Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Concerto at the Chicago Filipino American Film Festival

Concerto was recently screened in Chicago, USA, on sunday Nov. 8 at the last day of the recently concluded Chicago Filipino American Film Festival.

Details on the festival at thier site:


Concerto New York Screening


The NJNYCT chapter will hold a fundraising event featuring the movie CONCERTO on Friday, November 20, at the Kalayaan Hall, Philipine Center, 556 Fifth Ave, New York, New York. There will be a pre-screening reception at 6:30 pm and showing will be at 7:30 pm. Proceeds will benefit the UPMASA medical mission and the ONDOY flood victims.

Contact persons are:Mars Custodio MD (mars.custodio@gmail.com)Nanette Jongco (Ajongcomd@aol.com)Lou Publico (lg322@columbia.org)

This will be the New York premiere of Concerto.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Aestheticizing Wars ‘Concerto’



Written by Reeling / Tito Genova Valiente / titovaliente@yahoo.com

Wednesday, 24 June 2009 18:55

WARS being epic masterpieces of annihilation and violence always get superstar treatment from historians and chroniclers. Wars are huge and the stories about them are massive landscapes without space for the tiny tales of individual victims. Then come documents and films that take on the challenge of the interstitial, the life and politics in the unseen middle. Concerto, by Paul Alexander Morales, is this kind of film.

Set in Davao during the Japanese Occupation, the film is based on the events written on the diary of Lt. Col. Anastacio Campo, Diary of the War: Memoirs of WWII.

Memories being selective and personal, this account of one of the most violent periods in our history becomes necessarily selective and personal. This situation then becomes a crucial point in appreciating this work and also having second thoughts about what the film implies.

What the film tells us is that the state can focus loudly on the main actions and on the actors representing almost the ideal types of nation-states that they entirely negate the intensely personal, hidden and private woes of those who saw the war. In Concerto, one encounters a family fleeing from the open dangers of the city—Davao—and moving into a farm. There in that landscape that is more pastoral than threatening, the members start to try to restore normalcy in their daily life.

Just a few meters from their home (or at least that’s what the film shows), is the camp of the Japanese soldiers. I do not know if this was real. I do not know also if a family would move out of the city and go to a place where the Japanese soldiers, the enemy, are a shout away. But the story does happen in a space that conflates the domain of the dangerous and the safe, the outsider and the locals.

The proximity of the family’s home to the military camp engages the two parties. The Japanese officers befriend Joselito, the son, who speaks the Japanese language, or at least is able to converse with them. What looks like a close relationship between the family and the Japanese soldiers is now a ground for familiarity. Foods are delivered to the camp and, even if the father of the family continues to ignore the Japanese soldiers, the family is given more attention by the Japanese. Then, one day, the piano from the home of the family is brought to the farm. Under a big tree, the piano sits and waits to be played on.

The night of the concerto comes. I am not diminishing the gravitas of this film’s theme but if one looks for the charm of this movie, it is in those scenes where the members of the two families—the Filipino family seeking refuge in the farm and those of the Japanese soldiers whose camp is their temporary shelter before facing harm and death at the battlefront—listen to music.

Talking about the difference between the violence in a documentary and in what he calls “fiction films,” Abe Nornes details out how the “direct representation of sacrifice violence” is found mostly in feature films, which, in turn, allow “vast control over lighting, camera movement and special effects.” The result of this control, according to Nornes, is in the ability of filmmakers to “aestheticize death.”

Concerto does not directly aestheticize death but for those whose experience of war did not allow the respite of piano-playing—in actual and in metaphorical form—the film, to borrow the words from Tsurume Shunsuke and Kogawa Tetsuo’s discussion, has lost the habit of “thinking from wounds.” One can say the film is now thinking from the heart.

War as a soft-focused memory has both good and bad consequences: the good is that it enables people to move on; the bad is that it lets go of the hurt that leads to truth. I, however, do not see these contradictions as harming the film. What the film does fill up is the gap about the personal memories people have of the last world war. Those memoirs where the lines between the enemies and friends are blurred are exciting departures for the rethinking of the value of history writ large. The monumental landscape where men and women become heroes is suspect and the events that are memorialized are open for questioning and even doubting.

