"SAYAW" is a highly-artistic interpretation of a seemingly ordinary story of three people affected by the power of dance and literature. What could have just been a love triangle is instead presented as a soulful journey of feminist ideology and homosexual tendencies. 

The film, the latest feature of filmmaking tandem Alvin Yapan and Alemberg Ang (ANG PANGGAGAHASA KAY FE) makes use of a number of poems from noted feminist writers such as Ophelia Dimalanta, Merlinda Bobis, and Rebecca Anonuevo to name a few. The poems are either chanted, or sung, as the characters dance to it, as means of presenting us the story hidden beneath the facade.

And it is exactly such technique that won me over; like Wong Kar Wai's IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE and Bernardo Bertolucci's BESIEGED, less is more. The whole story is not laid out and spoon fed to us; we scavenge for all the clues layered within subtexts of dialogue, images, and montage. 

The poetry unfolds like magic. Tender and yet provocative, the words come out of the screen and pierce through the emotions. The dance itself is like an allegory for the characters' battles, because dance like any artform is also a battle, much so that the dance featured in the movie is interpretative, and done in pairs. 

Jean Garcia is hauntingly effective as Karen, a literature professor who moonlights as a dance instructor. Her eyes mean what her mouth says; the tension is just all over everytime the camera hits her and stays for what she has to say. 

In fact, her character Karen stands out as strong testament to feminism- she has no husband, seems content with her chosen career, and has strong feminist ideals, although later on the film, when she grooms herself in front of the mirror, we see her grounded as a human being, too which for me all the more empowers her being a woman. 

Paulo Avelino who plays Marlon, the student infatuated with Karen, and Rocco Nacino who plays Dennis, his classmate who also became his primary dance tutor, are compelling as well. The final scene in which they play out the epic HUMADAPNON, especially the way that scene was cut and faded to black was intricate and poignant.

Initially marketed as a gay film, I thought SAYAW would be more graphic in terms of flesh content, but I am glad that it is what it is- I applaud the filmmakers for the nonlinear storyline and interweave of poetry, dance, romance, and for the amount of restraint shown. What is NOT shown is intriguing, which invites open interpretation.

The whole story, and the chronology of how and when it happened is still an enigma for me, though I have enough grasp of the basic plot details. In popular saying, when you say you have two left feet, it means that you are not a good dancer, and this could refer to the characters trying to learn something, in dance, or in love, or in life; or that Marlon and Dennis are in a somewhat complicated, mismatched setup, where the expectations of one person are not mutual to the other, hence their troubles later on in the film. But we still see them struggle to get out of the mess and achieve something greater than themselves. 

In terms of cinematography, I just wished there were more variations of shots, especially during the dance sequences where Jean Garcia wore that backless black dress; Garcia dances gracefully, and I just thought we could have seen more of her.

"SAYAW" I think, for all it has achieved, marks the renewed interest in poetry as the ultimate success. Poetry is such a romantic art form as portrayed in this film, and I believe many who have seen it would be loving literature more. And yes, dance. 



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