Every year, especially when the Metro Manila Film Festival comes along at Christmas, I tell myself that this is the year that I will actually take some time to watch some original Filipino films. This year, I did try my best to catch at least one film as there were more independent films as compared to the usual fare. I wasn’t able to catch it, but thankfully, Fully Booked decided to host a screening of the films “Saving Sally”, “Sunday Beauty Queen”, “Seklusyon”, and “Valor”, with a question and answer portion with each film’s respective directors from January 27 to February 5, 2017. Thankfully, I managed to attend the screening of “Saving Sally”, the film that I really wanted to see in the first place.
Before we go any further, here are two trailers for “Saving Sally”.
“Saving Sally” is a hybrid live-action and animated film that was directed by Avid Liongoren, with a screenplay written by Charlene Sawit-Esguerra, who wrote the short story “Saving Sally”, which was the basis for the film. This film also took around twelve years to make, due to funding, and other things that cropped up, including losing their main actress at a certain point.
Highly creative and innovative, this little film managed to win Best Musical Score at the Metro Manila Film Festival Awards Ceremony, with a wonderful score composed by Pablo Pico, with an assist from local talents such as Diego Mapa, Mikey Amistoso (whose band, Hannah + Gabi provides songs for the film as well), Gupit Binata X, and Moonstar88’s Acel Bisa Van Ommen.
The film tells the story of Marty, a young and aspiring comic book artist who sees the world as one full of comic book monsters; and his friendship with the titular Sally (Rhian Ramos), a talented yet somehow melancholic inventor with a complicated life.
As the film progresses, we see them, and their relationship progress as they transitioned from high school seniors to college students, and the complications that arose as real life continued on.
From here on out, there will be spoilers, so please proceed with caution.
When I said that Sally’s life was complicated, what I meant to say was the fact that, gathering from what I saw in the film, she was almost akin to a modern day Cinderella, forced to do chores for her father and adoptive mother, and gets beat up if she doesn’t do what they want her to do, or if she breaks one of their many ridiculously strict rules. This, of course, doesn’t sit well with Marty, who is in love with her, and often daydreams of saving Sally from the clutches of her evil parents.
In fact, Sally’s parents are often depicted as monsters, and the house she lives in looks like a menacing mansion.
However, Sally ends up getting deeper and deeper into trouble after she begins a relationship with Nick (TJ Trinidad), an older man, with Marty caught in between as the go-between as Sally isn’t allowed to meet any other guy except for Marty and isn’t allowed to have a cellphone.
Marty, in the meantime, ends up in a web of his own making by being the Sally’s bridge to Nick and vice-versa, while trying to meet his publisher’s deadlines, as a local publisher took a liking to Marty’s black and white self-published comics.
Things then get a little bit complicated after Sally breaks it off with Nick, and discovers that Marty is in fact, in love with her. That puts a strain on their friendship, and even though they end up at the same arts school for college, they each move on from each other, and eventually, become friends again, with the possibility of becoming even more than friends.
In the end, Marty, instead of creating a complex story that’s a mash up of science fiction and the Filipino revolution, creates a melancholic story based on his relationship with Sally. He depicted himself as an astronomer who loved a girl holding the world on her shoulders. (This story was shown at the end, during the credits sequence.) The comic becomes an instant hit, and Sally, with a little nudge from Marty, decides not to take any more of her parents’ abuse, runs away, and shows Marty the secret project she had been working on for years- a rocket ship so that she would be able to leave everything behind. However, in the end, she realizes that she does not need the rocket anymore as she realizes that the Earth has the thing she holds most dear-Marty.
The film’s visual effects and 2D animation were nowhere near Disney’s or PIXAR’s level, but they managed to pull it off, and it also lent its own brand of quirkiness to the entire film. Later on, I learned that everything was shot in a studio, with actual set pieces, and that the only real place in the entire film that they shot in was Marty’s room. Also, the set pieces, aside from being wonderfully made, were witty with word play, especially with signages for the names of stores and parks that Sally and Marty either passed by, or went to.
Each character, in particular, Marcos, Ramos, and Trinidad, were well-cast, and each performed well. However, for me, the stand out was definitely Ramos, who had her work cut out for her as she shot the entire thing in sixteen days, and came on board after the original Sally left the production.
The story was well-paced, but at a certain point, especially when Sally decided to leave, it felt that it was rushed, but that still doesn’t overpower the sheer innovativeness, heart and creativity that went into this film.
In the end, “Saving Sally” is definitely not your typical Filipino love story, and shows that there is a future for animation or hybrid projects like this in the landscape of original Filipino cinema.
- The entire score.
- A park named Sandara Park and stores with names that reflected Marty’s moods.
- The fact that Marty’s father brought him to a place where people raced cars in order to discuss Marty’s love life problems.
- Sally’s inventions, and how they incorporated the 2D animation and Sally’s inventions into the film.
- The alibata markings on Marty’s house.
- Marty’s T-shirts which change depending on his mood.
- Marty’s comic book, which I hope they make into an actual graphic novel someday.
- Fun Fact: Liongoren’s animated influences include “Adventure Time”, and Neil Gaiman’s “Mirror Mask”. Also, a lot of shawarma went into the making of this film.
- “Toto Calasanz (on Marty’s new story): I haven’t cried this much since Optimus Prime died in ‘Transformers’ the movie…the animated one,okay?
Marty : You’re not crying.
Toto: I weep inside”
– Toto Calasanz (Peejo Pilar) & Marty (Enzo Marcos)
- “Marty: I love you Sal.
Marty: I meant, God love you…like your mom always says.”
– Marty (Enzo Marcos) accidentally telling Sally (Rhian Ramos) her feelings.