For the first time in my life, I looked forward to this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). Gone were the usual slapstick comedies, the bland predictable dramas, the sorry excuses for horror, and the endless sequels to these which is probably more horrifying than anything. Instead, the MMFF promised a slew of creative storytelling and clever scriptwriting.
And of course, there is Saving Sally, produced and directed by Avid Liongoren.
My first and only encounter with Avid Liongoren was way back in 2006 at the first Graphika Manila convention — a gathering of graphic design artists, students, teachers and enthusiasts. It was my first year of teaching at the School of Design and Arts of De La Salle College of St. Benilde and faculty members got free tickets so I signed up to go.
Avid was one of the speakers there, and he delivered a very engaging talk about his experiences in the industry — how he had to shoot a car commercial without an actual car, and he instead used a realistic toy model and used some “graphics design” magic (as he called it) to produce the video. He showed us the clip and it was pretty impressive. You wouldn’t know it was a toy car if you didn’t know the back story.
What impressed me most about Avid though, was that he was a passionate storyteller. He weaved in and out of his narrative with just the right blend of humor and seriousness. He connected well with the audience and he could have spoken for hours and no one would have minded much.
After that, I searched for Avid online and found that he blogged at Multiply.com (which was one of the many blogs killed by the coming of Facebook). I first read about this project called Saving Sally there, and I wondered when the film would come to reality.
So fast forward ten years into the future, and there we have it, Saving Sally, on the big screen, which I watched with my wife, my daughter and my sister-in-law a couple of days ago — and it did not disappoint.
Although it promised to be a “very typical love story,” the telling was not at all typical. There was a delightful blend of animation and reality. The real and surreal were paired together in a very matter-of-fact everyday manner, like the monsters walking around Metro Manila or Sally’s weird house on a cliff in the middle of the city.
Humor was subtle, and often hidden in the background, in names of places like Sandara Park, or menu items like Kinilaw na Kanin or Ginatang Gata. It was a delight discovering them, like finding Larry Alcala’s face in old Sunday magazines.
In Letters To A Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke advises an aspiring writer not to write about love — not because it is difficult to write about it, but because so much has already been written about it that it would be difficult to come up with something original. In Rilke’s words, “Don’t write love poems; avoid those forms that are too facile and ordinary: they are the hardest to work with, and it takes a great, fully ripened power to create something individual where good, even glorious, traditions exist in abundance.”
Saving Sally does not tell us anything new about love, but it never pretended to in the first place. The delight one finds in this movie is not in the story’s originality but in the way the story was told. William Shakespeare wrote, “Things won are done. Joy’s soul lies in the doing.” And in this story, joy’s soul was in the telling from a master storyteller himself.
I waited a long time for this movie, and it was worth every minute.
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.