Namets! at Cinemalaya 2008

I was fortunate enough to watch feature films at this year’s Cinemalaya independent film festival at the Cultural Center of the Philippines yesterday. (I was fortune because I had the luxury of time to travel from the hilly North Eastern Metro Manila to Manila Bay.  My friends and I jokingly dub the event as “cinemalayo” because of its very far venue.)

A film worth mentioning and is worth recommending is the digital film, “Namets!”  Namets is the Hiligaynon word for masarap/sarap in Filipino, yummy in English or sedap in Bahasa Malaysia.  The film was mainly in Hiligaynon (with English subtitles), a regional language (not a dialect) spoken in Western Visayas (Panay, Negros and Guimaras Islands).  As a Tagalog/Filipino speaker, I did not have any problem in watching the movie since Hiligaynon for me has similarities to Tagalog.

From the Cinemalaya programme:

Namets by Emilio “Jay” Abello is a colorful celebration of food as well as love, and the love of food above all, which is central to being Negrosanon and being Filipino. It follows the flirtation between Jacko and Cassie, two Negrenses who grew up in Bacolod, and whose lives revolve around food.

Aside from the main story, the movie interjects funny, delightful and amusing side stories in between scenes which are (not in order of appearance):

  1. Negros cavemen from pre-history accidentally discovering how to roast chicken while having a brawl.
  2. A young boy saving his pet chicken named Leonard, pet goat (I forgot it’s name) and his pet dog named Raymond.  He was saving them from his father who was starving for meat.
  3. A siopao maker who kneads his dough by squeezing it in between his hairy and sweaty armpits. He also sold an highly potent aphrodisiac to a wife of a security guard.
  4. The café manager who finds out why his Bacolod branch consumes the most sugar than other branches in the Philippines.
  5. The dialysis patents who is dying to eat his favorite Napleones (a famous pastry in Western Visayas) during his treatment sessions.
  6. The father who teaches his kids the proper and systematic way of eating Chicken Inasal (a barbecue chicken delicacy).

I learned about Negrense cuisine and contemporary culture. It made me realize that the 7,107 islands of the Philippines is unique and has its unique taste.  (In nearby places like Metro Manila and Rizal Province, local dishes such as Adobo and Menudo have their own twist.)

The acting of Angel Jacob and Christian Vazquez, while not worth an Oscar was good.  There was chemistry between the two.  

I would also commend the supporting role of Peque Gallaga. who played Boss Dolpo, mob boss.  His character did not speak at all except for his gibberish in between munching on his food and shouting “namet” in a scene while sitting in his pool.  He made his character funny and despicable yet memorable.  If Dame Judy Dench won a supporting actress Oscar for Shakespeare in Love while delivering a few lines, Peque Gallaga perhaps deserves a similar accolade.

I encourage everyone to watch and support the film.  It was worth my time and the 100 pesos I paid for the ticket.  The film is not only recommended but also memorable.  I will not forget the funny scenes, how it made my mouth water and how hungry I was for Negrense food after watching the show.  I hope there really was a La Cucina Negrense in Bacolod.  It would have been a good excuse to fly to Bacolod City just to taste the dishes featured in the movie.

While I am not a film or entertainment professional who would know what makes a good film, Namets! is surely a good film and is perhaps one of the best and most unique Pinoy films this year.  The story telling, execution and technical aspects was superb.  

Namets has local commercial potential and is a nice entry for international film festivals.  It would be a big hit from the millions of Hiligaynon speakers alone.  It would be a great introduction to Pinoy food and culture abroad.  I hope the producers make DVDs soon.  A coffee table book or cookbook featuring Negrense recipes and food should also be developed.  I will be the first ones to buy them for myself and for my family and friends overseas.  

For more info on the movie please visit the official website (http://nametsmovie.com) and Multiply.com site (http://namets.multiply.com).  The film will be shown on 30 July 2008 at 7:00 PM at the Cine Adarna (UP Film Institute), University of the Philippines Diliman.

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