Happyland

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Jim Libiran
Jim Libiran

A Spanish missionary priest, prodded by religious zeal and an inner voice from his past, starts an unthinkable project in one of Manila's impoverished district. From the young rabble of Tondo, he sought to build a fighting team for a football tournament. Football. In an Americanized country whose other major religion is basketball. Nothing can stop the obstinately crazy Fr. Jose from his mission. He recruits Bro. Pedro, a young acolyte from the seminary who happens to be a former college football star, and sets out to build his football field in the most crowded part of Manila. Together, they recruit the most unlikely group of young men -- ISMAIL, the local basketball star; RAMIL, a skilled pickpocket and fearless thief; OMPONG and KONYAT, the drug-sniffing brothers who live off the garbage dump; IAN a hare-lipped rapper wannabe; TOTOY a gang leader; DAVID a pedicab driver; and others. The young men were lured by the dream of winning the tournament's hefty cash prize. And to win, they only have to do one thing -- beat their opponents from the "rich catholic schools." Set against the colourfully claustrophobic panorama that is uniquely Tondo, this coming-of-age story about poor young kids who learned to dream and dared to fight for their simple goal is based on real events.

Malou Crisologo                                  Mely      
Mara Isabel Lopez                               Rochie      
China Cojuangco                                 Maridel      
Fr. John Andreu                                   Fr. Jose      
Jojo Atienza                                        Erning      
Roence Santos                                    Nette      
Danny Lopez                                       Melchor      
Benson Saclag                                     Pulis      
Ma. Isabel Lopez                                 Oreng      
Rome Gonzales                                   Asawa ni Kapt.      
Ysagani Ybarra                                    Kapitan      
Jun Sabayton                                      Rico      
Peter Amores                                      Bro. Ambo      
Mo Ibrahim                                         Ismail (Obet)      
Dr. Rafael “Rafa”                                 Fr. Ambo      
Joseph Anthony Cerdeňa                      Ramil      
Ricardo Bautista III                              David      
Roberto “Papu” Corsame                      Konyat      
Eugene Sanguyo                                  Ompong      
Roberto Orlandez Jr.          
Jayson Balmaceda                               Totoy      
Christaian “ Ngongo” Bucad                   Ian/Ngongo      
Arjay Bautista    Buchok      
Leonardo Kapalungan                           Water Boy      
Roel Viva    Goli      
Dennis “Toto” Balbin                             Leader TB      
Kim Ojeda
Jonel Dela Cruz
James Ayuban                                    

TAMBAKAN BOYS      
Clarence Alvear                                    Bangus      

GANG NI KAPITAN
Jason Luengo
PEXX
Isko of FMD

Norman Wilwayco
Charly Collado          
Ms. F Fernan                                         BADING #1      
Evelyn Vargas                                        Custodian      
PIKOY                                                  Pikoy      
Paul Zialcita                                          Paul 

Jim Libiran                                    Director      
Mitchelle Moreno                            Line Producer      
Ava Yap                                        Production Manager      
Fredo Lazarte                                Asst. Director/Acting Dept.      
Aries Clemeno                               Workshop Facilitator/Acting dept.      
Danny Lopez                                 Acting Dept.      
Earl Ignacio                                   Assistant Director      
Albert Banzon                                Director of Photography      
Dodge Dillague                              Sports DOP      
Jun Sabayton                                 2nd Unit, Camera      
Renz Estacio                                  Continuity      
Michelle  Ngu                                 Continuity      
Mark Laccay                                   Sound and Music      
Stefan Loewenstein                         Sound and Music      
Ysagani Ybarra                               Sound and Music      
Shielbert Manuel                             Location Spotter      
Trinka Lat                                      Production Designer      
Sharon See                                    Property Master and Costume      
Joe Concepcion                               Web      
Ross Laccay                                    Graphic Design      
Coach Peter Amores                        FUTKAL Coordinator/Talent      
Coach Charlie Collado                      FUTKAL Coordinator      
Coach Boy Balbin                             FUTKAL Coordinator      
Loida Balbin                                    FUTKAL Coordinator      
Ma. Theresa Soner                           Apprentice      
Jon De Chavez                                 Apprentice      
Carlo Bernardino                               Apprentice      
Aji Aggarao                                      Apprentice      
Andrea Araga                                   Production Assistant      
Arlyn Ching                                      Traffic( Service)    


