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Music sets the stage for a story about social class in Cinemalaya’s Special Jury Prize film Blue Room

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Blockbuster Cinemalaya hit Blue Room won this year’s Special Jury Prize and four major awards: Best Direction for Ma-An Asuncion-Dagñalan, Best Cinematography for Neil Daza, Best Supporting Actor for Soliman Cruz, and Best Production Design for Marxie Maolen Fadul.

Blue Room opens with each member of the band en route to their gig; this scene introduces both their personalities and shows their social background. The film cast Harvey Bautista as Chigz, Nourijune as Rocky, Keoni Jin as Christian, and Elijah Canlas as Troy.

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While most of them came from privileged families, some were not as lucky — music is the one thing that unites them all. Just as they are about to perform, an audience member interrupts them and it is revealed that he is a rather estranged member of the band — Anton, portrayed by Juan Karlos Labajo. Together, these five actors make an interesting group dynamic — the free-spirited Anton, the disciplined Rocky, pampered Chigz, mysterious songwriter Troy, and disadvantaged Christian.

The drama unfolds when they made a traffic violation and were flagged by policemen. Their car was searched and a packet of cocaine was supposedly found by the police. Despite their denial that it belonged to them, they were brought to the police station.

The title of the movie comes from the blue room where the five were detained. Instead of the normal procedure suspects go through, they were brought to the blue room so they can discuss negotiations with the police.

The head of the station castigated the two cops for bringing in the kids since he found out that one of them is the grandson of a retired police general. This made them uneasy; they knew that they would have to let the kids go in the morning.

Inside the blue room, the five argue about whether to pay the ransom demand or call a lawyer. Fearful of their parents’ reactions, they set to resolve the situation on their own and were separated from each other to agitate them.

The fictional film reflected the issue of the previous administration’s war on drugs, even stereotyping band geeks as drug users and alcoholics. It also featured the controversial hidden cell behind the bookshelf at the Manila Police District Station 1 in Tondo, Manila. This is where Rocky and Anton were put together with several other detainees who were suffering from the conditions and tipped to haggle the ransom price set by the police.

Come next morning, the current police general came to the station to personally oversee the release of the five. When they discovered the hidden cell, he assured them that it was over and that he knew Chigz’s grandfather; at which point, Anton asked what would have happened if he did not know the grandfather. How they would have fared, if they did not have connections, is an interesting question that etched itself in the mind of the viewers.

The build-up was efficiently done and it paid off to cast names already known in the industry. The editing is also well-timed with the insertion of social media feeds giving an insight to how each character feels.

In the end, each of them ended up telling their stories by writing their own songs, growing from their sheltered selves, and using their privilege to tell stories. The closing scene is a full circle, reflecting the opening scene. This time with songs on social issues, on a well-lit public stage with a twist to pronounce their band name as the verb and not the noun — Rebel, Rebel.

adobo magazine is an official media partner of Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival 2022.

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