they say that to enter the working world is to enter the real world, which is a phrase that I’ve always complained about. It’s as if they want to say that school is an illusionary world. Of course I haven’t really worked (the sum total of my full-time working experience is the one month of internship I took last summer), and I don’t have the age and experience to have any certainty about the meanings and contingencies of being a working person. But I realized that I’ve been grasping the wrong sense of ‘reality’.

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Spaces redux

Beyond homes, schools, malls and other concrete spaces, there are more abstract categories of places that are as difficult to ponder about as they are difficult to define.

One of them is the space to which these words currently belong: the virtual realm. Go beyond mainstream thinking and you will discover that the separation between the real and the virtual is far more complicated than it seems. There is a growing discourse, likely fueled in part by the idea of virtual spaces, surrounding technology (particularly the Internet) and its relation to morality, or authenticity, and other such classical topics of philosophy. But this discourse has turned around on itself, and there are some who now argue that the place we have called cyberspace for a long time is not too virtual after all; it is still rooted in, and therefore not independent from, the reality that supports it. One could say that virtuality cannot be anything more than an augmentation of reality.

There are many aspects to this discussion that will surely continue well into the foreseeable future, given how technology has nowhere to go now but deeper into our everyday routines. Personally I would still say though that it is valuable to think of such a thing as a virtual space. I have had experiences that are fundamentally characterized by being online, and which cannot conceivably exist in any space other than in the virtual. I can even think of corners of the Web as if they were actual, physical places: some of them are fun, some of them are serious and buttoned-up, and some are even pretentious, or evil and dangerous. Certainly, these are all experiences judged by simply viewing through a glowing screen, but they are spaces in the way that we visit them, stay in them, frequent them, and even abandon them.

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Sketches

One

I want to live my life in saturated technicolor, until I die puking rainbows, broken emeralds and shards of sapphire. I want my reds to burn in anger; I want to drown in deep blue. I once grabbed a kid’s box of crayons and broke each one of the sixty-four sticks (and I was as cruel as I could be to the white crayon). I gave the child a set of metallic spray paints in psychedelic violets, telling him to never, ever put crayon on paper again. The colors are simply never happy enough.

Two

Before I post anything on Facebook, I think hard about it first. Actually, even before typing into the textbox, I would’ve mentally rehearsed and revised my paragraph about something totally interesting I saw on the streets in the day. I hear voices telling me, “That’s not worth it. You will get no Likes.” To which another voice, weaker but purer, would respond, “No, do it, trust in yourself. Dispel your social insecurities. Only few people ever get multitudes of Likes in every post they submit, and even then, they probably started out with a couple of unpopular status updates.” (This latter voice sounds like Obi-Wan with a hint of Yoda.) There is an all-powerful, ever-encompassing set of unwritten rules guiding what should and should not be posted in social media, that we all follow even if the rules differ from one person to another or between social circles. In this respect at least, there is a lot less differentiation between the real and the virtual—but this subject is worthy of a lengthy discussion on its own.

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