Average vote based on 1 review.
10
out of 10
User Reviews
10
out of 10
Happy

Until this film, the words Football, Tondo and Happyland didn't seem to fit together in any logical way in a sentence.  It's set in a part of Tondo called Hapilan which means Garbage Dump. The refuse is so pervasive that houses seem built on it instead of the distant memory of soil far below. The opening narration explains that it's the mission of the people involved to transform the Hapilan into Happyland and that theme of hopeful transformation is felt all thruout the film as every truckload of muck delivered is dutifully scraped away to reveal not so much what's underneath but that the mere effort of scraping that muck away can be enough because what's in there wants to get out.

 

Not Your Tribe's Tondo

Tondo is a favorite setting for anybody wanting to portray squalor. Just about every film set in Tondo is a tragedy; films about victims where hope is squashed like yet another cockroach underneath the gigantic boot of Life's a Bitch. Happyland distinguishes itself by being one of if not the ONLY film set in slum central that presents such bright and believable hope. The fact that so much of the film is based on reality empowers that hope as you witness the transformation of the Tondo street urchins into Futkaleros, the name they have adopted for their team.

 

Among the realities employed in Happyland are the cast as the actor playing the priest heading the youth center is an actual priest who really does run the youth center there. That coach is the actual coach. That trainer is the actual trainer. Those players really are the players. All of them wrung thru the workshops of Jim Libiran to turn them into actors. It's his distinct film style that uses the residents of Tondo who would normally be used only as extras to lend a bit of cred to a production into the leads themselves. It makes every scene carry considerably more heft as we know every line is one they've probably uttered and used in the very way seen onscreeen.

 

The theme of transformation doesn't just fill the story with hopefulness but transforms the film itself as it's told with a surprising amount of humor. The despair of such crushing poverty finds itself locked in mortal combat with that humor, the ultimate resistance of the completely helpless. This is a Tondo where we can laugh. The scene where the potty-mouthed Octomom first appears will be the go signal as she unleashes a torrent of industrial strength swearing that would leave drill sergeants gasping in horror. Happyland is no comedy but even it's more serious dramatic scenes have a lighthearted touch that's neither apologetic or insulting to the intelligence.

 

The story takes you from one match of the Futkaleros to the next as they progress thru the game and their own lives. You'll meet all sorts and every opponent brings with them a new surprise and lesson learned that feels neither heavy-handed or forced. It's all simple enough to be apparent yet escalates enough to make every game and lesson different. In between games, you see how the individual players face their individual problems that they can't solve alone and handling those problems is best done the same way they play the game, as a team.

 

The hope displayed is greatest at the end well after the last game they all play together. In the vernacular of the mainstream, it has a twist. A clue is given to it by the priest who narrates at the beginning and it's a good one. It's a lesson that shows that hope doesn't need to be a one time only deal. The twist is that the film doesn't end with this one story. It doesn't even begin with this one story. It's heartening and a great realisation when you see it.

 

Saving Hope

Unlike the wretched view of life from other films set in Tondo that seem shot perpetually in the dark, Happyland is a film almost entirely shot in daytime. It's brightly lit by a caring sunshine and while it's a dreadful place to be, it's always a beautiful day there. The positivity in front of the camera however came at a great price behind it.

 

Happyland cost well over 11 million and it's still paying for it. The technical post production difficulties nearly crippled it. Even in the screening I saw, there were a handful of scenes where the high resolution footage was reduced to something more akin to webcam detail but they aren't quite dealbreakers as it's very much watchable. Much of the footage was lost or damaged almost beyond repair and what they've managed to save and patch together is still a far superior product.

 

As the filmmaker points out, this is not just. a film. It's a social project just as his previous Tondo-set film was, Tribu. While the benefits of that film for it's actors all happened offscreen in direct opposition to what happened onscreen, the transformation you see in Happyland reflects the gains of the actos outside of the film. I would encourage you to visit the website SaveHappyland.com. It's a film worth seeing and one worth saving.


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