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Riles December 9, 2006

Riles (aka Life on the Tracks) (2003)
Rating: star star star star star
Cast: Eddie Renomeron
Director: Ditsi Carolino
Genre: Documentary

A relatively new feature on Mag:net Café is Cinekatipunan - a 5:30pm daily film showing of socially relevant films. This is the initiative of long-time film buff Kiri. Admission is free and a hat is passed around for the film maker at the end of the screening.

Riles is a documentary about life's daily grind in a squatter area along the railroad tracks within the downtrodden section of Balic-balik, Manila. Cast is by real-life riles resident, Eddie and his family. He works as a balut vendor and pays rent to his landlord, who is a professional squatter himself. The landlord collects illegal rent on the stretch of shanties, built just a few feet from the passing trains. Eddie's family is later on evicted which started a new life for him and his family.

Technically, one thing that makes this movie engaging is its crafty editing. Scenes are timely cut when the point has already been delivered. Most locally produced commercial films stretch a scene until it's done to death.

Beyond the powerful visual delivery of the movie, the 'realness' of the cast makes for a film in character development. Eddie is the lovable and amiable bread winner who makes no apology for his shortcomings as a balut vendor. He engagingly keeps his humor in spite of such adversity and living condition. His nagging wife provides anchor and a sense of stability that keep the family humming nicely as it rolls over the daily challenges of life along the tracks.

Ending Thoughts
I'd been out of the country for more than 20 years, and upon coming back, I was dismayed to see the state of Philippine film making in a rut...a 20-year rut to be more precise. While the Korean film industry has taken leaps and bounds to establish a global presence in so short a time, our industry remained stagnant. Curious if I've missed a few good ones, I asked around for "must see" Pinoy films. The answers? Lino Brocka's Tinimbang ka Ngunit Kulang, Aguila, etc. These were the same films I left behind! Haven't we come up with anything good in the last 20 years?

I've asked a few personalities within the industry why this is happening. The response I got were as interesting as they were varied - Chinese cartel monopolizing production and distribution, budget constraints, high-tech constraints, not having a sufficient market base who can critically think for themselves...etc. Hmmm. I've seen the Twilight Samurai - a low tech, low budget Japanese film that utilized subtlety and restrain in capping powerful human emotions raring to explode. I was so wowed by this film. It shattered all the excuses I've heard about why we can't make good films.

With Ditsy's Riles, I'm relieved. There's hope finally...and to think it's a documentary and not a commercial film! With the film's international acclaim, I'm crossing my fingers that hopefully, everyone involved in the production/distribution/exhibition of this film makes money. Its commercial viability will pave the way for other film makers to follow suit. We very badly need to kick ourselves out of this rut.

--- TheLoneRider


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