ITS STRAIGHTFORWARD story-telling is both ORO’s strength and weakness.

The audience is treated with the straight-to-the-heart pinch of reality, of how politics and all its injustices affect the way of living in a far-flung island village in Bicol. ORO paints a sad picture of how the people of a poor village, relying mainly on gold mining as a source of livelihood, fight for their right to live. True to its tagline, in ORO and its story, ‘Dugo ang kulay ng ginto.’

The dark, rustic picture that ORO paints is a treat to the modern-day Filipino movie viewers who have long been deprived of such realistic approach to commercial filmmaking. Indeed, ORO relives the golden age of the Philippine cinema when realistic films about injustice abounds.

Director Alvin Yapan’s bravery to tackle this seemingly forgotten issue about Bicol’s political injustices is enough reason to watch the film. His bravery to let the viewers accept, instead of question the modern-day moviegoers’ willingness to appreciate good films is another.

It’s being straightforward has a strong tendency to become ‘too Indie’ and that could be considered the film’s weakness, if not for its perfect casting. The main cast and the ensemble managed to deliver things well. In each scene, however boring, becomes frames that connect to, if not fully engaged the audience.

Though I am a bit concerned of how the film did not showcase the beauty of Caramoan island except for one scene between the two lead characters played by Joem Bascon and Mercedes Cabral, I am definitely in awe of its cinematography. I also love the feel, the natural color of poverty, and its characters’ conflict and struggles in each and every frame.

The drinking sessions, aside from the fact that these are natural scenarios after a day’s work for a group of workers engaged in hard labor, have become scenes of great importance towards the end. The actors exchanging folktales at first seemed to be just fillers until they left a lasting impact that nailed the local-ness of the story. With the way the film is treated, the audience is left with no choice but laugh when the actors are happy, cry when they’re sad, angry when they’re bursting with emotions, and be one with them in their cause to fight for their right to make a living.

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Irma Adlawan, in her capacity as the village chairman, delivered more than what’s expected of her role. Being a replacement of Nora Aunor who already shot a lot of scenes prior to her casting, is not an easy task but Adlawan proved she’s the best person to take on the role that even the Superstar herself would praise. Unfortunately, Aunor who plays a mother grieving for the loss of her loved ones in another MMFF film, ‘Kabisera’ would be battling against Adlawan for the Best Actress award in the MMFF.

Bascon, in all his machismo, has taken us to the core of his character and made us believe in his cause, his love for Linda (Cabral), and his care for his family. Bascon will definitely give Paolo Ballesteros (Die Beautiful) a hard fight for the MMFF Best Actor Award. As of this posting, Ballesteros already won two international best actor recognitions for his role as a gay man in ‘Die Beautiful.’

Cabral couldn’t be faulted on her part either. She is that lady in the barrio one would easily connect with as her acting is natural, as always. Her chemistry with Bascon is strong that despite their lack of nude scenes (as the two is popularly known to be doing in most of their indie films), their bond remains intact until that scene that she burst into tears for her loss.

Sandino Martin, who has already proven his acting power since his successful foray from theater to films, winning best actor awards in a lot of films in the past, has delivered another strong performance in ORO. We wouldn’t be surprised should he win a Best Supporting Actor trophy for his role as a local miner here. Martin also performed ORO’s heart-wrenching theme song, “Nananaghoy Ang Puso Ko.” Then there’s newcomer Cedric Juan who plays the role of one of the pseudo-environmentalist-villains who also made his mark.

While it is easy to pinpoint ORO’s leads who gave outstanding performances, it’s unfair not to praise its strong ensemble that made the film a compelling one.

ORO’s success as a film, however, is not on how the viewers react while watching it but what change would it bring to the society after the festival. Though its main subject was successfully brought out by how it was done, will its shout for justice make a difference?

Rating: 8/10

Note: ORO is one of the 8 entries in the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) 2016. We will do our best to watch and review all the films in this blog within the week. Read our reviews by clicking this link.

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The cast of ORO during the MMFF 2016 Parade of Stars on December 23.
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