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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jul 30, 2012

'Ang Katiwala' Movie Review - Held Together By Dennis Trillo's Astute Title Role Performance

ALOY ADLAWAN’s “Ang Katiwala” didn’t bore us but we honestly don’t know what to make of it. The lead character is Ruben (Dennis Trillo), a carpenter in Zambales who lost his job due to politics. An uncle offers him to work as caretaker of an old house in New Manila. He accepts it and leaves his wife (Althea Vega) and son in the province. The cavernous house turned out to owned by Commonwealth Pres. Manuel Quezon. Ruben knows next to nothing about him.

Nothing much happens and we really can’t get a clue as to where the film is going. Ruben is shown visiting his lesbian cousin (Angelina Kanapi) and her single mom girlfriend (Nerizza Naig) in the impoverished slum area where they squat. He befriends the night watchman, Gimo (Ronnie Lazaro), who dreams of winning P1 million. But more than anything else, he gets fascinated by the late president, reads his biography and listens to his speeches. Soon, he’s aping Quezon’s hairstyle and memorizing his speeches.

All throughout, the film is very quiet and there doesn’t seem to be any kind of conflict (which really made it quite cumbersome viewing) until the last few sequences when violence suddenly enters the picture. Ruben’s cousin and relatives get involved in a fire in the slums and some people chase and shoot them in the president’s house. Who these armed men are and what exactly happened is not exactly explained.

We want to think the movie is a tribute to Pres. Quezon and how he fought hard for our country to gain independence from the U.S. Writer-Director Aloy Adlawan even makes use of animation to shed more light on Quezon’s life and accomplishments. But Quezon’s famous statement (“It’s better to have a government ran like hell by Filipinos”) is repeated several times and the implication is that it proved to be prophetic as we indeed have several corrupt officials who have ran our government like hell, making many of our people suffer and wallow in poverty, like Ruben and his relatives themselves. Even in the province, his wife, son and father in law were robbed and shot by bandits. Ruben goes home and they got thrown out of the land they were tilling, with the future seemingly bleak for him and his family.

The film is held together by Dennis Trillo’s title role performance. It’s amazing how he tackles the underwritten role with instinctive dexterity, making it his own. If only for his astute interpretation of the role, the film is already worth seeing.