Director: Quark Henares
Running time: 93 minutes
Synopsis and Evaluation
If one would set his expectations based on the posted synopsis on various websites attempting to offer a gist for Quark Henares’s Keka, such person would be sorely disappointed after watching this film. This is described as a revenge flick for the death of a girl’s special someone. There are slitting of throats, stabbing of knives to a victim’s chest, strangulation and gunshots.
Others would see this as another bold film because its lead star is Katya Santos who forged an invisible alliance with other voluptuous, scantily-clad women such as Maui Taylor, Maricar de Mesa and Aubrey Miles to resurrect the R-rated bold films that populated the 90s film landscape. This may be the reason why the film flopped commercially because people expect this to be just another run-on-the-mill sex film. Or are we Filipinos that dumb to not appreciate this kind of film? I’m leaning towards the former because I still have high hopes for the Filipino audience.
Looking at the film from these perspectives is a disservice to its ingenuity and novelty. It’s a blasphemy that a film like Keka would succumb to other box office heavyweights who offer nothing but star quality and a massive promotional campaign (which Keka sorely needed). It’s also a miracle that a movie outfit such as Viva Films (which is also responsible for a slew of the aforementioned bold movies) willingly produced and financed this kind of film which, more often than not, do not perform well financially. Are they just milking the cow from the then-popularity of Katya Santos? Whatever their motives were during the time, it doesn’t matter now. Keka was made and released for public consumption and gave the few who chose to watch their money’s worth.
Offering a plot summary to Keka is not appropriate. The revenge subplot is just a device for the movie like the murder in Robert Altman’s The Player. Just like the Altman movie, this is a dark comedy — a satire with lots of jeers and jabs directed to our current local film industry which is filled with rehashed ideas and tiresome jokes. This is also a potshot to some issues on a nationwide scope.
Allow me to list some of the gibes presented in the film and do my best to offer an explanation or an example to explain its humorous aspect. This is my attempt to explain the greatness of Keka. Be warned, lots of spoilers ahead.
• When Keka and Marco Torres (Bobby Andrews) were having a date dinner, Marco asked what Keka’s job is. Keka told him that she’s working in a call center. Marco associated this kind of job to a mere telephone operator with a clear tinge of mockery and sarcasm. Later when Keka is describing her job, she said she’s helping customer troubleshoot their problems using her “stupid American accent.” This is an obvious jab directed at the call center industry and agents which are sprouting like mushrooms these days.
• The Showbiz Kachipan segment is clearly inspired by Startalk’s Da Who with their use of gay lingo and annoying voice to report a showbiz-related news which is also cheap and nonsense. The actor being reported was Bobby Domingo (Eigenmann) who plays the lead role in “Sa Iyo Lang ang Puso Ko” with an additional quip that goes like this: at iba pang laman loob kung nais mo pa — a clear mockery of our telenovelas which almost always deal with love with unimaginative titles such as Maging Sino Ka Man and Pangako Sa’Yo becoming household names.
• During the scene when Jason (Wendell Ramos) is attempting to propose to her then-girlfriend, she rejected him before he does so. He almost choked to death with an accompanying music provided by the restaurant’s musicians. Hilarious! This has got to be seen by our own eyes because my attempt to describe it doesn’t give it justice.
• During the girlfriend search of Jason, he met with a single mom who is breastfeeding her child during the dinner date, an ecstasy addict and a woman deranged with thoughts of salvation — not exactly girls Jason wanted to have. This is a nicely executed scene.
• The telenovela shooting scene where the woman slapped Bobby twice with amusing results — an attempt to ridicule an act that is a staple of Filipino dramas. Love triangles also; supposedly-actresses who cannot act even if their lives depended on it; TV/film directors settling for a pwede na or mediocre output just to finish the project; and people screaming their lungs out to blindly worship famous celebrities like they are God.
• Our knack for churning out cheesy, rhyming ad taglines did not escape from being lambasted by this film. Athlete’s Foot Cologne’s “Mabisang lunas para sa kili-kiling amoy bulok na prutas” will definitely rival the infamy of the classic Dragon Katol’s “La-mowk… sigura-downg tey-powk” with its phony American accent.
• When Jason quipped “anak ka ng congressman at artista ka pa” to describe the near-impossibility of convicting Bobby Domingo, this is a criticism of our justice system where the padrino and palakasan system is in full scope and throttle.
• The use of National University (NU) as the school where the killing and frat wars happened — a mockery of traditional movies which have dealt with the issue one way or another which were usually set in the University of the Philippines (UP) premises.
• When Jason asked the cab driver to turn up his driving speed, the latter retorted that there’s a speed limit. Jason presented his police badge to ease the worry of the driver of getting caught by authorities. A police breaking the rules and regulations — ironic but it happens regularly in real life.
•The line “hihintayin kita magpakailanman” uttered by Jason at the end is a tribute to a typical Robin Padilla or Bong Revilla action cum romance flick littered with cheesy dialogues and hackneyed plot.
• Perhaps the most famous scene from this movie is the song and dance number which is seemingly an indispensable part of Filipino comedies. We even see dead guys singing and dancing! Brilliant!
This is a film where no actor dominated or carried the film all by himself. The small parts played by various people contribute to the overall quality, where the sum is clearly greater than its parts. The technical aspects such as the lighting (especially with the use of blue hue in certain scenes), editing and camerawork are well-made. Henares seems to be in total command of this film which is much-deserved given his filmmaking talent. The best aspect of this film is the script which is full of punch lines, witty one-liners and sarcastic remarks and how it does not take itself seriously which is a perfect atmosphere for this kind of film. This is a Filipino comedy unlike any other Filipino comedy.
The Final Word
Filipino filmmakers’ favorite genre seems to be drama with some of the greatest Filipino films made falling under this umbrella. Rarely do we see a Filipino comedy, a dark comedy especially, of high caliber such as Keka. Hundreds or even thousands of comedy films have been produced throughout the years but you can count by your fingers the notable ones from that bunch. Keka is one of such few comedy gems… a diamond in the rough so to speak.
P.S. If you’re a music lover, a perfect complement to this film is Noon Time Show by Itchyworms. But then again, you probably know that by now… I’m just saying.