ContactSales: Pixeleyes Multimedia, Manila (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Premiere: CineFilipino Film Festival, 18 Sep 2013. Theatrical release: TBA.
Presented by CineFilipino Film Festival (PH), Studio 5 (PH), PLDT Smart Foundation (PH), in association with Unitel Productions. Produced by Pixeleyes Multimedia (PH), Ekweytormc (PH), in association with Quia Post Productions. Executive producers: Jalz Zarate, Sigrid Andrea P. Bernardo. Producers: Tonee Acejo, Ferdinand Lapuz.
Script: Sigrid Andrea P. Bernardo. Photography: Alma R. Dela Peña. Editing: Lawrence S. Ang, Kamille C. Leccio. Music: Diwa De Leon. Production design: Popo Diaz. Production design co-ordination: Carmela Danao. Art direction: Mario Manalang. Costumes: Romer Principe Gumban. Sound: Nioki Aquino, Ariana Gonzales, Diego Antonio.
Cast: Angel Aquino (Pilar), Teri Malvar (Anita), Jay Bordon (adult Anita), Len-Len Frial (Carmen), Solomon Mark De Guzman (Goying), Marcus Madrigal (Oscar, Anita's cousin), Lui Manansala (Lolita, Anita's mother), Gigi Columna (Lerma), Star Orjaliza (Divina), Sarah Pagcaliwagan (Apyang), Rhea Media (Ling-Ling, Lerma's daughter), Leo Salazar (Edward), Jim Bergado (Cadet Esguerra), Sang Pascual (Cadet Sanchez), Fudge De Leon (Josie, market shop owner), Marjorie Lorico (adult Carmen), Joel Ian Pagcaliwagan (adult Goying).
Anita's Last Cha-cha Ang huling cha-cha ni Anita
Contemporary light drama-comedy
2013, colour, 16:9, 111 mins
Directed by Sigrid Andrea P. Bernardo
By Derek Elley
Sat, 28 September 2013, 19:20 PM (HKT)
Likeable, lightly told tale of a young tomboy's one-sided crush on a village beauty. Festivals, especially Asian and gay.
Manila, the present day. Anita (Jay Bordon) is an officer in the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Reserve Command. As she prepares to visit her village in Obando, Bulacan province, north of Manila, her mind goes back to when she was a 12-year-old tomboy (Teri Malvar) there, living with her naggy mother Lolita (Lui Manansala) and grown-up cousin Oscar (Marcus Madrigal). Oscar was soon to marry a woman, Ella, whom he got pregnant. And Anita was always scolded by her mother for staying out all hours playing with her friends, Carmen (Len-Len Frial) and Goying (Solomon Mark De Guzman). One day, the stunning Pilar (Angel Aquino) returned to the village, after being away for 10 years, during which time she had studied physical therapy in Dubai. Entranced, Anita declared to her friends, "That's the girl I'm going to marry!" Tongues started wagging in the village over Pilar's sudden reappearance a year after her father Bernie had died, but she ignored them and set up a massage business in her family's empty home. Oscar was unsettled by her arrival, as Pilar had dumped him before going away, but he was her first customer and they ended up making love. Anita shyly worshipped Pilar from a distance and first talked to her after wandering off during a traditional village procession in which she was dressed up as a princess. Eventually she plucked up courage to visit Pilar's home, and the latter, who remembered her as a young child, befriended her. Thereafter, Anita kept coming round, on what she imagined were "dates" with Pilar. But she had no idea about Pilar and Oscar's relationship, which Pilar wanted to rekindle seriously.
A 12-year-old tomboy gets a hopeless crush on a stunner who returns to her village in Anita's Last Cha-cha Ang huling cha-cha ni Anita, a lightly handled tale of sexual confusion and pubescent rebellion that's made palatable by a terrific performance from gawky young newcomer Teri MALVAR and the refreshing way in which none of the characters shows the slightest surprise over the young girl's passion. What could so easily have crossed the borderlines of taste, or become bogged down in gender lecturing or a rote tragedy of one-sided lesbian love, emerges as a very likeable, if somewhat loosely constructed, debut by first-time writer-director Sigrid Andrea P. BERNARDO.
Framed as a reminiscence by the adult Anita, who's an officer in the Filipino army (the movie's only cliche), the film is actually more of a village ensemble than just devoted to Anita. Presumably realising that she could only take the lesbian-crush story so far, Bernardo situates it within a broad portrait of rural smalltown society: Anita's naggy mother and her gossiping female friends, Anita's adult cousin Oscar who has a history with the beauteous returnee, and Anita's two childhood pals (the Miss Piggy-like Carmen and equally dumpy Goying), plus local traditions like the Obando fertility feast. As such it often has the feel of a rural coming-of-age movie — with lots of scenes of the kids playing in the countryside — tethered to a story of a young girl's infatuation in which her object of desire just happens to be an older member of the same sex.
Bernardo keeps the tone light, with multiple fantasy sequences in which Anita imagines the gorgeous Pilar — played commendably straight by 37-year-old actress-model Angel AQUINO (Donsol (2006), plus recent horrors Biktima (2012) and Amorosa (2012)) — coming on to her in various ways that play with popular Filipino genres. The mixed chemistry between the older woman and young girl is just right, played for sweetness and smiles rather than actual sexuality, and Malvar is especially good at Anita's squirming embarrassment and shyness. Equally refreshing is the way in which Anita's two young pals never even blink over her pre-adolescent "passion", with Len-Len FRIAL especially good as the totally self-absorbed Carmen.
Shot on a shoestring, but showing no signs of it in Alma R. DELA PEÑA's sunny, well-composed photography and Popo DIAZ's production design (especially for Pilar's home), Anita loses some of its verve in the second half and has a weak semi-fantasy ending but generally goes the distance thanks to its busy array of characters, including the village chorus of Anita's mother (Lui MANANSALA, good) and her gossiping female friends. At the very least, Anita makes one curious where Bernardo will land next.