PEP REVIEW: "Binyag" returns to innocence

Ran Domingo (in photo) plays the lead character Leo in the indie film Binyag, which will be shown in Metro Manila cinemas starting October 8.

Warning: spoilers ahead

is a story about a rural man named Leo (Ran Domingo) who grew upwith a love for the ocean. As a child, he witnessed an eye-opening moment nearthe shoreline that changes his life's perspective. But events in the movieunravel upon the arrival of Lester (Paolo Rivero), a faux talent manager.Lester lures the now grown-up, Leo to Manila with promises of fame and money.In no time, Lester's true colors emerge and he abandons Leo to fend for himselfin the unforgiving city.

The provincial boy makes ends meet by selling his body in exchangefor sexual flavors and grows jaded after all the harsh realities he hasexperienced. It took one unlikely encounter with an old gay man to turn hislife around. In the end, Leo makes a decision to return to the province andreclaim his simple life.

Binyag utilizes the first-person narration techniqueto drive the movie. In the beginning, the narration was endearing and in fact,dramatically appealing. The heart-felt accounts throughout the entire movie canbe credited to the voice talent who was successful in imparting the feelingsand thoughts of the main character. But as the movie progresses, this samenarration grew long and too repetitive. As a viewer, I tuned out from theendless narration some way in the middle of the movie. Not only did it make thefilm heavier, it also took the easy way out in telling the story. Binyagdid not SHOW us the story of Leo. It TOLD us.

I also felt that Binyag's creators should have edited the narration moreand allowed Ran Domingo (the newcomer who plays the main character) to showcasehis acting skills. It was disappointing to be able to count the number of linesRan voiced out with the fingers in my hand. Also, there were moments in themovie where Ran's character was left awkwardly without lines as charactersconversed and related with him. Whilethis may be the characterization of Leo, I could not help but feel this wasdone to compensate for the neophyte acting abilities of the lead actor. Maybethe production should have made sure that their actor was duly prepared throughworkshops and coaching. This is not to say that Ran Domingo failed inportraying his role. In fact, he captured the image of a provincial boy withouteffort. It was just too bad his potential was not maximized.


A feature of the film that I liked was its comedic breaks.It came in the form of funny lines from support characters that helped make themovie lighter. Also, I liked how "binyag" was used as a symbol in the movie. Itutilized water elements throughout the film and ends with Leo coming home from hisharsh experiences in Manila to go for a swim in the ocean—thereby gaining backhis innocence. For the gay audience, they will not be disappointed. A lot ofthe movie scenes showed Ran Domingo stark naked and engaged in tastefully shotintimate scenes with the same sex. A caveat on this though. I watched this filmon its premiere in U.P. Theater and who knows how it will be edited in thecommercial showing.

While I will not say I was overly impressed with Binyag,neither was I disappointed. It is a film that I could watch and recommend topeople but its simplicity will not leave anyone moved or elated. Perhaps thematerial would have best suited as a TV telecast through a program like MaalalaMo Kaya. But go and watch the filmfor yourself and be the judge.


Aside from Ran, Binyag also stars Paolo Rivero (a gaytalent manager), Kenjie Garcia (a city dweller), Simon Ibarra (a fisherman),Lou Veloso (an aging homsexual) and Ynez Veneracion (a childhood friend ofLeo).

Written and directed by Miko Jacinto, Binyag will bescreened in select Metro Manila theaters starting October 8. This film produced by Greenlight Entertainment will be screened at Robinsons Galleria, Robinsons Ermita, Grand Central, Isetann, and Remar.


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