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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.

Nov 26, 2013

Vivian Velez Delivers A Sterling Performance In 'Bendor'

VIVIAN VELEZ plays Blondie, a vendor in Quiapo who is at the crossroads of her life in "Bendor", written and directed by Ralston Jover of "Bakal Boys". It starts promisingly with Vivian helping an abortionist (Evelyn Vargas) in conducting the illegal procedure on a young pregnant woman. But something terribly goes wrong when the girl starts bleeding profusely. Vivian rushes the young woman to a hospital and, in panic, leaves her there in the emergency room when the nurse refuses to accept the dying girl as a patient.

Vivian lives in a crowded accessoria in Quiapo with her two daughters and son who are all grownups and who all give her problems. Things get worse when her good for nothing drunkard of a husband suffers from a heart attack and is rushed to the hospital.

From there, it's a downward spiral for her as her troubles get an aggravation from bad to worse, with everyone in her family a burden to her. She helps another woman to have an abortion but she turns out to be a spy sent by cops to arrest the abortionist.
Her younger daughter is also arrested by cops for selling cytotec, an abortifacient pill, and when Vivian goes to the police precinct to plead for her daughter's freedom, she only ends up antagonizing the police chief further and she, too, lands behind bars. The film ends abruptly with a shot showing Vivian's perplexed face, with shock, confusion and uncertainty written all over her.

Vivian delivers a sterling performance (she deserves her best actress Cinema One Filmfest win) but the script itself is quite confused and confusing. For instance, at the start, Vivian is shown as the owner of a vegetable stall and she has two other girls working for her. Then, all of a sudden, she becomes a candle vendor in front of Quiapo church and the movie never goes back to her being a vegetable vendor.

There are scenes showing Vivian seeing her very own self walking in the distance, prompting one viewer to comment that it's like 'The Healing', where victims are seen having a doppelganger. When asked what Vivian's sightings of herself exactly mean, Cinema One head Ronald Arguelles says it's her dreams and aspirations that failed to become true. He says this is explained in the Q&A with the director.

Honestly, a movie that requires explanation from its maker for a viewer to fully understand it is quite an atrocity. Movies should be able to stand by themselves as not all viewers have access to a director's explanations in a Q&A.
The movie ends with so many questions left hanging in the air. As one viewer commented: "Ano ba yan? Hindi buo ang pelikula." And it's true. This is so common these days in indie films of this sort. In "Saturday Night Chills", the story ends with two characters just driving in their car and we don't know what will happen to them after they've done so many crimes. The same goes for "Sitio", after John Prats and his sisters get to kill everyone. It's as if their filmmakers are asking us viewers to connect the dots ourselves and draw our own conclusions because the budget or grant given to them by Cinema One wasn't enough for them to complete their respective movies.