Short Film Review: Misteryo ng Hapis

, by Janine M.

Misteryo ng Hapis (Sorrowful Mystery) by Mark Dela Cruz is set during the pa-siyam (a Filipino traditional ritual of praying for the soul of the dead for nine consecutive nights) of the main character's father. On the last night, the main character Jay (Andoy Ranay), a young and gay stage performer joins his mother in praying for the soul of his dead father for the first time. For every mystery, we are given glimpses of Jay's childhood, his pain emanating from the lashes of his father's verbal assault on his sexual identity. I found his own chant (in Kapampangan) "Why are you crying? Don't weep." as the women prayed the rosary bothering. The strength of this short film is in its atmosphere, softly lit by candles, semi-darkness, theater settings and gesticulations, repeated prayers. The Catholic devotion in full display, to serve a purpose for his father's death no less, was a stark reminder to Jay of his younger years of repressed sexuality to the point that his insides exclaimed, "I cannot breathe. I cannot see. I cannot move." When his mother gave him the mask (at least I think it was a mask) that his father told her to hand over to him, it was evident that he did not come home for years. During those years, his father had learned to accept him, yet Jay's unforgiving heart prevented them to reconcile while he was still alive. The film was too dramatic/artistic for my taste, but it was able to send its message across.

Misteryo ng Hapis was screened during the 2007 (3rd) Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival.


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