Continuing to focus on the margins of Filipino society, prolific indie helmer Adolfo Borinaga Alix Jr. satirizes the rewards and burdens of faith to puzzling effect in absurdist drama "Fable of the Fish."

Continuing to focus on the margins of Filipino society, prolific indie helmer Adolfo Borinaga Alix Jr. satirizes the rewards and burdens of faith to puzzling effect in absurdist drama “Fable of the Fish.” Played naturalistically with some comic moments, the pic centers on a deeply religious slum dweller who gives birth to a fish and finds her luck changing at the same time her once-happy marriage goes south. Although this head-scratcher feels like it’s missing a final punchline, further fest exposure is guaranteed.

Soon after devoted, middle-aged marrieds Lina (Cherry Pie Picache) and Miguel (Bembol Roco) move into the giant landfill of Catmon, Malabon City, Lina becomes pregnant. Although they both say they will be grateful for whatever God gives them, Miguel ultimately refuses to express paternal feelings for the fish, even as Lina risks becoming a laughingstock by having it baptized and appearing on national television. Picache and the other female thesps play it admirably straight, cooing at the fish as if were a human newborn. Meanwhile, precisely framed, color-desaturated lensing captures the hellish landscape of the garbage dump as it swarms with activity.

Fable of the Fish

Philippines

Production

A Phoenix Features, Cinemalaya Foundation production. (International sales: Visit Films, New York.) Produced by Jonas Antonio Gaffud, Elizabeth Juan. Executive producer, Adolfo Borinaga Alix Jr. Directed by Adolfo Borinaga Alix Jr. Screenplay, Jerry B. Gracio.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen, DV), Albert Banzon; editor, Benjamin Tolentino; music, Eigen Ignacio; production designer, Alix Jr.; art directors, Roland Rubenecia, Jerome Zamora. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Visions), Sept. 9, 2011. (Also in Busan Film Festival.) Running time: 85 MIN.

With

Cherry Pie Picache, Bembol Roco, Anita Linda, Rosanna Roces, Angel Aquino, Alan Paule, Evelyn Vargas, Arnold Reyes. (Tagalog dialogue)

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