There is no doubt, though, that the film Concerto touches us because in the inanities of nations fighting one another, people rise up amid the violence and violations, and become human again. True, they go into killings and lying and scheming, but in the end, what one sees is the splendor of the human spirit more powerful than the biggest war machine.

Like memory, the actors do not any more flesh out the story and their characters in it than they provide shades and—every now and then—shadow. Meryll Soriano as the eldest daughter Nina is a quiet soul in this film. Yna Asistio is heartbreaking and lovely. She is everyone’s girl who shows best the wear and tear on youth. When the war ends, she will be there but you know the years she has lost are all gone. Nonoy Froilan is the patrician father whose silence can stand both for nobility and, we dare not say it, resignation. The fact that we are lost in the nuances of those two principles outlines to us the impact of war on anyone’s ability to check reality out there.

I have said it before, and I will say it again: Shamaine Centenera is one actress who has transitioned from theater to film seamlessly. In this film, what appears to be an embracing personality simmers and suffers under the anxiety of a mother whose only aim is to protect her children. When a Japanese soldier offers her the sword as a dedication of his life to a real mother who is far away, Centenera’s quiet gesture convinces us that there is a passion in this almost embarrassing, even misplaced, militaristic melodrama, of the young fighter before a mother who is a mother first of all.

Jay Aquitania’s passion as the young man easily brings him into acts that are questionable and a patriotism that is irregular. I like the tentative character of this young man, because it is through these imperfections that one glances back through remembrance and discover the humanity and inhumanity of wars of any kind.

Concerto is just the right kind of film to remember when the celebration of Philippine-Japan Friendship Month in July begins. It is a friendship, after all, that is forged in the memories of peace and war, and then peace again.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Concerto US Premiere on May 9. 09 - Wash. DC


"Concerto" is an Official Selection of Politics on Film at its inaugural festival on May 7 - 10, 2009 in Washington, DC USA‏

“Concerto” will  be shown on Saturday, May 9th, at 7:30 PM at the George Washington University Amphitheater.  This university is located in the center of Washington.

From the festival:

We received over 100 entries from American and foreign filmmakers, and focused on high quality, thoughtful work that reflected our desire to showcase superior work connected to our “political” theme.  Your film met this criteria and we are pleased that we will be able to give it exposure to a broader audience. 

Politics on Film
101 Constitution Avenue, NW
Suite 710 East
Washington, DC  20001
(Office)     202-742-4439
(mobile)    202-460-9056

from their site:

About Politics On Film

Why Politics on Film?

Film is the most prolific form of storytelling of our time. It is a medium that can draw people to watch, listen and learn about topics that might never compel them to pick up a book or a magazine. Our nation’s politics, policy struggles and stories are frequently the basis and inspiration for movies. Surprisingly, although many film festivals focus on very narrow policy/political themes like the Environmental Film Festival or the Conservative Film Festival there is no festival devoted to showcasing film dealing with political subject matter more broadly. And there is no greater place to house such a festival than the nation’s capital.

What is a “political” film?

Politics on Film takes a broad perspective on what constitutes a “political” film. Our definition for qualifying entries is:

Politics on Film screens Washington premieres of films dealing with either political or issue/policy-oriented subject matter irrespective of genre, which could encompass drama, thriller/suspense, comedy/satire or biography/historical. Any film focused on or set around government – federal, state or local; government agencies; political campaigns and elections; public policy or social issues such as (but not limited to) health care, taxation, welfare, education, agricultural policy, energy supply and policy, trade, human rights or foreign aid programs; defense, war or foreign affairs; advocacy or civic movements; either contemporary or historical in nature will be considered.

