Thursday, May 07, 2009

Jay

Last night, at Laemmle Sunset 5, I saw one of the finest Filipino films I have seen in the last five years. The film is called Jay.

Baron Geisler leads the sterling cast of mostly unknown actors in Francis X. Pasion’s impressive behind-the-scenes look at how TV documentaries are made. The subtle coercions and desire to be famous play like a never-ending dance that renders the movie its bittersweet tone.

The movie is hysterically funny although its subject matter is actually grim. It involves a grisly crime – a gay teacher is found dead with numerous stab wounds all over his body – and a young ambitious TV documentarian who crosses the boundaries of ethical journalism just to be able to capture his “scoop” and present it in the most sensational way.

Surely, we must have heard a lot of unsavory stories about how TV journalists “stages” news to make it more interesting. And the movie attempts to uncover all this in an unapologetic fashion.

Geisler plays Jay, the crafty TV journalist who stops at nothing to make his scoop his most sensational ever. If he had to restage key events because the stock footage was ruined, he would not think twice about it. If he had to make up fake police pursuits because the original aprehension was less thrilling, he would force his way into an actual pursuit. If he had to flirt with uncooperative subjects to make them agree to appear on camera, he would do so without qualms. And what's interesting is that he does all these without losing his charm!

How Geisler plays Jay is the movie's biggest surprise. He is magnificent throughout. There is never a moment where one can sense a hesitancy or awkwardness in his acting. Quite a revelation, indeed!

Flor Salanga, the actress who portrays the victim's mother is also very, very good! She had me fooled in the beginning. Her initial scenes really fooled me into believing that she was a real person and not someone who was “acting”.

Her character, Luzviminda, initially has reservations about the camera following her and making her family’s tragedy into a “reality show”, but when she gets the hang of it and the realization that she could be seen on TV eventually get the better of her. She starts becoming conscious of her appearance and begins to “act” like a grieving mother would on TV.

Like her, most of the characters in the movie are portrayed as hungry for fame. The victim’s younger sister initially thought that Jay’s TV crew was from the Pinoy Big Brother show. There is a teacher who never wanted his face to be seen on camera but scrambled for his foundation just before the take. There is a friend of the victim who cried no end during an interview because she was instructed to look “really sad.”

The movie is never meant to be entertaining the way entertainment is normally defined, and yet it is resoundingly fun. It never takes itself too seriously and never even attempts to correct what surely are production mistakes.

Francis X. Pasion has created a world not far detached from reality. His character's confused understanding of what is ethically and morally right make it all the more credible in a society that is slowly being controlled by media in all its ancillary forms.

And in another clever ploy, Jay, the movie’s title, is the name shared by the crime “victim” and Geisler’s character, which plays as the “victimizer” of sorts. There is no question why the writer did this. If the roles were reversed and Geisler’s character turned out the real victim, there is no doubt that the other Jay, given the opportunity, would also somehow take advantage of the same tragedy. We are indeed only as good or as cunning as our circumstance would allow it.

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