THE MOVIE 'CHAVIT': THE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT

MANILA, NOVEMBER 20, 2003  (STAR) FUNFARE By Ricardo F. Lo - Ask Carlo J. Caparas how much of his latest movie, Chavit, is fact and how much is fiction and he’ll tell you pointblank, "It’s 100 percent fact; everything is documented as true. Every scene is faithful to real life."

The movie press had a glimpse of the movie several days ago from the explosive 10-minute trailer shown during the presscon at LVN Studios – as explosive as the life of former Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis "Chavit" Singson around whom the movie revolves.

Written by Caparas himself and co-produced by his and wife Donna Villa’s Golden Lions Films with Velcor Productions and Starmax Films, Chavit topbills Cesar Montano in the title role, Dina Bonnevie as his wife, Eddie Garcia as the late Ilocos Sur. Congressman Floro Crisologo and Tirso Cruz III as Bingbong Crisologo (Chavit’s cousin who’s now a Bible preacher).

Watching the trailer gave us a feeling of deja vu. In living color, it brought back images of headline-hogging (bloody) incidents up north which had become as much indelible parts of every Baby Boomer’s memory as the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the violent demos and rallies against "LBJ’s" war in Vietnam, the emergence of The Age of Aquarius and, yes of course, The Beatles.

In the darkness of the LVN Studios’ screening room, I cringed at the sight of Cesar/Chavit and Tirso/Bingbong face-to-face, fingers fixed on the triggers of their guns, in that infamous front-page-stuff encounter recorded for posterity by a Manila Times lensman in a dramatic photo named Photo of (that) Year.

Another scene shows Chavit extricating himself unscathed from the bloody mess left by a grenade thrown into the middle of a crowded plaza during a dance party; victims lay strewn like fingerlings blown to bits by a dynamite, while Chavit walked away intact, thus making his fellow Ilocanos conclude that, yes indeed, the man must have been endowed with an anting-anting (amulet) that helped him survive many more similar attacks.

One scene certain to make moviegoers recoil in shock is the assassination of Eddie/Floro while hearing Mass at a cathedral. Direk Carlo shot it in a jolting style, showing the assassin pointing the muzzle of the gun at the back of Crisologo’s neck and then... BANG! Look, no blood but you can see and feel what a bloody incident it was.

"This is by far the hardest movie I’ve ever done," said direk Carlo. "Before the shooting, I talked to dozens and dozens of people who knew Chavit, aside from reviewing the reams and reams of newspaper stories about the man. Chavit wanted everything to be true-to-life, to be authentic, dokumentadong katotohanan, so that if Ilocanos and people around the country would watch the movie again and again, they would say that everything shown in it is true. Hindi siya nag-imbento; hindi lang siya basta nagpapogi. He just told the truth and nothing but."

So how many percent of the movie is, well, "cinematic"?

"Zero percent," said direk Carlo. "This movie shows that fact is stranger than fiction. No scriptwriter could have created the many dramatic and colorful incidents in Chavit’s life which, I should say, is very ‘cinematic’."

Chavit was shot mostly in Ilocos where it all happened, right where the action took place, including the old site of Barrio Oro East which was torched by Bingbong Crisologo during a post-election violence.

"Chavit is the most expensive movie (to the tune of P80 million?) we’ve ever done," said Donna Villa who, at one point, had to look for vintage cars, circa the ’60s, needed as props in a scene showing Chavit and his brother being peppered with bullets by a dozen bodyguards of their enemies, outnumbered but not outfought. "During the shooting," recalled Donna, "Chavit watched teary-eyed as Tirso and Ricardo (Cepeda, as Chavit’s brother Titong) reenacted that crucial chapter in their lives. Titong, who later became governor of the province, was Chavit’s idol. Titong died at 48 of heart attack."

If I have to gauge the impact of the movie from its trailer, I would say that it could surpass the box-office record of Carlo and Donna’s highest-grossing "massacre" movie (Maggie dela Riva Story?).

Already, there are talks that a TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) might be filed against the movie which might rub some prominent people the "wrong" way.

Smiled direk Carlo, "We’re ready for any eventuality. We’re used to TRO’s, aren’t we?" What’s Up?

• Sorry for the error in the e-mail address of EMI Music (in connection with the new Beatles album promo quiz). The correct e-mail address is: lou.albano@emimusic.com. Answers e-mailed to my address will be forwarded to EMI Music. Because of the error, deadline has been extended to Monday, Nov. 24.

• A member of the Platters will soon serenade Calle 5 Food Zone in Ermita, Manila.

Dubbed as the Platters-4 at C5, the Calle 5’s Big Night is slated Nov. 22, Saturday, and will have Bobby Soul as topbiller.

Sponsored by San Miguel Draft Beer, the show will also have The Ding Malazo Ensemble as back-up band, plus showbands: Simple Image, Lovely Jets and Black Pearl.

Calle 5, a special place for special people, is inviting everyone to relax and unwind, and to visit the food zone and experience the rare event.

(E-mail reactions at rickylo@philstar.net.ph)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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