Heneral Luna (2015, Philippines)
For many years now, I seldom go to the cinema to watch movies. I’m more of the loner who is contented in watching them on video at the comfort of my home. So most of the time, I haven’t watched the movie other have watched over the weekend. Although I’m late, it doesn’t mean that I won’t write a review or at least comment on it.
One film worth reviewing is Heneral Luna, a biographical film about General Antonio Luna who served as the leader of the Philippine Army during the Philippine-American War of 1898.
The story opens with Gen. Luna (John Arcilla) welcoming a fictional journalist (Aaron Villaflor). The latter wants to interview the general about the war and the general himself. This technique of establishing the film as biographical has been used many times over. However, in this film, it was a good start.
The succeeding scenes depict the squabbling cabinet under the rule of President Emilio Aguinaldo and the ongoing war between the Filipinos and the Americans. It was said that this film was the most expensive Filipino film ever produced so far. Judging the production design and the editing, it was money well spent. However, while watching these scenes, the message coming from the dialogues and from the plot itself are timely if not a recurring theme of conflict of interests, treason, crab mentality, and dirty politics.
Also, it made me ask myself two questions:
(1) One of the actors who played an American mentioned that the Philippine leaders were mostly businessmen. That was how the foreigners perceived our country. If that was the case before in that fictional world, then what have changed during the past century?
Although the writer had put the disclaimer at the beginning of the opening credits claiming the creative liberty to put up a historical fiction, the iota of truth about the late general as well as the political scenario that time still pervades over the film.
(2) While watching the film, I wonder if the descendants of Capt. Pedro Janolino (Ketchup Eusebio), Gen. Tomas Mascardo (Lorenz Martinez), Felipe Buencamino (Nonie Buencamino — it is said that he’s a descendant) , Pedro Paterno (Leo Martinez), and Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo (Mon Confiado) cringed or were infuriated with how their patriarchs were depicted.
With how the history and the movie plot itself was presented, viewers couldn’t help but comment on their personal interests and question their patriotism. Although Gen. Luna was depicted as a European-educated, arrogant, Illustrado, his character did not compromise. He chose his patriotism over his personal interests. So when he said that the problem among Filipinos is ourselves, the message hit the gut.
As a Filipino, this is worth watching to remind us of the message of patriotism and selflessness. With the coming elections, one couldn’t help but think of the mistakes committed in the past that brought us to the present. I do hope that voters might get the chance to watch this film again before casting out their ballots.