PEP REVIEW: Pintakasi: How art saves


Pintakasi revolves around DJ (John Wayne Sace, left), an artist who initiates change amid the filth of a slum area. The film also stars Erich Gonzales and JM De Guzman. The setting of the film, Isla Pulo, is based on a real-life dumpsite located on the outskirts of Navotas. This multimedia film will have February 8 and February 29 screenings in select SM cinemas.


The multimedia film Pintakasi won Best Picture in the 2011 Metro Manila Film Festival New Wave category. Produced by Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, it took about three years to finish. It combines good drama and a kick of action; it likewise incorporates animation, which is why the production utilized two directors: cinematographer Lee Meily (for live action) and artist Nelson Caguila (for animation).

Pintakasi paints the dismal environment of a real-life garbage dump located on the outskirts of Navotas. While exposing the dark realities of the poverty-stricken area could have been convenient by way of a stark documentary, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos’ production utilized a film to zero in on the population that subsists on the island, more so pry open the culture they have.

In the film, Isla Pulo is a filthy shanty town whose physical squalor symbolizes the evil in and the rotting values of the community. As crime is ubiquitous in the impoverished society, so is crime a lucrative means of getting by. The main characters introduced at the beginning of the film are cast in stereotypes--the gang leader, the prostitute (or "pokpok"), the corruptible police (or "parak"), the hypocritical elderly (or "banal"), etc.

The film focuses on an urban ghetto that is being run by a gang composed of out-of-school youth led by Tikboy (JM De Guzman) who calls himself the "mayor" of Isla Pulo. He connives with the likes of the treacherous Bogart (Alwyn Uytingco) and other members of the youth who are easily influenced and intimidated by Tikboy’s bellicose trait. While it is noticeable that the young ones engage in drug dealing and stealing, the film reveals that the adults play a major role in the grime of the community. It is Boots Anson Roa’s character as the "pious" Lola, who in fact manipulates the youth and fuels the drug selling business in the neighborhood.

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Along the way comes the orphaned DJ (John Wayne Sace), a young adult who hails from the province. Like Tikboy whose police father was killed for being an honest law enforcer, DJ’s parents were also a victim of injustice. Because his custody was transferred to his Uncle Kernel, a policeman (William Martinez), and his Aunt Witni (Giselle Sanchez), DJ relocates to Isla Pulo.

Upon his arrival, DJ, deemed as a lowly and ignorant "probinsiyano," is introduced to the severe adversity, likewise the hostility and iniquity in Isla Pulo. DJ is welcomed by Tikboy in his group, even promised that if he sticks with Tikboy, he will not be harmed nor will he experience hunger so long as he contributes to their misdeeds.

DJ’s introduction to Isla Pulo becomes a significant episode in the lives of the inhabitants. While his character could have easily yielded to Tikboy and company’s ways in order to fit in, DJ is able to resist because he sees the world differently. Pintakasi’s protagonist is a talented painter whose artistic vision transcends the physical canvas. DJ sees Isla Pulo’s ugliness for what it is--much like his nasty past--and takes it upon himself to create beauty and hope through his art.

Apart from Tikboy and his gang, DJ befriends the beautiful daing vendor, Josie (Erich Gonzalez) and her brother Apol (Winryll Banaag), the neighborhood’s crippled child who moves around through a wooden mobile. It is Josie who motivates DJ to radiate his innate goodness. In her character does DJ find the strength to fight the dishonesty and violence inflicted by Tikboy’s group.

DJ earns money from painting, inspiring those around him to hope and dream once again. DJ even becomes a motivation for his peers to pursue their talents instead of creating trouble in their community.

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Little by little, DJ gains the respect and admiration of Isla Pulo’s people, more importantly, he wins the heart of Josie. The predicament comes in when Tikboy becomes insecure and envious of DJ’s status in his territory. The film closes as DJ battles Tikboy who wreaks havoc and endangers the lives of Josie and Apol. Coincidentally, a deluge washes out the shanties--a metaphor for the cleansing of Isla Pulo, marking a new beginning for its people.

Pintakasi utilizes animation which translates into graffiti art on the screen. It is the most apt and creative means of extending the protagonist’s artistry to the audience. It is noticeable that during the scenes portraying violence, the characters become animated, articulating the brutality and cruelty of the ghetto. The film likewise incorporates hip hop and rap--a form of dance and music that is unique to the streets. For a social commentary that employs such art forms, Pintakasi becomes comprehensible to the youth and relevant to the times.

The film features talents such as JM De Guzman and Erich Gonzalez long way before they catapulted to fame through their respective acting projects for the ABS-CBN network, which only indicates that such a film as Pintakasi with a strong narrative, theme, and advocacy can stand on its own. The cast, which includes seasoned actors Boots Anson Roa, William Martinez, Giselle Sanchez, with young thespians such as John Wayne Sace, deliver an emphatic portrayal of their characters that solidly contribute to the film’s objectives.

Pintakasi is poignant, terrifying, moving, and nothing other than art can make it any more effective and beautiful.

It will be shown in select SM cinemas nationwide, with cut scenes during the film’s MMFF screening to be shown in the mainstream version. Dates of screenings are as follows: February 8 in SM Megamall, SM Mall of Asia, SM Fairview, SM Marikina, SM North Edsa, SM Cebu and SM Iloilo and February 29 in SM Baguio, SM Davao and SM Batangas.

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