On Perry Escaño's "Ang Guro Kong 'Di Marunong Magbasa"

by Richard Bolisay

▶︎ If it’s true that writing about bad movies is bad for the skin, then it’s only wise to keep this short. If the faults of Ang Guro Kong ‘Di Marunong Magbasa were purely technical — cinematic language, lighting, narrative design, casting, acting, editing, sound, music, costume, or all of these combined — there could be a place in one’s heart for forgiveness. One can simply shrug it off and chalk up the misfortune of seeing it to experience. An enlightened viewer is capable of understanding life’s many challenges that would allow this poor thing to happen. But the film has far bigger problems than technical: It supposes an audience that would be so dumb to accept its oversimplification of concepts — war and peace, youth and maturity, rebellion and patriotism, politics and religion, kindness and cruelty, life and death, etc. — just because it pursues the noble act of showing the significance of education. It is so blinded and crippled by its intent that it ends up not only being terrible and irresponsible — showing farmers, rebels, Muslims, and Mindanaoans in a bad light, and drowning them in stereotypes with characters acting very stupidly — but also offensive and disturbing, particularly with how it portrays kids holding guns and supporting the war, torturing people and killing them. There is no point of raising subjectivity here, there is no excuse that can defend its wrongness. Seeing that the film, like its titular character, is incapable of grasping accountability, what more can be expected of its filmmaking? In what world is this perspective acceptable? It’s a disservice to writing to even grant an analysis, but this guidance must be given: Guro is a dangerous film that promotes dangerous ideas, and it’s every wise man’s obligation to make its beguiling atrocity known to the best of his ability. ***


Richard Bolisay is a film critic. This piece was previously published on his site Lilok Pelikula under "Dispatches from Cinemalaya 2017 (Part 3)," September 8 2017.

EMAIL: gaslightph@gmail.com.

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