Antique’s pride: ‘John Denver Trending’

Director Arden Rod Condez with Meryll Soriano (in yellow outfit),Jansen Magpusao, Glen Sevilla Mas and other members of the production team of "John Denver trending" at the movie's gala showing at the CCP.

I love “John Denver Trending” and I recommend you take time to watch it at the nearestvenue it is showing. Aug. 9, Friday,it is showing at 6:15 at the CCP’s main theater, Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo where Cinemalaya 2019 festival is ongoing.

It is also showing in commercial theaters : at 4:30 p.m. at Trinoma; Market, Market; and Glorietta. It will also be showing at the Abreeza Mall in Davao.

Given the interest and enthusiasm the film has generated, there’s a good chance that there will be more scheduled screenings in commercial movie houses. Watch out for it.

The movie is close to my heart (pounded to the core during the almost two- hour screening) for two reasons: First, the movie is in Kinaray-a, the language of my province- Antique. It has English subtitles for non-Antiqueños.Second, it’s about the scourge of online disinformation – the issue that our group, VERA Files, is actively helping to fight.

The movie revolves around a mild-mannered 8th grade pupil, John Denver (portrayed with utmost sensitivity by14-year old Jansen Magpusao)who found himself in the center of a town’s turmoil when he was wrongly suspected of stealing a classmate’s I-pad. The issue got complicated when a classmate posted a video of a fight between John Denver and a bully classmate.

The movie was shot in its entirety in Pandan, a town in the northern part of Antique ,where the family of the current representative, Loren Legarda, comes from.The Zaldivar family (the late Supreme Court Justice Calixto Zaldivar, former governor Enrique Zaldivar, former governor Sally Perez-Zaldivar) are also from Pandan.

The movie is rich in local sound and color. One even hears in the background the” tiktik.”In our childhood days, we were told that was the sound of the “aswang.”

In building scene after scene, the director,Arden Rod Condez, deftly integrated local culture, customs and tradition, the superstitions with modern day daily life. The ending is heartbreaking.The audience that filled the CPP main theater was quiet when the movie ended. It took them a little while to recover and applaud.

Nazamel Tabares of Pelikula Mania said in his film review: “It’s an experience. Right after its turning point, you feel you’re part of what seems to be a series of mess. And what resulted to that mess are people judging and adding gas to a fire that’s already spreading wildly. You get to be in the middle of that mess, of that fire. And it’s probably one of the worst feelings you could ever have.

“This is the first film of Arden Rod Condez and it’s amazing how focused his storytelling is. How effective and how brilliant he delivers his messages through this film. And I applaud him for that.”

We are so proud of our kasimanwa, Arden Rod Condez.

For the Antiqueños that trooped to the gala night at the CCP last Tuesday, another high was the sound of Kinaray-a in the elegant lobby of the CCP. Philippine Star defense reporter Jaime Laude, who is from the town of Valderrama, found it delightfully amazing.

WriterGlenn Sevilla Mas, who had a big part in the movie as well as in themaking of the movie, said in Facebook: “More than anything else, what made me proudest last night was seeing and hearing our own--language, culture, people, landscapes--at the CCP Main Theater. And in front of fellow Filipinos and in the company of hundreds of fellow Karay-a, too! Kruhay gid! “

Sally Perez’ daughter, Roselyn, who is into theater, posted in Facebook: Iba lang talaga to hear the dialect. Hits you in a deeper place. More power. I can’t wait for the next Kiniray-a film. “


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Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

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