Islander in the City | Pablo A. Tariman:


Dolly de Leon during the screening of Ruben Ostlund’s award-winning film, Triangle of Sadness.

The 2022 Quezon City International Film Festival opened Thursday night (Nov. 17) with a timely social satire and with a Filipino actor as the celebrated protagonist.

Ruben Ostlund’s Triangle of Sadness is not an easy film to process but it remains a deeply engrossing lack comedy on the rich and famous.

The part called The Yacht could be any infamous yacht of any generation.

It could be our own presidential yacht where lavish parties were common knowledge during the 70s to early 80s.

In the 90s, a presidential confidante revealed the yacht was transformed into a floating casino by the president who didn’t finish his terms.

It is not a coincidence that many scenes in the Ostlund film were shot in the famous yacht of them all — Christina O — of Greek millionaire Aristotle Onassis.

It may be recalled that the Onassis yacht became famous with its equally famous guests – opera icon Maria Callas, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Winston Churchill, John Wayne, Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe, among others.

In the 90s, the Onassis yacht became a cultural attraction when some enterprising impresarios organized The Maria Callas Experience concert series featuring recitals of sopranos singing the landmark Callas arias.

(One of the invited guests in the series was Romanian diva Nelly Miricioiu, a grand prize winner of the Maria Callas International Voice Competition.)

As it is, Triangle of Sadness has wry surprises and moments of truth.

The film (at least to this viewer) jolts because the scenes can easily be rewritten with a Philippine setting.

The Russian billionaire who asked the entire crew of the yacht to swim with her is reminiscent of the recent Senate hearing where a billionaire senator defended use of farmlands as investments of the family’s multi-billion housing projects.

Talk of a public servant watching car race in a neighboring country just after a strong typhoon even before the dead and the homeless could be accounted for.

As it is, the late Charli Dean as the model Yaya and Harris Dickenson as her boyfriend Carl are real caricatures of the rich and famous.

But after the storm where they found themselves without food and social amenities in an island, the classic rule — survival of the fittest — applied and how!

In this concluding part of the film, Filipina actor Dolly de Leon as Abigail reigns supreme literally and figuratively.

She became survival coach of the upper class and even managed to play survival games with them. Quietly in her own game plan, she got even!

Audiences cheered when she got her sweet comeuppance before the screen credits.

For this role alone, Dolly de Leon deserves the Oscar nomination for best supporting actress.

As Abigail (very typical of OFWs working in luxury ships), her acting is spontaneous with no trace of Asian hysteria in her approach. And yet she commands cinematic attention all the way.

She deserves that standing ovation from Filipino audiences after the screening.

On the other hand, without meaning to, the film will no doubt unravel the country’s counterparts of the fraudulent rich and famous in our midst. In social media, they make something of their presence in Paris and Milan fashion shows and luxuriate in the shallow stories they weave about their “successful” but pathetic lives.

You just have to monitor Instagram photos to see that the new power dealers are the equivalent of Ostlund’s arms dealers and influence peddlers. Some of them even look alarmingly like characters from Mario Puzo’s The Godfather.

Triangle of Sadness opened in local cinemas last November 30. This 2022 Cannes film fest Palme d’Or winner was brought to the Philippines by the TBA Studios.



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