Cinemalaya 2011: MASKARA Review
There's one scene in Laurice Guillen's Maskara where Ina Feleo, playing Anna, the illegitimate daughter of accomplished actor Bobby (Tirso Cruz III) who recently passed away, suddenly weeps. Guillen does not opt for an extreme close-up of her daughter's face. Instead, Feleo is seen from a comfortable distance, allowing her to overwhelm the frame with just There's something strangely haunting about Feleo's performance. It is more than good within the scope of the film's narrative. It is actually very moving on its own, encompassing emotions as varied as sorrow and anger, regret and acceptance.
Feleo's father and Guillen's husband, the great actor Johnny Delgado, died in 2009. While Feleo and fictional Anna were born under different circumstances, they share common emotions, of longing and of overflowing love for a missed father. In short, Feleo's memorable performance has truth as its foundation. That the truth is conveyed through the art of acting makes it immeasurably more beautiful.
Maskara, written also by Feleo, is based on the truth. Huge portions of the film are covered by unscripted anecdotes told by Delgado's friends and comrades. The interview of Bobby by Anna is adapted from an actual interview done by Delgado. The film, although fictional, becomes a loving tribute to Delgado, not only by Guillen and Feleo, but by the actors, from someone as established in the industry as Ricky Davao, who dedicates a very raw but convincing rendition of O Sole Mio, to someone as young as Miles Ocampo, whose tearful reminiscence of Delgado is poignant, who shared their stories to both humanize the actor and to move the film's story.
Truth, as it is, is a powerful thing. Truth, moderated and enunciated through arts and craftsmanship, becomes infinitely more powerful. There are fragments of very personal truths to Guillen's family in Maskara's story of a wife (Shamaine Buencamino) who discovers of her husband's illegitimate daughter through letters that the daughter wrote to her father that he kept. These personal truths, masked by the fiction of Guillen's cinema, is modulated, turning what could possibly be personal only to Delgado's family and to those who personally knew him into something that is personal to everyone who ever loved and even questioned love.
The story ends with a question left unanswered. Why did Bobby hide Anna from her family? The concealment could taint love. It can also mystify it, deepen it, and instruct that it has more facets than what we may know in a single lifetime.
Acting is an art where the concealment of the truth is required. Film too, since it is based on the illusion of movement. The paradox here is that the quality of these art forms is often gauged as to how much truth is revealed from the concealment. The more real the acting, the closer to truth the film is, the better. Maskara conceals as much as it reveals. The film, more than an impassioned tribute to a loving and beloved husband for Guillen, father for Ina and executive producer Ana Feleo, and esteemed artist and friend for the other actors who appeared in the film, is a document on the power of art, to communicate and to heal.
(Cross-published in Lessons from the School of Inattention.)