Official Entry, New Breed Category, Cinemalaya X
BWAYA, the third feature-length feature from filmmaker Francis Xavier Pasion, following 2008's JAY and 2010's SAMPAGUITA: NATIONAL FLOWER is a film that beckons us to swim in the depths of the Agusan Marsh, and with such experience relive the fear of an unknown enemy. Moreover, it also allows us to fill the shoes of a couple in unimaginable anguish.
Based on a true story, BWAYA incorporates actual interview footage of the real husband and wife who mourns the loss of their young daughter. By making it another film-within-a-film like JAY, Francis Pasion injects raw satire and emotion into his story. Asked why she would allow the story of Rowena be told on film, the actual case study (the mother) cites remembrance in response.
At a running time of around an hour and a half, BWAYA considerably takes its time to paint us a picture of the Agusan Marsh- quaint, idyllic, placid, and yet underneath the stillness a hungry predator lurks. Every shot is like a vivid photo, or a surreal experience into another world. But while the film makes the crocodile who snatched Rowena the obvious antagonist, it also carries an understatement that not all predators are underwater, as Divina (Angeli Bayani) finds out. Pasion refers to these terrestrial predators as those of politicians, mediamen and even their neighbors who take advantage of Divina's loss. The only regret in BWAYA is that Pasion could have explored this understatement further, instead of just mentioning it as a matter-of-fact. As such, the film reveals its paper thin story that may have been streatched too far.
BWAYA, however gets plus points for the genuine emotions it invokes. Flashbacks of the time when Rowena was still alive trigger poignant memories. Divina wanting to take home the school drawing her daughter made, but could not ascertain which is hers due to illiteracy is deeply affecting. Angeli bayani as always, renders another praiseworthy, nuanced performance. If Pasion only really wanted us to remember Rowena as a dynamic, optimistic young girl with her life ahead of her, then he succeeded.