John Denver’s silence: The Movie as seen by an Antiqueño

Jansen Magpusao (left) star of the movie "John Denver Trending," with businesswoman Marlene T. Liao,June Rey Lazarte Dullete, Jun Perez Teneso and Alex de los Santos after the showing of the much-acclaimed film at Robinson's Cinema Antique.

Finally, Antiqueños were able to watch “John Denver Tending” in Antique.

2019 Cinemalaya’s best picture had a gala opening Saturday night at the province’s lone movie house, Robinson’s Cinema in San Jose, the province’s capital town, about five hours by bus from Pandan, the setting of the movie.

First time actor, 15 -year- old Jansen Magpusao, who won the best actor award, attended the opening night with the film’s director, Arden Rod Condez. Both are from Antique.

The movie was also the highest grossing entry in this year’s Cinemalaya festival

Antiqueños came in full force for the “John Denver Trending.”

Here’s writer Alex de los Santos giving an Antiqueño’s reaction to the much acclaimed movie.’

Silence was loudest at the movie hall a few seconds after the screen went black to end the film. The well-deserved applause was rather hesitant, allowing some time for the collective shock to settle.

It was John Denver Cabungcal's (Jansen Magpusao) discomforting silence that dominated the film. He was accused of stealing an iPad, and no one else but his mother believed him. He was bashed in social media, judged and declared guilty, without the benefit of a proper investigation.

Early on in the film, he was compared to the village aswang, believed to be evil, causing a hex to others, and thus ostracized. This was how scriptwriter and director Arden Rod Condez wove the bucolic and parochial into his film about how social media has shaken a small town.

We get a glimpse of life in Pandan town, yet follow the brooding silence of the central character. From the start, we all knew too well that he was innocent, and the camera took us along with him, thinking his thoughts, feeling his anxiety, fear, and humiliation.

It was John Denver versus society. The last encounter alone with SPO1 Corpus (played so competently by Sammy Rubido), who was the spokesperson of all judgement, hate, and injustice the community can give, led to the inevitable, when one is left without defense, without ally.

It is the director's conceit - in the literary sense - to compare the innocent John Denver's persecution to Jesus Christ, and her mother Marites (Meryl Soriano) like the Virgin Mary losing her son to the mob who want to crucify him.

The crucial question, "Who stole the iPad?" became in the end immaterial, because the netizens had already made their own judgement despite fabricated evidence, and nobody cared for the truth. That is how cruel the world of social media has become.


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