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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Celebrated rape-murder case in Cebu now in cinemas

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When was the last time we saw a Tagalog film based on true events? I can no longer recall as most films shown in cineplexes since the advent of malls have been romantic comedies or horror movies.

In theaters now (it opened last Wednesday) is a film based on the celebrated Chiong rape-murder case two decades ago.

Jacqueline Comes Home (The Chiong Story) is a gripping crime drama based on the controversial real-life rape and murder case of the Chiong sisters 21 years ago in Cebu.

Meg Imperial and Donna Bartolome as Chiong sisters

The movie stars Donnalyn Bartolome as Marijoy and Meg Imperial as Jacqueline. 

Ysabelle Peach Caparas, daughter of celebrated comic-book illustrator-novelist-turned-movie producer/director Carlo J. Caparas, he’s also the movie’s assistant director, tells the tragic events in the life of the Chiong sisters.

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In the telling of the events, we see Jacqueline and Marijoy, typical young women fortunate to belong to a loving family. They enjoy the freedom to go out without chaperones, and in the case of Marijoy, to be in a relationship. Jacqueline, though she is older, does not mind being single, and actually prefers being in the company of their beloved parents, Dionisio and Thelma.

But the ordinariness of their situation ends on July 16, 1997. On that rainy evening, six men nabbed the sisters from a waiting shed, dragged into a vehicle, and transported to a godforsaken place where they eventually suffer inhumane acts from their captors.

The following day, their parents are thrown into the throes of indescribable agony when they saw Marijoy’s lifeless body and wondering where Jacqueline is.

When such a tragedy strikes a family, what happens to those left behind?

The ordeal that the Chiong family had to go through in search for justice is captured in the performances of Joel Torre and Alma Moreno (as the parents of Marijoy and Jacqueline).

Peach said she created this film in a way that it would be open for interpretation. She also said that her mother, the late Donna Villa, had always wanted to produce this film.

In real life, only Marijoy’s body was found but even then there was difficulty in identifying the body. Jacqueline was never found, dead or alive.

But Caparas’ interpretation that Jacqueline survived the ordeal has earned heavy criticism from netizens who are campaigning for the boycott of the film.

One of the convicted perpetrators of the crime Francisco “Paco” Larrañaga was transferred to a prison in Spain (he’s the son of pelotari Manuel Larrañaga and Filipino Margarita Gonzales) ergo both a Filipino and Spanish citizen. He along with the other six accused were sentenced to die by lethal injection on Feb. 3 2004.

Ryan Eigenmann plays of one of the perpetrators. Before doing the rape scene, the actor showed his respect to the two lead stars by asking what actions would be unacceptable for them. Meg and Donnalyn, on the other hand, showed professionalism by not putting any limitations and giving the director and Ryan their full trust that everything will be done according to what the scene requires.

Jacqueline Comes Home (The Chiong Story), a movie that comes from the heart of all involved will pierce the hearts of many. 

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Four capstone projects from the Digital Filmmaking program of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB) School of Design and Arts (SDA) will vie for the Best Short Film award at FACINE 25: The 25th Annual Filipino International Cine Festival from Oct. 18 to 21 in San Francisco, California.

Among those which made it as finalist to FACINE’s short film competition are Caramel Child by Kim Timan, Rufyla by Coleen Tanco, Suerte by Carlo Fajarda, and the documentary Hope Spots by Joseph Dominic Cruz.

Caramel Child, co-written by Timan with Palanca awardee Lino Balmes, is a light drama about a Filipino-American girl Katherine Kaye Jones (Angelica Ulip), or Kakay, who tries her best to look for her absentee father. Kakay’s curiosity is triggered by a regional science quiz bee poster and an American client (Savino Bellini) of her mother (Sue Prado). 

In Suerte, two student filmmakers are shooting a documentary about the drug trade in their city until it descends into a very dangerous obsession for them. As they go along with their subject, they slowly become characters in their own film, crossing the line between observer and creator. The film competed at the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea, 28th Singapore Int’l Filmfest and Taipei Film Festival in Taiwan.

In Rufyla, a T’boli tribeswoman dances for a living and encounters a dramatic turn of events in pursuit of a better life for her family. The short film is a CineFilipino Film Festival 2018 student category finalist.

Hope Spots, a finalist in the documentary category of UP Cinema’s Piling Obrang Vidyo, looks into the debut of women wrestlers in a fight sponsored by the Philippine Wresting Revolution. It zeroes in on the local professional wrestling scene, presenting the polarizing sport of pro-wrestling through the lens of the homegrown promotions’ first female talent.

The competition will open FACINE 25 on Oct.18 at the San Francisco Main Library and the SF Philippine Consulate. 

The winner will receive a $100 cash prize and certificate of recognition. Special citations will also be awarded in any category upon the jury’s discretion.

Apart from the four Benildean student films, Hulid (Lie Together) by BenildeFilm program coordinator Jan Philippe Carpio also made it to the competition. The experimental narrative questions sexual pleasure, voyeurism, detachment and the paradox of public anonymity.

 Meanwhile, nine full-length films will slug it out for the Best Film and other prizes in the main competition from Oct.19 to 21 at the Roxie Theater, also in San Francisco. Vying for awards in the different categories are 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten written by Jason Paul Laxamana and directed by Petersen Vargas; Bomba by Ralston Jover; Kita Kita by Sigrid Andrea P. Bernardo; Meet Me in St. Gallen by Irene Emma Villamor; Melodrama / Random / Melbourne by Matthew Victor Pastor; Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha by Mes de Guzman; Pauwi Na by Paolo Villaluna; Tale of the Lost Boys by Joselito Altarejos; and Tu Pug Imatuy written by Arnel Mutia Mardoquio and directed by Arbi Barbarona.

FACINE is organized by the Filipino Arts and Cinema International, a nonprofit media arts organization that aims to promote and develop Filipino cinema from the Philippines and the Filipino diaspora. It has organized the festival for the past 25 years.

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