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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.

Aug 16, 2022



“BLUE ROOM’’ won the Cinemalaya Special Jury Prize. At first, you’d think it’s about the frivolous life of these rich teenagers who belong to a rock band called Rebel Rebel.

These are: Elijah Canlas as vocalist Troy, Harvey Bautista as drummer Chigz, and newcomers Nourijune as bassist Rocky (she’s a theatre actress) and Keoni Jin as lead guitarist Christian. 

Joining them is a former bandmate, JK Labajo (best known for his hit song “Buwan”) as Anton, who just came from a long vacation in various countries. 

The first part of the film introduces us to these band members before and after their gig in a bar. Their Gen Z songs are well received by their young audience. 

The film takes a very dark turn when they fail to stop at a police checkpoint. 

A cop, Santiago (Bombi Plata), confronts them for missing the checkpoint but things get from bad to worse when it turns out that Elijah, who’s driving Harvey’s car, doesn’t have a driver’s license. 

Then the cops plant shabu in their car and they are taken to the police station for illegal possession of drugs. 

The police chief, Delgado (Soliman Cruz), interviews them inside the claustrophobic confines of the blue room of the title. 

He intimidates them and threatens to file a case against all of them if they wouldn’t pay P1 million each. 

You can really sympathize with the young people who get embroiled in this unexpected nightmare. 

And you know this happens in real life as we have some friends who have been victimized by such rogue cops who even accompanied them to ATM machines so they can withdraw the money the cops are asking for. 

Debuting director Dagnalan (who deservedly won best director) has a good cinematic sensibility and knows how to tell her story in a gripping manner. 

The pacing is good and the tension escalates as we follow what will happen to the five kids in the hands of these evil law enforcers who made illegal arrest their extra livelihood program. 

But ultimately, this is not really a dark film but a feel-good one where justice triumphs and with an amusing wrap up complete with instagram comments. 

The bad guys are apprehended and the innocent band members, in an epilogue, are shown to have a good story arc and even a very happy ending. 

Which must be the reason why it didn’t win best picture but just special jury prize. 

In indie film competitions like this, jurors usually prefer a well made film dealing with valid social issues (like police corruption in this case) but with a hanging or depressing ending, like “The Basebell Player”. 

This one even has the nerve to be entertaining. 

The ensemble acting is consistently fine, both the victimized kids and the asshole cops. 

Even Ricardo Cepeda is very persuasive in a guest role as the deus-ex-machina who saves the kids from their horrifying predicament.