Ang Babae sa Septic Tank: Was it stinky or not?

Saturday, August 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

This comes a little late, but then, I have to say something about Ang Babae sa Septic Tank. So even if things have settled down, here I am belatedly hurling out a word or two.

Ang Babae sa Septic Tank is a satirical comedy on Philippine independent filmmaking. It follows the story of  three young filmmakers who are about to make an indie film that they hope would send them to international film festivals and win them awards. Its narrative basically revolves around how the characters discuss the nitty-gritty of the movie and imagine it in different genres. Driven by their ambitious goal and believing that they have a story that would make them indie’s royal highness, the three characters — the producer Bingbong (JM de Guzman), the director Rainier (Kean Cipriano), and the production assistant Jocelyn (Cai Cortez) — tackle their movie with some amateurish passion.

Ang Babae sa Septic Tank poster

The film is, in one word, hilarious. Showing same scenes in different genres is one bold move and is the movie’s main comedic pull. But its strength is, of course,  in the parodies — like how Eugene Domingo is portrayed as a demanding big star who meddles in the movie treatment and how global recognition makes an indie film director stupidly self-possessed. Still,  Bingbong and Rainier’s intent desire to catch international recognition is the parody on which the movie is anchored.  As they pursue their art, the goal to express becomes second priority.

So you can see that underneath the comedy, there’s an issue on creative sincerity. These filmmakers’ choice of theme — poverty, the most exploited of themes — reflects this. Poverty makes gripping stories; and much more so, it creates disturbing pictures — poverty porn at its best. With this in tow, it is easier to win an award and get invited to international film festivals. At least, that’s how these filmmakers reason.

Ang Babae sa Septic Tank , which is set in the world of indie film production, has three filmmakers and a big star as main characters, and uses film production lingo, can automatically be set off as a film for film people and film buffs. But if you look beyond, you’ll see that it talks to all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds. It makes you ask yourself whether you’re doing what you’re doing because you want to serve its purpose or you’re doing it for some other reason.

I have little idea on how the movie registered to some. Like me, they might have laughed at Eugene’s solid acting, noticed JM’s and Kean’s promise, seen the brilliance in the execution, and appreciated the script’s intelligence.  But I don’t know if like me, they took home that one simple message: Sincerity.

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