Watching it on big screen, for two hours and 40 minutes is never boring, whether you are fully grounded with the history of the Philippines or not.
“El Presidente” movie brought into life the story of the first president of the Republic of the Philippines, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo.
It is not a film for all Filipinos but only for those who have high regard to Philippine Independence. If you are Andres Bonifacio fanatic, this is not for you. Members of the Bonifacio clan might be of total outrage right now for the film has put Bonifacio in somewhat a ‘bad light.’
Directed by Mark Meily, “El Presidente” offers a beautiful journey back to history with great action scenes and cinematography. The lines, in Filipino, Spanish, and English are well-thought. Casting big names in Philippine showbiz like Cesar Montano, Christopher De Leon, Allan Paule, Sid Lucero, and Joko Diaz, among others was a good move as they portrayed their roles excellently. Montano‘s portrayal as Bonifacio is believable and is deserving of his Metro Manila Film Festival Best Supporting Actor award though those who have watched him portrayed Jose Rizal might have a hard time picturing him as Bonifacio. Having comedian Bayani Agbayani in the cast is okay, just that his mustache looks funny. The same goes with the other cast who wear funny looking mustaches.
The lead actor, George ‘E.R Ejercito’ Estregan, Jr., portrayed Aguinaldo’s character very well though it is hard to believe that it was really him portraying the lead for the film he produced. There’s nothing wrong with that if it’s just for the sake of arts or even if it involves commercial agenda, but not with Estregan’s being a politician. His exposure in this film, portraying the role of a hero is worse than those ‘Epal’ politicians people condemn for having their faces and names printed on large tarpaulins in public places, and in moving vehicles. Even worse than those who place their names as if it’s the brand of the canned goods and noodles being distributed to calamity victims. Oh well, we don’t have law governing such. And yes, this is a film. A form of art, they say.
Nora Aunor‘s portrayal was fantastic as always, but her first appearance should have been deleted. It was awkward seeing a young version of herself, which age wasn’t successfully hidden by her make-up. Christine Reyes, though did not have much lines exudes beauty that adds up to the film’s commercial value. What’s more likable about Aunor and Reyes’ roles in this film is, they are not forced to recite kilometric lines and have long melodramatic exposures just for the sake of awards.
It’s Second Best Picture Award is acceptable only if ‘Thy Womb‘ won the Best Picture. Since the MMFF jury gave the award to ‘One More Try,’ they just ripped off ‘El Presidente’ the honor it deserves.
The inclusion of a mysterious character, an old woman who told the young Aguinaldo that he’ll become a king/leader, though unnecessary for the film as serious as this one, is acceptable. It was justified by the last frames.
It was a very good decision to watch the film last as it helped ease the pain caused by the majority of the entries in the festival.
All in all, “El Presidente” is a good film worthy of one’s time and money. Its action scenes, the plain story-telling, and great cinematography and good acting are enough to entertain viewers to sustain the around three hours of viewing. However, it is less than what we’re expecting for a film about a heroic figure like Aguinaldo. We can also never put “El Presidente” to the place where we put other historical films like the 1998 MMFF Best Picture Film, Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s ‘Jose Rizal.’