The movie is close to my heart (pounded to the core during the almost two-hour screening) for two reasons: First, the movie is in Kinaray-a, the language of my province- Antique. It has English subtitles for non-Antiqueños. Second, it’s about the scourge of online disinformation – the issue that our group, VERA Files, is actively helping to fight.
The movie was shot in its entirety in Pandan, a town in the northern part of Antique ,where the family of the current representative, Loren Legarda, comes from. The Zaldivar family (the late Supreme Court Justice Calixto Zaldivar, former Governor Enrique Zaldivar, former Governor Sally Perez-Zaldivar) are also from Pandan.
The movie is rich in local sound and color. One even hears in the background the” tiktik.” In our childhood days, we were told that was the sound of the “aswang.”
Also worth noting is Meryll Soriano, who enfleshes John Denver’s mother with the kind of quiet but forceful dignity and devotion that the role requires.
A clear strength of the film is its rural and “regional” world, with its culturally simultaneous reality being succinctly captured in the depiction of communal faith healers paradoxically coexisting with smart phones, thereby suggesting not so much rupture as continuity between the regime of memory and the regime of data, especially where the residual but entirely determinative power of orality is concerned.
The condemnation that falls squarely on the shoulders of the wrongly accused boy is enabled not only by the manipulability—and the selectivity—of video as a medium, but also by this unfortunate boy’s (class) identity, his unimportance and “dispensability” as a marginal person in this world.
The domination of Kinaray-a speaking film “John Denver Trending” during this year’s Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival made a strong statement: stop cyberbullying, which can be disastrous, or worse even fatal.