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My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro) – Review

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SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t watched this movie and have the intention of doing so, I discourage you to read the plot of the story.

My Neighbor Totoro is a well-known Japanese animation film for children (and maybe for adults too) that was released in April 16, 1988 originally in Japan. It runs for 86 minutes, and was directed, screen played, and written (storyboard) by Hayao Miyazaki. It was also made possible by Studio Ghibli, a famous Japanese animation film studio.

via Google Images

Hayao Miyazaki
via Google Images

The plot of the story was about a family moving to a house in the province, finding out that the house they’d be staying in was also resided by ghosts or spirits. The mother of the family was admitted in a hospital even before they moved to the province. It was convenient for them since the province where they moved in was nearer to the hospital. Mei and Satsuki were adventurous and hardworking, doing every task that was asked of by their father who was a university professor. Mei and Satsuki became friends with the spirits that were living in the house and in the camphor tree found near their home. The spirits were named totoros. Unexpectedly, the totoros can be of great help in their life as a family during the run of the story. As additional information, it was set during the 1950s.

via IMDB

via IMDB

The film as a moving image narrates a story. The way that My Neighbor Totoro was narrated as a story through film and animation was surreal. It appeals a lot to the children and young adults because of its flavor of fantasy and adventure. Miyazaki, writing a story that clashes the spiritual world and the real world, was successful of depicting his beliefs as Japanese – their religious belief called Shintoism. For a brief background about Shintoism, it is a religion wherein one worships nature spirits and ancestors (The American Heritage Dictionary). There’s another character in the story that showed a Japanese legend – the cat that shape-shifted into a bus. So, the film shows a culture of the Japanese through its characters.

via IMDB

The Sisters and The Spirits
via IMDB

Despite of what happened in Japan during 1950s, Miyazaki was able to create an entertaining and joyful animation-film. During the 1950s, Japan was recovering with their freedom from the American colonization, and some devastating news was happening like the riot between policemen and pro-Communist demonstrators. Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro was an imagery of the peaceful Japan, the pre-modernized country. The film was also a personal nostalgia of the writer, the time when he was still a child. Miyazaki personally gives importance to the silence that comes in between scenes, as how he said it in an interview: “The people who make the movies are scared of silence, so they want to paper and plaster it over… What my friends and I have been trying to do since the 1970’s is to try to quiet things down a bit; don’t just bombard them with noise and distraction. And to follow the path of children’s emotions and feelings as we make a film.” ( The animation-film was also considered as an open floor for the diversity of audiences with regards to their culture and beliefs, wherever they may be.

Just as what My Neighbor Totoro showed to the audience: its fantasy and/or reality, the beliefs ingested within the story – how open and flexible enough are we to accept one another’s beliefs? As for the aspiring filmmakers or animators, are we scared for silences in between scenes – scared that the audience may get bored, and forgetting the essence of how a film should penetrate the people’s emotions?



Peque Gallaga’s Oro Plata Mata (Review)

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Peque Gallaga’s Oro Plata Mata (Review)

Last Saturday (June 14, 2014), I watched Director Peque Gallaga’s known masterpiece in the field of film making, Oro Plata Mata (Gold, Silver, Death), which was released in 1982. It was my first time to watch that movie, and it made me a bit bored because it ran for almost 3 hours. While watching it online, I was joined by my father, telling me that it really was a great film. He also added, “But sadly, after that, Filipino movies suddenly focused on explicit and x-rated movies that has something to do with appealing sexuality and sensuality.” I was never introduced to classic Filipino movies like Oro Plata Mata, making me see how different Filipino movies were during that time. I must also mention the scriptwriter of the movie, Mr. Jose Javier Reyes, who made a wonderful job in making such a meaningful and important story that relates with the Philippine History. Mr. Jose Javier Reyes shared, “Other than Peque asking me to do it, what inspired me to write this movie were stories I learned from my father, Marciano Reyes Sr., about the so-called peacetime and how we Filipinos were never really the same after the War.” (via


Director Peque Gallaga

Since I watched the movie online, the version available to watch was not in High Definition (HD) and there were many deleted scenes because of the violence and sexual scenes. Deleted scenes make the movie incomplete for me, but I understand why those scenes were deleted. The person who uploaded the videos may be banned. Anyway, away from digressing.

