A Chronicle of the Da Pinoys and Da Coconut Repablik of Da Pilipins
This film, together with Thy Womb, are the entries that are quite decent and did not sucked monkey balls. These films are not made just for a quick buck (Sisterakas cough, cough) and for no brainers ( Enteng). Thy Womb is a great film, but it is not my genre. So we will review the biographical epic “El Presidente”
For months, I am very excited to see this film. Since JV Ejercito’s Asiong Salonga had swept the awards night of the MMFF, I am very optimistic for the films next year. So in MMFF 2012, while other people are choosing to watch generic films, I decided to watch El Presidente.
Since the 1998 film Jose Rizal, no one had seriously dared to enter a historical film for the MMFF. For me, Jose Rizal’s main flaw is its historical accuracy, but still it was entertaining to have a glimpse of the darker side of Rizal, the most man who sparked the revolution.
El Presidente tackles the life of Emilio Aguinaldo, the first President of the First Philippine Republic. From his merchant origins, he became a revolutionary. He had won countless battles which gained him the support of the citizens of Cavite, his eventual election as the President, his leadership of the Republic, his eventual defeat and his later life. The film portrayed him just like as an ordinary human.
I like the treatment of historical figures as ordinary humans, they are not angels or demons. I like that style of story telling. I am recommending you to watch the television series Napoleon, it is a 4 part miniseries.
What I like about El Presidente is not only its humanism to the main character, but also its battle scenes. It portrayed the battles quite accurately, although Katipuneros are not wearing camisas, more or less fighting with bolos and a few rifles. The battle scenes are inspired from 300, you can clearly point it out.
The costumes are also accurate, but the uniforms of the ordinary Katipuneros are still portrayed as disorganised. The Katipuneros wore a standard uniform,. but its officers wore and bought their personal uniforms. For example, Aguinaldo wore a khaki uniform during the battle of Manila.
I agree that this film had exerted effort, but they must not rely on local history books for information. They must had rely on Nick Joaquin and Ambeth Ocampo’s books as well as books from William Henry Scott instead. These men portrayed a neutral point of view free from any biases. It suffered the same flaw as Jose Rizal.
The film lacks also the portrayal of the secrets of the Revolution. There are so many silenced chapters of our history. The rivalry between Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo, as well his rivalry with Luna, were portrayed, although in a watered down fashion.
I am always complaining why the heck would Bonifacio wore those clothes? His picture when it was taken, shown that he wore an Americana and a Tuexedo. His connections with the Freemasons are not shown also, which had a large influence in the history of the Revolution, partly because of its members.
The cinematography is quite excellent, it had reminded me of the film 300. The soundtrack is also quite excellent. The theme song, I don’t like it like what I liked about Asiong Salonga’s theme song, but it is tolerable.
The actors are very generic, including JV Ejercito. Cesar Montano, the actor who portrayed Jose Rizal 14 years ago, has done an excellent job as Bonifacio. He deserved the best actor award for the MMFF. Christopher De Leon had also did a quite good job in portraying Antonio Luna.
El Presidente clearly lacks historical accuracy, partly because of biased historians and for artistic license. It is not recommended for viewers to watch it for history. This film however, can provoke historical debate. The creators must had taken more neutral sources in portraying the film.
El Presidente’s main quality for me is the humanism of the characters, particularly Aguinldo, Luna and Bonifacio. They did what Jose Rizal had done 14 years ago. The humanistic approach of the film to historical figures has captivated me.
This film can make us think, unlike mainstream films. They over commercialised nationalism though. This film can raise questions but also it can revive the xenophobic pride of the Filipinos AKA Pinoy Pride. Non Filipino historians and even Nick Joaquin called Aguinaldo as a scheming tyrant who wanted to place himself as the supreme ruler of the country using any means, a cunning Machiavellian.
What is my score? 6.9/10, 6 points lower than Asiong Salonga. This film has lots of potential that it can exploit to make a film that can be called gold. It is still worth an effort.
I suggest the film makers to create a mini series out of this film in order to portray it more accurately and more detailed. The film cannot portray them all I know. If you are serious, make a mini series or even a spin off. I also recommend people to watch the 1970 film Waterloo just for comparison.
Until then, I see you guys. Now it is my pleasure to present you the official music video of El Presidente sung by Apl de Ap. Happy Holidays! 😀