There is Hollywood, Nollywood, Bollywood, and other countries that are feeding you films and even your local city are making films in hopes that it would reach great success. Sometimes we tend to forget to take a look once in a while at what is happening in our own country like the Philippines when it comes to the film industry. Being exposed to the Filipino television channels at home here in Toronto, Canada and not giving it a chance because we are so westernized on this side of the world, it would never cross our mind that director Mario Cornejo with his project Apocalypse Child would be an excellent film that had bearing. Always assuming that the acting is going to be as corny or dramatic as a soap opera type show on ABS-CBN and the film quality being poor, Apocalypse Child far exceeded our expectations. Which is why the film recently screened here in Toronto at the recent Reel Asian International Film Festival and won the award for Best Feature Film. Perhaps it is the westernization of a modern Filipino film that brings Apocalypse Child to great heights because it looks like a film that is coming out of today’s Hollywood but it contains the traditional style of Filipino love and romance that we always have seen in the past. Director Mario Cornejo certainly brings a realistic look on how today’s love and romance in a hook-up culture transpires when you live and surf in the beautiful landscapes of Baler in the Philippines.
If you have not guessed it yet, Baler is the location they shot the film Apocalypse Now and where the premise of this film is built. Sid Lucero who plays “Ford” is deemed in the town for being the son of Francis Ford Coppola and is a surfer because the crew of the film Apocalypse Now left him a surfing board when he was younger. His mother “Chona”, played by Ana Abad-Santos, is the one who has been saying to everyone in town ever since the light of day that Francis Ford Coppola is the father of her child and wants the director to acknowledge that. His premiere love interest when the film begins is Ford’s surfing student Fiona, played by Annicka Dolonius, who only speaks in English to Ford and the rest of the actors throughout the film but understands the rest of them when they talk tagalog to her. This is such a weird thing that most people who are not Filipino would be able to understand but common to Pinoys that when someone who is Filipino can only speak English, we are able to comprehend exactly what they are saying. But this romance that occurs between both Ford and Fiona is a relationship that setups the other romances that occurs in Apocalypse Child. But more importantly Fiona’s character really westernizes the film to more of a mainstream audience because she speaks English all the way through without even attempting to speak a word in tagalog.
Ford leads pretty much a simple life without really having to think or own up to anyone except his mother of whom he smokes dope with as well. As the surfing season begins to close, an old friend Rich, played by RK Bagatsing, surfaces to the town of Baler with his soon to be trophy wife Serena, played by Gwen Zamora. This is where things take a turn to for everyone in the film especially that of Ford who must confront the myths of the past when these two appear in the already serene life of Ford and Fiona. The dark truths and the secret agendas start to appear between all of the characters in the film especially during the nights where there is a lot of weed smoking and drinking that is paradoxically set against the beautiful landscape of Baler. Ford and Serena begin to start of the relationship of their own after her boyfriend pushes her to learn the fundamentals of surfing which leaves both Ford and Serena alone. Things start to go astray as other romances develop between all of these characters but this is all because it is out of convenience. There are so many things to experience in the town of Baler and it has much to offer but when you stick five people in one setting without any direct outside influences, there are going to be some sort of fire that is going to be started or perhaps needed to be put out.
What really stands out in the film is the acting of Sid Lucero who plays Ford and who is the ironically the foundation of this film and the hub of all the characters in the story. It seems as though Ford is really going no where in life in the film but as Fiona complains to Chona at one point that everyone tends to stick up for him and make excuses for him. The audience falls for Ford and becomes emotionally invested in him because we have a sense of hatred for him because of the amount of freedom he experiences. The man does what he wants and seems to think that there are no consequences to his actions. He smokes, drinks and surfs and sleeps with anyone whom he chooses to sleep with but what more can you do if you have this stigma that surrounds you that you are Francis Ford Coppola’s son. So why not take advantage of it whether it is a myth or not? What is more important is that all the characters in this film is attracted to Ford’s sense of freedom and it actually liberates them. When the audience expects a much heated quarrel between himself and someone else, Ford has tendency to calm things down and not let things get too out of hand like a traditional Filipino cinema dramatic romance. Ford tends to get away with things because he is the master of his own environment in which all of these characters are truly alienated to and that goes the same for his own mother. Perhaps the title of the film Apocalypse Child suggests that Ford is a child in a man’s body who refuses to grow up whether or not it harms his relationships with others because he refuses to feel any pain and of course that’s childish.