Oro Plata Mata was really a good movie in terms of its story and importance in the Philippine History. It started with Nick Joaquin’s quote about what happened during the time of war in the Philippines. He stated that, “There has been no peacetime since (the start of the Second World War)…” That certain state that was said by Nick Joaquin was shown in the film: how the Ojeda and Lorenzo families moved from one house or place to another in order to survive in the midst of a war, and how each of them coped up with it. Even rich families were having a hard time living in those times.

Honestly, for me, the theme of the movie was deep if you do not analyze it at all. It may be another film about lives during the war, but like Filipino literature, the director and writer included symbolism in Oro Plata Mata. One symbolism that I noticed was the title of the movie and the families moving from one place to another. Oro (Gold) was the first step: the rich families were all happy as they gathered for a birthday celebration. Plata (Silver) was the second step: the Ojeda family evacuated to the Lorenzo’s hacienda. The joy in the family fell continuously as they were considering safety measures from the Japanese army. Mata (Death) was the third and last step: the time when Japanese soldiers were seen approaching towards the hacienda of the Lorenzo family. They went to the Lorenzo’s forest house. In there, situations among the characters became worse. But in the end of it all, they returned to a happy state, but not as happy as how it once started. As how Trining Ojeda said (which was a highlight in the movie), “Naging hayop nang lahat sa atin. Ang digmaang ito, ginawang hayop tayong lahat (All of us became animals. This war made us all animals.).”

As for my overall comment about Oro Plata Mata: The realism depicted in the film was superb.

Cherie Gil on “Oro Plata Mata”:

“Oro, Plata, Mata” is what art is all
about. The masterful manner of Peque’s execution of
every scene, almost unmatched to this day, brought
us a masterpiece — one of the most important films
ever made in our country. (


The Surface of The World: Architecture and The Moving Image

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Our school is having an ongoing exhibition at our very own contemporary art museum, MCAD (Museum of Contemporary Art and Design) called:

the surface of the world

It runs from June 06, 2014 until September 27, 2014. If you are from Manila, Philippines or from abroad, you are very welcome to view the exhibition. It has free admission, too! Click here and here to know more about the details of the exhibit.

(c) Benildean Press Corps Photo by Joaquin Talan

The entrance of the MCAD
(c) Benildean Press Corps
Photo by Joaquin Talan

The exhibit transformed the MCAD into a dark two-floor exhibition space. Every art work was a form of short film and video installation. International artists and a local artist were chosen by the curator of the exhibit, Clare Carolin. Moving on from the important details of the exhibit, there is an art work that I found very interesting among all the other video installations in the exhibit.


Isaac Julien’s “Enigma” (2014)

The first art piece that caught my attention was Isaac Julien’s Enigma (2014). It is a time-lapse composite of 2500 still photographic images shown from an LCD TV on a wall. At first, I was not able to notice that those were a series of photographs. It amazed me to read the art piece definition after staring at it for a couple of minutes. It showed the city of Dubai and the activities that happen to it within 24 hours from a distant point of view. Thinking about how the artist was able to compile thousands of photographs from a semi-bird’s eye view was exemplary. Truly, technology is continuously developing throughout the world, even in the field of the arts. Being included in the exhibition, Enigma was the only time-lapse composite art work that showed a landscape of the city of Dubai. But knowingly, it is not an ordinary landscape time-lapse composite images. It suggests a deeper meaning about Dubai and its economy.

The Surface of The World exhibition suggests that the architecture of structures became part of the environment of us, human beings. Film or the “moving image” has its own boundaries within the building structures. But does it really mean that the artists can be bounded by these things or will they creatively perceive the world around them? In Isaac Julien’s Enigma, he represented the idea of capitalism (in terms of Economics) at the city of Dubai. Within that not-totally-a-landscape art piece, the city was shown as alive: the people in it and the buildings. What made these buildings among the vast field and ocean in Dubai city were the people who were existing in the photographs of the artist. But most of all, it is the capitalist system that made the city live like this. Isaac grasped the idea of capitalism in his art work, the Enigma which literally means mysterious.