Cinemalaya 2012: Oros

Oros, despite being set in the slums of Manila, doesn’t fall into the trap of poverty porn. In fact, the film doesn’t demand its audience to feel sorry for Macoy (Kristoffer King) and Abet (Kristoffer Martin), the two brothers whose lives are intertwined with the illegal gambling operation called ‘sakla’. Yes they’re destitute, but they’re also resourceful, quick-witted and capable of fending for themselves. As such, Oros doesn’t treat the poor simply as objects of sympathy and in dire need of redemption. It is simply a condition of their existence.

Death, however, is a macabre, constant presence in their lives. Their livelihoods depend on staging wakes where these gambling operations can run because that’s the only legal avenue to do so. They make money out of getting unclaimed corpses from morgues and dressing them up to be someone’s deceased cousin or aunt or some other relative whose deaths need mourning. They’ve built an entire underground economy which is as fragile and precarious as these decaying, lifeless bodies.

The movie thrives on the relationship between Macoy and Abet performed wonderfully by the similarly named actors. They capture the intermittent conflicts, the butting of heads and the constant spats that plague brotherly relationships. But in spite of that, they also express the heart, the pure loyalty and the impulse to take care of each other no matter what. It is a touching pair of performances to behold and the two actors deserve all the credit for the emotive power of this movie.

It is a story that is told well, but maybe it belies the fact that it’s one that wasn’t challenging to tell to begin with. I found it at times to be utterly predictable because of too much foreshadowing written in the otherwise decent screenplay. The movie also lacked a certain imagination in its attempts at profundity. In the tradition of social realism, Oros attempted to make bigger political statements and in this case, it tried to ground the debate surrounding the RH bill. But their message was muddled and I felt unsure of what the film wanted to say about it. Somewhere towards the end of the film, it’s very easy to see how it will close and that makes it finish on a very unsatisfying note. But all things considered, it is a solidly made movie that entertains and provokes.

  1. I’m surprised by how effective I found this movie. For me it’s a good example of a straightforward story, well-acted and well-told. I tend to dismiss films set in the slums, just because they’ve been so over-exploited as a setting in local indies. But this one won me over. It’s nothing new or groundbreaking, but maybe that’s why I appreciated it all the more since it didn’t try too hard to impress or shock. It was tight, focused and believable.

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