Sinag Maynila’s “Bambanti”: Movie Review
Bambanti means scarecrow in English. It featured great cinematography, really showcasing the beauty of the town and its culture. A star-studded cast also allowed for fair performances. But where it was in bounty for the technicalities, it lacked in story-telling. Although the film was set during the Bambanti Festival in Isabela.
The film opened with a vignette of Belyn, the character landing Alessandra de Rossi’s Best Actress award, walking along the field, falling to her knees and looking up at a scarecrow, to which the film returns to later. In the sequence of events, it is revealed that her husband’s death anniversary is approaching and they are just merely getting by. They rely on the income from the fields and from the occasional laundry cleaning Belyn does at her sister-in-law’s whom she calls Auntie Marta. The movie revolved around a stolen gold watch which belonged to her niece Cristy.
Given their meager disposition and the reading of the local albularyo, Belyn and her son Popoy were accused of the crime. They brought the case up to the baranggay where they continued to deny their involvement in it. It was a small town and gossip spread like wildfire. Popoy was bullied in school because of those allegations, to the point where he refused to attend class. When the parents were called for a meeting with the adviser, letters to their parents were read. Popoy wrote to his deceased father, asking for guidance from God and asking him to tell the Lord that he did not steal the watch. Belyn cried uncontrollably.
The movie became dragging when there was a very slow progression in the case, being repeatedly accused, trying to prove that they did not do it, and being accused again. In the latter part of the film, Belyn and the family focused on what was happening to their immediate lives: her husband’s death anniversary, Popoy’s street dance performance for the festival, and just trying to get by. The real perpetrator was found to be Cristy’s boyfriend. But after her receiving a tongue-lashing from her father, they agreed not to tell anyone and let it be.
The performances were done well but the script dwelled on without clinching everything. It showed the bias and injustice prevalent in small towns where even relatives are placed as pawns to save dignity. As the film says, “truth is irrelevant.” Maybe Belyn’s family, being like pariahs in town, served as scarecrows and their other relatives as the crops protected… except that it was without their permission and knowledge. Popoy acted as a lead bambanti in the performance but he showed how happy he was, which may or may not contradict the possible interpretation as there was no prevalent clincher to clarify.