When asked to envision his film as a Southeast Asian dish, Giancarlo Abrahan, director of May Dinadala (The Weight), gives a bold answer:
“It would be Dinuguan – a blood stew made of pig’s innards in a gravy of blood. Exotic, yet its thick and rich soup will satisfy the adventurous.”
And boy, did this Filipino dish satisfy all our cravings.
May Dinadala ventures beyond the sweet and savoury in its exploration of desire and selfhood to serve up a delightful concoction of mythology and melodrama. Abrahan’s inclusion of a mysterious monster of traditional folklore – whom he prefers to call “Itim na Hubog”, which literally translates to “Black Figure” – injects a fresh perspective through which we view a couple’s crumbling marriage: Bitter, spiteful words exchanged between husband and wife are interspersed with smooth, seductive tones in moments of meditation between husband and monster.
In a cannibalistic twist, the latent violence we expect to emerge from the Black Figure surfaces in the nurturing mother-to-be, while the most tender treatment of love springs, surprisingly, from the other odd pairing. As the married couple’s relationship sours and expires, Abrahan introduces a wholly unexpected visual sequence of a budding romance, one whose slight comic absurdity and surrealism leave us chuckling in audible appreciation. Props (pun intended) must also be given to how the film ends with a spectacular display that imbues the phrase “the unbearable lightness of being” with new meaning.
And it is through this energetic interplay that May Dinadala treads the fine line between love and desire, freedom and imprisonment. The result? A piece that dances lightly on the palate, but hangs, heavy, in the heart. In other words, May Dinadala is a film that comes across as an invigorating breath of fresh air in its ability to transcend the region’s boundaries of culture and filmmaking, while drawing us in to the complex emotional depths simmering beneath its surface.
Of course, it goes without saying that other films in the Southeast Asian Short Film Competition tickled our taste buds as well – special mentions go out to the Nasi Lemak, the Rojak, the Durian and the Nameless. (Go figure.) But alas, as with all delicious buffet spreads, we cannot devour everything, despite each dish being outstanding in their own distinctive flavour.
There is one thing we know for sure, though: May Dinadala is a fine dish well-deserving of the Youth Jury Prize.
We would definitely like to have our Dinuguan and “eat it”, too.