Mission Statement

Politics on Film is a project of the Washington Political Film Foundation and is made possible by an alliance with the Bipartisan Policy Center. It is an annual, bipartisan film festival based in Washington DC dedicated to providing a platform for films that tell stories of America’s politics and policies. The festival celebrates the power of film to educate and motivate, as well as entertain. The Festival also celebrates the historic and ongoing legacy of films about American government and democracy, as well as related stories and themes from an international perspective.

Return to Casa San Miguel

  A year after our location shooting at Casa San Miguel in Zambalez, I was able to return for the 1st Pundaquit Film Festival.

pundaquit 018 pundaquit 011

Our host and co-producer Coke Bolipata and Festival Director Ruelo Luzendo put together an interesting mix of films, all of which have a connection to this artist’s center in Zambalez, beginning with Sari Dalena’s seminal 16mm film,  “White Funeral” which featured dancers Myra Beltran and a young Nina Hayuma Habulan, in a lahar landscape shot also by our Concerto DOP, Regiben Romana.

As center piece of the festival, the young audience mostly of students in the area, had the rare opportunity to watch Concerto and Boses, the two Cinemalaya films co-produced by Casa San Miguel, in the actual location where they were shot.  

I missed the festival opening where the other filmmakers were present and instead was able to attend the last day of the festival. The kids had a fun time seeing Julian Duque, the child prodigy featured in Boses and Coke himself around the grounds after the screenings.

pundaquit 001

I mentioned that they had the opportunity to figure out where Concerto was shot and some gamely explored our location after the screening.

pundaquit 004

Returning to Casa San Miguel I remembered all the trials and miracles of our protracted 10 day shoot last year. 

pundaquit 010

Truly a magical air of creativity abounds in Casa San Miguel. :)

Monday, April 13, 2009

CONCERTO receives 9 nominations for the 6th Golden Screen Awards!


Concerto’s production team is honored to be nominated in 9 categories for the upcoming Golden Screen Awards including BEST FILM (Drama) and BEST ACTOR for JAY AQUITANIA!

Good luck to all the Concerto production team and congratulations to all the nominees. Indeed it has been another historic year for Pinoy Indie films. 

The complete set of nominees can be found here:


We also recently learned that at the upcoming STAR awards, CONCERTO also received 2 nominations including NEW MOVIE ACTRESS OF THE YEAR for YNA ASISTIO and for BEST SOUND.

The complete set of nominees can be found here:


Many thanks to the hardworking and committed members of the Philippine movie press.

Happy Easter and congratulations and good luck to all the nominees.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Memories of Good Friday

I always remember my maternal grandfather, Dr. Jose Yap, during the Lenten season. In CONCERTO the character inspired by him is played by Fourth Lee.

Lolo Joe was a successful family doctor. He had a practice right outside their home in Davao on the corner of Sta. Anna Ave and Damaso Suazo. (There is a restaurant there now.)

When my parents separated in the late 70’s we moved from Manila to Davao. This was during Martial Law and with my Dad’s defection to the left, my mom deemed it safer to be with her family.

My Lolo Joe was always a gruff, strict presence and sitting at the end of the dining table you could feel that everyone was attuned to his moods.

At some point he took to taking my sister Susan and I to school, but I remember that we hardly shared a single conversation with him.

One summer, when my mom was away in America, we finally had a conversation.

I asked him why it was called Good Friday that day when it was in fact always so glum and sad, Jesus they say was dead.

He couldn’t answer me right away, but he was intrigued. He had a collection of encyclopedias he loved to consult and even underlined, so studious was he. He went away to consult them and came back triumphantly with an answer.

He told me that it was Good because the Lord had sacrificed himself this day. And that we celebrated that. It seems Jesus didn’t die every Holy Week after all. 

Aside from imparting to me the heart of the Gospel, he also encouraged me in my critical thinking, way before I went to UP.

He said “this boy asked me the right question!”

In my house today i keep his framed drawing of Jose Rizal, his idol, that always used to be in his clinic.

He passed away while I was in UP, but I remember him every Good Friday.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Bamboo Camera Award for Concerto!

