Written and Directed by: Pepe Diokno
This much awaited second film of Pepe Diokno had its Philippine premiere last August 14 at the 11th Cinemalaya Film Festival. Compared to Diokno’s first feature film, Engkwentro, a seat clenching gang and crime story which exposes the ugly truth of our society today, Above the Clouds dwells on the adventure of two people for peace and freedom from emotional burden while stunningly showcasing the breathtaking mountainous area of the country.
This artistic work aims to evoke essence and emotion through good visuals but the question is, was it enough?
The story started with a teenager, Andres played by Ruru Madrid, losing his parents due to a natural disaster. He was then forced to live with his estranged grandfather, played by Pepe Smith, who he has never seen for years. The two then embarks on a hiking adventure with an attempt to reconnect to each other as a family.
Basically the plot offers no twists and it isn’t necessary to have so. It’s all about dealing with emotions as one tries to reach out while the other runs away from everything. From time to time, Pepe Smith effortlessly throws humorous lines that sends the whole theater to laughter. It succeeds in this aspect but it still struggles to build up deep tear-jerking moments that would’ve instilled a better impression to the audience as a greatly moving film rather than just a visually successful one.
Symbolism in the film though was often and becomes very interesting and it supported the articulation of the characters’ troubles and grief. Yet, Above the Clouds, despite its artistic value, is honestly predictable. At the latter part, the audience was actually watching more of for the view only and not for its totality anymore. Let’s give credit though to some interesting parts in the film like when Andres ran of to the woods in the middle of the night, you just can’t help but feel agitated for him and for his grandfather who was very worried about his grandson.
I commend the film for raising up the garbage issue in Mt. Pulag. It displayed the ugly result of leaving our dirt in a beautiful creation like the said mountain. I’ve been there myself and though there wasn’t that many garbage there as in the film, the locals are still very troubled about this issue because it disturbs the sacredness of the place.
One thing difficult to accept though is the vandalism in the mountain. It is just not right that they also showed vandalism on the rocks of the mountain in the film, like lovers putting their names there. I know that it has a purpose in the film but I would’ve suggest that it could’ve been altered into something else, like just maybe a hidden letter under the rock. There are a lot of tourists climbing up there every day and it may encourage other people to do the same vandalism, which isn’t a good idea. As filmmakers that could influence other people, you should be careful about even just unintentionally suggesting an undesirable idea to anyone that could result to the degradation of anything especially our natural wonders.
Bottom line is, I do recommend this film and please do watch it. It still is a refreshing film to view without that many characters or things going on it. It aims for the soul rather than the mind. Though I admit, to do this perfectly, the film could have had a better script. It is a one of a kind idea for a film but it still needed more. It took a road less traveled but it still striving to get to its destination. But along the road, it could introduce you to some wonderful things and it did so for me.