Review: “Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank”

I really had no idea what “Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank” was about. All I knew was that it dominated Cinemalaya, and had many good reviews. Thus, I had high expectations when I entered the theater. It started off as the “poverty porn” we love to hate. It showed the typical squatters area, and a typical scene of the single mother with seven children. I felt let down. The best indie film was just another story on poverty? Thank god I was proven wrong.

The movie is actually about three filmmakers who want to make an indie film so risque, so unique, and so fresh, that it will dominate the Oscars. The moment the scene shifted to the three of them, producer, director, and PA, sitting in a car talking about the film they were going to make, I instantly felt a connection with the film. That was going to be me, in about five years’ time–a low-budget independent filmmaker with big dreams, holding meetings in coffee shops, and ready to take on Philippine cinema by storm. I could understand the language they were speaking, technical jargon included, and it felt amazing. It felt as though somebody had shown me a crystal ball into the future.

But of course, “Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank” wasn’t just that. It was also a parody of independent cinema, and all the overused “techniques” including, but not limited to, shaky camera footage, inconsistent lighting, and muffled audio. It was relieving to see that I wasn’t alone in my disgust for the sorry camerawork filmmakers use because they’re “on a low budget”. (Ironically though, the actual film does have shaky camera work, but I’d say it was forgivable.)

Even deeper though, the film was a testament to the wide gap between rich and poor. One scene shows the filmmakers standing on a hill of garbage, looking down at all the makeshift houses as one of them shouts “Ang ganda! This is perfect!” It’s as though poverty has become a mere tourist attraction to those of us with capacity.

One can’t talk about “Ang Babae sa Septic Tank” without mentioning Eugene Domingo. She was absolutely surreal. She plays two roles in the film–herself and Mila, the lead in “Walang-Wala”, the film that the trio are working on. Both facets of her acting career–dramatic and comedic–are shown in high definition throughout the film. She’s entertainment on her own!

Perhaps the only negative point for this film was that it was too short–bitin, in Filipino. I wanted it to go on and on, to see the whole progression of the film from start to finish. But that would probably take too long. The film covers just two days in the lives of the three filmmakers, so you can really see the intricacies of the plot being molded into place.

This film is definitely a must-watch. There are many more surprises that I didn’t spoil in this review cum personal reflection about my life and my future, and they’re definitely worth the price of the movie ticket.

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