We were truly honored and humbled to recieve the Bamboo Camera Award from respected filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik at his recent retrospective at the UP Film Center. He had previously announced this at the awards night of the Minadanao Film Festival http://pudol.multiply.com/journal/item/59 where Maria Morales accepeted the honor in behalf of the production.

Paul Alexander Morales (Concerto) and co-awardee Tara Illenberger (Brutus)

We were also facinated to watch Kidlat in his element, as well as to savour his film. He screened his "Bakit Yellow ang Gitna ng Rainbow?” that night and we were duly impressed with the courage, originality, and scope of the work. Considering that he created this work on film can only inspire us younger filmmakers to make the most of our digital tools.

Kidlat explains the frame.

Congratulations to all the awardees!
For Independent films:
Concerto and Brutus (2008)
Ligaw Liham (2007)
Saan Nagtatago si Hapiness (2006)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Concerto in Davao

There was a sense of coming full circle when Concerto finally played in Davao last December. It was really toucing to see the Campo family members especially Lolo Jose's children and grandchildren. I wish we could have spent more time together.

Dec. 14, 2008 after the Concerto screening as the opening film to the 4th Mindanao Film Fest.

Before the premiere in Davao and the subsequent SM screenings, the film also had a series of special screenings at the NCC Mall in Davao for students.

Students from the Philippine Women's College of Davao, after a screening at NCCC Mall .

Students from the Davao City High School, my alma mater, also the school where most of the Campo clan featured in the movie graduated from.

Many thanks to all family members, festival staff, press, friends, teachers and students who joined us in our Davao screenings.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

More Concerto Reviews

Deeply Felt
30 January 2009Author: charliekoon from Philippines (From IMDB.com)

It is actually hard to restrain one's emotion especially on my part in watching the film Concerto. The subject matter is in fact a taboo with our Japanese ancestors and relatives. It really hurts to hear people say; Japanese people are violent. Isao Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies is a prime example that even in Japan at the time of war, they also suffered. Concerto tackles a story of a Filipino family during the Japanese Occupation. It is atypical with its wartime depiction, much of it with subtlety and objectivity. It tries to show some sympathy towards the Japanese soldiers. It could be all true that the horrifying events are just the consequence of war.Concerto is written and directed by Paul Alexander Morales. It tells the story of a family during wartime in Davao. During the Japanese Occupation, the family of Ricardo (Nonoy Froilan) and his wife Julia (Sharmaine Buencamino) evacuates their house in the city and stays in the farm of their relative. Their son Joselito (Jay Aquitania) shows fondness towards the Japanese culture. Joselito knows how to speak Nihonggo; which in return gets the consideration from the Japanese soldiers. Aside from the daily ration of fried sweetened potatoes, the Japanese soldiers always had lavish dinners in their home. His sister Maria (Yna Asistio) also showed some kindness towards the Japanese and even had a slight romance with one of the soldiers. But their other sibling Niña (Meryll Soriano) and their father Ricardo are hesitant in showing the same empathy.

The vital aspect for a period film to be successful is if it renders a film with accuracy. Concerto is able to mobilize their resources and come up with a film scenario that could be sufficiently convincing for a period look. It was able to show a 1940's era without too much pretension. The story itself is set in a farm. That is an advantage on their part. The story happens during the Japanese Occupation. Morales gives deference to his story material by using authentic Japanese actors. This is quite admirable for obvious reasons. Filipino characters can only be played by Filipinos.With the film's title, some people confuse it with its inclination to music rather than a film. Some thought it is a musical extravaganza of some sort. Anyhow, Concerto offers a little tribute on how fruitful our music was produced in those times. Yna Asistio's character Maria play and sings with the piano a common Visayan song entitled "Rosas Pandan" which is written by the famous Domingo Lopez. The other song played in the film is written by the National Artist Nicanor Abelardo. The song "Nasaan Ka Irog" gives a sense of nostalgia and it would really stimulate a sense of sentimentality. One evening, Joselito sings a famous Japanese patriotic song "Aikoku Koshinkyoku" by Morikawa Sachio. The Japanese soldiers join him with much enthusiasm and even cry "Banzai" afterwards. Classical Composition of Chopin and Beethoven was also played. Despite political and social barriers, the language of music is universal as it breaks walls.

