Otso: Truth is in the Eyes of the Beholder | Pinay.com
By Resha Destiny, Pinay.com Author
Otso, which means Eight, is the comeback film of Elwood Perez, a prominent director in the late eighties and early nineties. A world apart from the movies exhibited alongside it at Sineng Pambansa: NFF (National Film Festival), Otso sports an achromatic trailer. The main cast of this film is not made up of popular actors. The same can be said of its lead actor, lawyer by profession Vince Tañada, who is also the artistic director of the theater company Philippine Stagers Foundation (where most of the cast members were taken from.) Tañada also shares screenwriting credits with Perez for this film.
The film revolves around the playful imagination of a writer, purportedly a balik-bayan from the United States. Neighbors from the next door apartment unit capture the curiosity of the writer. Shrouded with mysteries the inhabitants of Unit No. 8 rarely come out from its closed doors.
The conflict progresses as the writer grapples to meet the deadline for a screenplay of an independent film and he transfers the motley of imaginings and representations built upon his perception of the people from Unit No. 8 to his creation.
The whole film feels like a dream sequence. About ninety percent of the film evokes the aesthetic of a stage play that the narrative is conscious of an audience, which brings to mind Two Guys and a Girl I saw years ago with Robert Downey, Jr essaying the major role. Comparing Otso with other Filipino films that I’ve seen, there is nothing like it and its aesthetics. Going back to the roots of the first Filipino films which were sourced from sarswela and komedya materials, this type of film aesthetic is also a recurring device to make the audience understand what is real and what is not. Delicate and nifty as it is, it indeed seals the demarcation point between this world and the imagined.
Another important thing I’d notice is that an Otso placed sideways can be viewed as an infinity sign. This was actually shown in the rooftop scene. The film is also riddled with references to the current issues faced by our country like the pork barrel scam, rampant corruption in the government, and the duel between the mainstream and independent film genres. The scene that leaves the most searing mark for me is the one with Jun Urbano asking the protagonist his reason for not knowing who Anita Linda is, as well as the wordplay of ‘pony’ (phony).
Even though the scenes are strung together masterfully and the visual shifts are clearly not just some artsy pretentiousness, the film could have been improved by reducing the didacticism towards the latter part. For me, the progression of the images is enough for the audience to get the ubiquitous message of the film, that Filipino film already has its own flavor, not a bastard child of Hollywood anymore. Akin to the sparkling lights onstage as the film and the film within a film bids adieu, as well as the number eight placed sideways to create an infinity sign, the possibilities of digital filmmaking in the future is endless. We don’t really need to forget and discard the old. We just need to reconcile its differences with the new to be able to bridge the aesthetic gaps. This is essential in the natural evolutionary process of art.
I believe in the law of attraction, that each of us can shape our own destiny.
I started writing when I was still in my mother's womb. I'm the twin of Joan Jett from another dimension.
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