by Richard Bolisay
▶︎ One can’t help but admire the dogged efforts of Instalado to make its setting believable, introducing a time in the future when knowledge is “installed” on people’s brains the way software is installed on computers to make them highly functional. It banks on this premise not only to depict how modernity can be morally cruel but also to deliver, somewhat halfheartedly, the well-intentioned requirement of the festival to highlight the importance of agriculture. The concept is intriguing at best, especially as it adorns its physical milieu with futuristic elements (holograms, fancy paper bills, flashy diploma cards) and takes a stab at making a sociopolitical commentary (setting it in the agricultural town of Porac, Pampanga, where young ones yearn for better life through “easy” but expensive “education,” and where a group of rallyists struggle against this sweeping capitalist culture).
On paper, all of these may look promising and convincing. There is a charming childishness to its vision that makes the audience want to root for it. But the problem lies in its singlemindedness, in its copious, long-winded displays of self-indulgence that neglect the need for its high-concept ideas to be given a cinematic equivalent for them to work. Instalado lacks the production values required to render a satisfying look and feel of its ambition — even on a small scale reminiscent of good lo-fi sci-fi — which is not an issue of looking expensive but feeling impressive. This visual flatness is exacerbated by the lack of cohesion between its characters, each of whom seeming to do monologues instead of conversations. Midway through the film it stops being interesting and loses whatever that keeps it going, partly because it insists on establishment until the very end, on building its world further instead of making that world come alive through a compelling story, and partly because the film, as much as it is commenting on the brutality of present society, is detached from it and just too concerned with itself. ***
Richard Bolisay is a film critic. This was previously published on his blog Lilok Pelikula as part of "Dispatches from ToFarm Film Festival 2017 (Part 1)," July 17 2017.