The story of Concerto was based on the diary of Lt. Col. Anastacio Campo. "Diary of the War: Memoirs of WWII" is interpreted by the director's own mother Virginia Yap Morales. The director has given a touch of melodrama with a more subtle approach in letting out human emotions. Joselito's family might be a common welcoming family in your community. Each member might have differing opinions and approach of thinking. But here, we see them come together during the hardest of times. They entertain the Japanese soldiers wholeheartedly and provide them succulent meals in all chances. We cannot argue that Joselito's comprehension with Nihonggo did help them save his family's lives. War is not completely forgotten. The family has shown kindness but there are subtle points that there are calculated actions.

At one point, we will be questioning the kindness within us. Human sufferings, crisis, and wars might change our outlook in life. It will make monsters of us. The frightening truth is we tend to be influenced with austere similitude to life's cruelty. Julia has a very good approach to combat misery and that is through prayer. Their family shows us a golden heart and has revealed it at the time when we should stay away from modesty. The Japanese too has shown compassion. One even knows how to show love and affection through Maria. Even Ricardo's determination to show composure to the people who tortured and beat him is quite remarkable. Concerto humanizes us by showing both sides of the wall. With my mutual blood coming from two races, Concerto has been very sensitive with its rendition of a Filipino-Japanese relationship during the time of aggression. My partiality did not matter anymore because I was moved by the film completely. RATING 3.5/5

Concerto (Paul Alexander Morales, 2008)

Looking at the roster of Filipino period films released during the last five years that take place during the Pacific War (a very short list that includes Joel Lamangan's Aishite Imasu (Mahal Kita) 1941 (I Love You 1941, 2004), Cesar Montano's Panaghoy sa Suba (The Call of the River, 2004), and Lamangan's Blue Moon (2006)) and comparing it to Hollywood-funded Pacific War flicks like John Dahl's The Great Raid (2005), it becomes apparent that budgetary constraints imposed by cash-strapped film studios prevent filmmakers from efficiently recreating the period. While Dahl had millions of dollars to recreate 1940's Manila in the vast wildernesses of Australia, local filmmakers make do with the diminishing remaining edifices from that era (these edifices are often inaccurate representations of their former selves, with fresh coats of paint and other paraphernalia that couldn't have come from the 40's). If no near-accurate implements from the period exists, producers make do with sloppy digital effects.

Paul Alexander Morales' Concerto is set in Davao, which prior to the Pacific War was home to thousands of Japanese civilians who were living peacefully with the locals. Thus, when the war broke out, allegiances are broken, enemies are made, and friendships are torn. The film centers on a family who, after being evicted from their house by the invading Japanese, were forced to live in the outskirts of the city. Concerto is remarkable because with its meager budget (a fraction of the budget of these mainstream Filipino films, working primarily on the P500,000 (roughly $10,000) grant of Cinemalaya, an annual digital film festival) and other funds it can raise elsewhere, it succeeded in capturing the feel and atmopshere period it manages to recreate.
There are very few action sequences in this war film (the battle scenes are filmed as montages: of shot of the skies edited with silhouettes of Japanese soldiers shooting at the sky, all complemented by apt sound effects). Concerto mainly rests in its attempt to look beyond the visceral effects of the war and concentrate on its repercussions on a family that tries to weather through. What Concerto lacks in bodycount, bullets and explosions, it makes up with human complications arising out of the circumstance of war. Morales paints these wartime complications with impressive subtlety, without neglecting the need for a strong emotional pull to resonate with his audience. The film deals primarily with the fragile threads that are tested and strained by the cruel mechanics of war. Thus, Morales' characters, from the family forced into exile from their beloved home to the Japanese invaders, are distinctly all victims of history's relentless movement.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

News from Concerto in Cebu

We just learned about the Cebu tax issue on FDCP graded films. Other filmmakers should take note.

