Director: Mike de Leon
Running time: 93 minutes
Synopsis and Evaluation
We are a nation fascinated with Jose Rizal — not just his heroism but also his being a womanizer, his classic hair style and many more. We devour two of his greatest literary works in secondary schools. We celebrate his birth and execution dates. We have countless movies relating to Rizal and his works. We even name our streets (Rizal Avenue, Rizal Province), corporations (RCBC), schools (Rizal High School) and products after him. There’s even a religion devoted to Rizal and his works. Even the most well-known place in Laguna is Calamba (Rizal’s hometown), not Santa Cruz which is its capital.
Despite being subjected to countless scrutinizes by various historians, how well do we know Rizal? Is it really important to know him adequately since he’s our nation’s symbol to our fight against four centuries of foreign colonialism?
Bayaning Third World, directed by Mike de Leon, is a mockumentary on making a film about Rizal. Lots of questions were thrown around and dissected in this feature film that concern Rizal. Have Rizal really written and signed a retraction letter signifying his intention to turn back from his beliefs and re-join the Catholic Church? Did he marry Josephine Bracken? Did he retract so that he can marry Josephine Bracken? (There was no civil wedding back then.)
These were “discussed” in the film by interviewing various people connected to Rizal for their points of view. Throughout the film, the filmmakers (Ricky Davao and Cris Villanueva) asked lots of questions, examined evidences, analyzed various information they have gotten from their “interviews” and still didn’t reach a conclusion about the questions they want to clarify right from the start. The more they dug deeper, the more questions left unanswered popped up. It’s one big loop that mocks the futility of digging deep down Rizal’s personal life, his inner feelings and motivations.
Cris Villanueva always asks if it’s still relevant to discuss these issues a century after Rizal’s death. Maybe it is still relevant so that we can have a hero who will not be anymore subjected to doubts by many scholars — a “flawless” hero so to speak to maintain Rizal’s legacy to our country.
But what is a hero really? Is there a perfect or flawless hero? Will there ever be an unblemished hero?
A long time already went by since Rizal’s death. A lot of things have already happened since 1896. Maybe knowing the complete story is not that important anymore. Rizal is an image of Filipino intelligence and an inspiration to the youth of today and tomorrow. Many look up to him. If the truth would tarnish everything that was built and preserved, maybe it’s not worth pursuing anymore. So what if he retracted his statements and beliefs? We are already influenced by Rizal in many ways… positively I believe. His greatness would not be diminished by a mere renunciation since damage was already inflicted to the colonizers by his works and statements. Nothing will ever change today.
On the technical aspect, this film is superior with its use of black and white (perfect for the period of time covered by the film), mock commercials and re-creations and parodies of historic events (e.g. execution of Rizal where he run away from his executors). One interesting bit of information; the actors did not know they are filming a comedy. This was done to preserve the authenticity of their acting since not knowing that they’re filming a comedy, the actors would not force themselves trying to be funny. This strategy worked excellently for this film as spontaneity and zest were preserved throughout the film.
The Final Word
The final segment of the film dubbed as “Kanya-Kanyang Rizal” conveyed that we know Rizal in lots of different ways. Depending on who we ask, a different “version” of Rizal will always be told. It’s like history in general, where even in the presence of various pieces of evidences there would always be some room for a historian’s opinion to enter his discussion. What would history become without discussions and debates? A mere collection of information regarding and records of the past. It’s an endless cycle, almost futile, but not entirely useless since it encourages us to think within our own minds.