As mentioned in our Maid in Malacañang Review (Read the full article here: ), there have been two films that were just released this past week alone that tackled practically the same period in our history — The Marcos rule/Martial Law. While the two films do have two very different focal points story-wise, the timing for the release of both films couldn’t have come at a more opportune and questionable time. Katips was the next film on our list to watch and here’s our review of this musical-drama film.
Katips Review: An Overview
Katips: The Movie is a Filipino period musical drama film written and directed by Vincent Tañada which was actually released back in 2021. The film is based on Tañada’s 2016 stage musical of the same name. It stars Jerome Ponce, Vince Tañada himself, Mon Confiado, Sazchna Laparan, and Nicole Laurel Asensio, alongside an ensemble cast that includes Dexter Doria, Lou Veloso, Johnrey Rivas, Adelle Ibarrientos, and Joshua Bulot, just to name a few. the film received 17 FAMAS Award nominations and won seven including Best Picture, Best Director (Tañada), Best Actor (Tañada), and Best Supporting Actor (Rivas).
The film revolves around a group of activists that consists of students, teachers, journalists, nuns, and priests who struggle to protest the imposition of nationwide martial law in the 1970s. As these struggles arise this group of people also begins to find love, a growing family, and a bond amidst the chaos and bloodshed. These relationships however are at risk due to the ever-growing threat of the police and the harsh rule of a government seeking to remain in power.
Katips Review: Disclaimer
Just like our Maid in Malacañang review, we acknowledge that Katips has a politically heavy and propagandistic message as well that it tries to communicate. It is propagandistic in the sense that it has certain views and ulterior motives that it sets to deliver. The movie focuses on the harshness that Martial Law brought to our country. Its focus in contrast to Maid in Malacañang is entirely different and we will provide a comparison article on these two films pretty soon. We therefore must state that while this review would once again try to analyze Katips from an objective standpoint as a film through the various cinematic elements that it provides, we cannot fully separate the political nature that it obviously has as well.
We won’t dive deep into the political and historical accuracies that Katips provides but rather we will discuss the overall positive and negative elements that the film gives us from a creative standpoint. As we discuss the story it’s more for the sake of dissecting the depth and flow rather than nitpicking the accuracy of it all. We would also like to state that Katips has an R-16 rating due to extremely gory and graphic scenes which may be too much for younger audiences to handle.
Katips Review: Spoiler Warnings
We will keep this review of Katips, free from spoilers as we focus on the musical direction of the film; the performances of the cast; the cinematography and editing; and the overall premise, emotional weight, and flow of the story.
Musical Theater Elements Made Into A Film
As mentioned, Katips is based on the 2016 stage musical of the same name. This is very much evident throughout the entire movie as it feels like a direct translation of the theater stage play. There are some positive points that come from such an approach such as the emotional quality that the film brings. There are aspects and elements in Katips that paved the way for the musical and theater version to come alive and further transform into very captivating and emotional moments. This includes the torture scenes that are just so vivid, gory, heavy, and too much to witness at times but the execution of such scenes was just absolutely spot-on. These were some of the choices that made the transition from stage play to film worthwhile. When I say however that the film is just a translation from the stage play to the big screen, this is where Katips actually loses us.
The depth and brilliance mentioned above while being worth the wait took around half of the film’s story to finally get there. Things really heat and pick up towards the second half of the film which is around an hour into the story. The journey to get there is also quite excruciating and therefore the movie has the tendency to lose us even before the meatiness and brilliance of the story are actually shared. The film as a translated version of theater/musical stage play forgets that there is an altogether different approach that is taken when we talk about the medium of film. These errors in translation are actually evident primarily in the acting and performances of the supposedly grand musical numbers.
There is no practice in subtlety especially when it comes to the acting and performances of the ensemble cast. There is an over-exaggeration and difficulty in fully empathizing with the cast member and characters, especially during the first half of the film. The over-exaggeration of emotions and grand movements would have admittedly been perfect on stage but I don’t feel that it was necessary for a film version. As a whole, the acting wasn’t all that great as the majority of the cast members excluding Vincent Tañada and Adelle Ibarrientos, delivered underwhelming performances to be quite frank. There was even a portion that was included in the film that revolved around street sweepers that felt like a blatant propagandistic message was being told which, to be honest, was irrelevant and unnecessary to the story. These performances like the majority of the elements of the film sadly pulled down the weightiness of the story.
The musical aspects for the most part were also on the underwhelming side. First and foremost the songs themselves lacked the emotionality and ability to resonate with the audiences as it became difficult to understand the lyrics and message at times. The repetitive nature tracks did help in emphasizing the message but these songs felt unnecessary to be quite honest. I firmly believe that the songs themselves didn’t add much to the film and a direct or straight-to-the-point depiction of the events would have been a better route. I believe Tañada was aiming for truthfulness to his source material and an overall creative direction but sadly it placed more harm to the story than expected. The production value and technical side of the actual musical numbers didn’t help either as they were lackluster and honestly felt rushed as they lacked proper execution and the grandeur expected out of a musical film. The biggest highlight on the musical front however came in the form of Tañada’s performance of ‘Di Ako Manhid which still resonated with me even after the film flashed its credits.
Needed Improvement in Cinematography
Katips as mentioned lacked the sensibilities needed for a motion picture. It showed that it was by all means still stuck in the theatric stage play understanding of story-telling and this was seen with the film’s cinematography — or lack thereof. The edits and shots weren’t utilized to the best of their ability but instead served even more as a distraction. There were some rough cuts and transitions that weren’t only confusing and distracting but also felt seizure-inducing. These to be honest didn’t make that much sense. There were several moments where the cuts and transitions were abrupt and sudden which dragged the film down completely.
There were some shots and choices that did achieve the creative and captivating angle that the director hoped for. We again refer to the torture scenes that mixed the perfect amount of darkness and light for the scenes to really develop and unfold dramatically. These were some of the more memorable moments in terms of the visual aspect but as a whole, the movie does suffer from sub-to-below-par execution.
Katips Review: Final Verdict
Katips in all honesty has a pretty promising story. The execution of it all is where things start to falter. The overall direction of the film as a musical is honestly unnecessary and the story could have been a whole lot better if it was given the space to shine without the creative flair from the underwhelming song numbers and productions. The editing and cinematography was also a huge setback for Katips as they provided more confusion rather than a satisfying and awe-striking aesthetic appeal.
Hype Meter: 5/10
For more Filipino movie reviews:
- More Than Blue Review: Does This Filipino Film Live Up To The Hype?
- On The Job Review: A Series That Every Filipino Should See
- Maid in Malacañang Review: Where Art and Politics Collide
- Ngayon Kaya Review: The Tragedy of Words Unspoken
- The Entitled Review: Why We Urge You To Skip This One