We truly learning a lot about independent film producing here in the Philippines. Its challenging :-)

Cebu Daily News

No automatic tax cut for ‘Concerto’ movie

1/23/09 By Marian Z. Codilla, Reporter
A PRODUCER of critically acclaimed movie “Concerto: Davao War Diary” has discovered that the Cebu City government does not follow a national law that grants tax exemptions for profits from top-quality films

Cebu City Administrator Francisco Fernandez confirmed that City Hall typically does not implement Republic Act 9167 because the city government doubts the law’s constitutionality.
“Here in Cebu (City), we give exemptions based on the decision of the Cebu City Council. This is a case-to-case basis. We find the law violates the constitution. That is why we are not implementing it,” Fernandez said.
R.A. 9167 is the act that created the Film Development Council of the Philippines, which is tasked to review and grade films based on their quality.
The law grants an amusement tax reward for films graded “A” or “B” by the film council’s Cinema Evaluation Board. Grade A films are awarded a 100-percent exemption from the amusement tax, while grade B films enjoy a 65-percent discount on the tax.
Viking Logarta, Cebuano consulting producer of the independent film “Concerto” said he was disheartened when the film’s producers discovered that the city did not automatically grant a full tax exemption, considering the film was given grade A status by the Film Development Council of the Philippines.
“The Cebu City government – the only one in the whole country – has questioned the constitutionality of R.A. 9167 and has chosen to ignore the law in the meantime,” Logarta said.
Fernandez advised Logarta to write a letter to the City Council so that a full tax exemption for the film could be discussed in the council’s next session on Wednesday.

Fernandez said it was likely that the producers of Concerto would be granted a full exemption since the film qualifies under the conditions set by the city, including conditions that at least one producer of the film must be Cebuano, and that the film must be educational.
Fernandez said producers of other well-graded films also have to convince the City Council before these could be given amusement tax exemptions.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Concerto in Cebu

From: Inquirer Visayas

Rated ‘A’ indie comes to Cebu

By Viking Logarta

Visayas BureauFirst Posted 01:01:00 01/10/2009Filed Under: Cinema, Entertainment (general)

CEBU CITY – “Concerto” (Davao War Diary), a finalist in last year’s Cinemalaya festival, will finally be shown to Cebuano audiences starting Jan. 14 at SM Cebu during the week-long Sinulog festivities.

The war drama, directed by Paul Alexander Morales and with dialogues spoken in Tagalog and Cebuano with a mix of Niponggo, has been endorsed by the film body of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines for its technical qualities and treatment of faith and family.
Dr. Erlinda Alburo, executive director of the Cebuano Studies Center of the University of San Carlos, hailed the movie for its “superb filmic qualities.”

“In syncopated rhythms, ‘Concerto’ shows how a family strives to carry on a normal life in abnormal times, with the piano as symbol for harmony not only within the family itself but also within the countryside setting that accommodates the Japanese. Instead of frontline encounters, this war diary reveals the quiet interplay of suspicion and trust,” she said.
“Among other themes, there is a rare look at the Japanese missing home, and a delicate treatment of what-might-have-been between young adults.”
One of the actors, who portrayed the character Dr. Tan, is a sibling of the illustrious Yap clan from Bantayan Island in Cebu. Two of his brothers were deans of engineering and architecture of the USC during the late 1970s.

The movie also features Cebuano comic Garry Lim, who has been based in Manila for some time, and Nonoy Froilan from Samar, once a top Filipino ballet dancer.

Based on a true story, the film has been rated “A” by the Cinema Evaluation Board, who said it was of the same mold as Peque Gallaga’s “Oro, Plata, Mata” and Eddie Romero’s “Ganito Kami Noon, Papaano Kayo Ngayon?”

A special screening has also been organized by the University of the Philippines Cebu Student Council for UP students for Jan. 17. The Southwestern University’s student council set a special preview for faculty members and students Friday.

Other screenings are being organized by University of the Visayas alumni headed by lawyer Joseph Baduel and the group of Nicolas Ampatin, literature professor at the Cebu Institute of Technology.