Sunday, 28 June 2015

Da Dog Show (The Dog Show) - In Competition ASEAN Skies Section: World Premieres Film Festival Philippines 2015

Da Dog Show is based on a real life of a man who survives with his dog shows in Manila.

The modern-day allegory features the “double and contrasting life” of a man who is supposed to feel security and certainty in his twilight years, instead struggles with fate in a dog-eat-dog urban daily grind.  One life is in the streets, where he portrays a dog trainer/ show master, earning a living out of giving fun, thrill and excitement to his daily crowd of dog show lovers, in exchange for their meager donations. Once he comes home, he and his dogs, together with his children, share a ramshackle shanty inside a public cemetery. Conversations with his pets for the lack of friends to talk to in the neighborhood, reveals  gossipy domestic turmoil about his wife leaving him for good,  bringing along his youngest son, under the guise of visiting her relatives in a remote province.

The dog show sequences are mere transitions, inflections to the constantly changing mood and atmosphere of the dysfunctional family. More importantly it becomes an allusion to the kind of struggle the characters experience in order to overcome insurmountable adversities. 

Sergio’s daughter Celia stays loyal to her father, like his dogs, helping him in the dog shows, and performing household chores which her absentee-mother used to do for him. But she also resents his hatred for her mother.  She constantly witnesses and experiences his ill-temper, but also his occasional loving care.  They both share a quiet, but tension-filled co-existence in a disquieting place such as a public cemetery, where they are caretakers of a rich man’s tomb.

Celia endures her father’s neglect,  bears with her sibling’s discrimination, and even blames herself when there are things she could not understand as to why sane people constantly disagree with each other, pondering on irreconcilable differences; just like what happened to her estranged parents. 

The family’s road trip to the province expands the narrative landscape through panoramic rural Philippine scenario. Rice fields are dry (or teeming with palay shrubs) and prairies bear drought cracks (or devastated by typhoon). Sergio’s journey to his in-laws home also includes a mountain trek, a cross-over a river, and a walk through a plantation.

Bold and vibrant colors define the dog show sequences which usually happen during the day.  While burnished sunset glow or monochromatic tone defines the melancholic night cinematography, giving subtle dramatic irony to the introspective moments of the family.

Occasional handheld sequences provide a documentary feel to the colorful city sequences, inflecting the jovial dog show in disruptive, real life uncertainties such as unpredictable city pound arrests, torrential rains, and pro-animal protest confrontations.

Protracted long takes, usually panning camera works and the disorienting zoom-ins and outs, take Celia’s point of view especially in the disquieting moments that she’s within the world of the dead- the public cemetery where her family lives “normally” with the cold tombs and crosses.  Magic reality is exploited within her subtle nuances since she sees and feels the world with child-like hope and vitality. She experiences daily life in the cemetery as blissfully charming, instead of being bleak & scary.  She even sees pitch darkness as velvety bright.  

Given the best opportunity to manipulate her playmates, Celia conjures stories about legends and myths of familiar folklore such as witches and vampires, usually interpreting harsh realities in life that she could not accept, spices them up  with  bewitching details, unbelievable turn of events, therefore becoming less painful and more MAGICAL.

Crude but  cheerful  street band music enhance the festive dog show moments in the street; while  emerging  ambient sound and  noises   provide grit and   disquieting  mood to the night scenes..
Deafening silence in certain moments of dramatic highlights accentuates muted irony and detached introspection.


DA DOG SHOW is the true story of a man engaged in dog trick shows with his dogs HABAGAT & BAGWIS in the streets of Manila to earn his money. SERGIO (70) is trying to save enough money in order to get back his youngest son from his rebellious wife, who suddenly leaves him for a better life. Living with his left family in a cemetery mausoleum in Manila, he gets a lot of help from his children ALVIN and especially from his 24-year-old daughter CELIA who is inflicted with retardation, which makes her escape in phantasies. Celia misses her mother so much that she spends hours using her manicure set, alone in the bewitching stillness of the night among the abandoned open tombs of the public cemetery where she keeps a closet for her mother’s belongings.

Coming to the country, Sergio brings along Celia, and one of his pet dogs, Habagat. He finds out that his ex-wife works in another place and left EDDIE BOY (8) with her relatives. In total disappointment, he argues with his in-laws about Eddie boy’s custody. All he wants, is to keep his family together!

On their way home with Eddie boy, something mysteriously odd happens. The dog Habagat is gone. Celia squeals to Sergio that a notorious white van, allegedly possessed by witches, was trying to kidnap Eddie boy but they have turned to Habagat instead. Celia and Eddie boy tried to save Habagat from the nefarious van but they failed.

Fulfilled and equally devastated, Sergio goes back to Manila with more uncertainties to deal with in his family life. But certainly his dog show lives on. 

Director Ralston Jover, Mercedes Cabral , Lou Veloso and Producer Sven Schnell

Mercedes Cabral shares on the pocket presscon of the film her experience in doing the film that it took almost 5 years to complete the film, that she was bitten by the dog while doing the film, her most challenging role up to date as a mentally challenge woman and the camaraderie that was build towards the location of the film in a cemetery compound. She also tells on how she reach out to the daughter of Mang Sergio the one that she is portraying and on how she get along with the daughter by means of make-up that serves us their bonding moment.

Producer Sven Schnell was so enthusiastic in producing the film here in the Philippines as for him there are so many stories to tell here and the Filipinos that he worked here were easy to deal with.

Director Ralston Jover noted that the Da Dog Show was based from the documentary of Howie Severino about the dog show and digging up to the story of old man Mang Sergio, he discovered that Mang Sergio has a daughter who is mentally challenged and from there he started to develop more complex story for the film. He also noted that the film will also shows about magic realism.

You can watch Da Dog Show for the World Premieres Film Festival on the following screening schedules and venue:

June 29, Monday, 5 PM, Cinema 2, SM North EDSA;

July 03, Friday, 5 PM, Cinema 6, SM Mega Mall;

July 07, Tuesday, 1PM, Cinema 2, SM North EDSA

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