×

Serenade

An infectiously winning example of the "Buena Vista Social Club"-style docu, involving a fading musical form and a group of older men who are its last practitioners.

With:
With: Florante Aguilar, Celestino Aniel, Romeo Bergunio, Felipe Alonzo, Liwayway Espino, Raul Manikan, Mang Tino. (English, Tagalog, Ilocano dialogue)

The format may seem familiar, but Benito Bautista’s “Serenade” is an infectiously winning example of the “Buena Vista Social Club”-style docu, involving a fading musical form and a group of older men who are its last practitioners. Harana is a type of serenade native to the Philippines, and classical guitarist Florante Aguilar goes searching for remaining “haranistas,” men in rural areas who were hired to sing to young ladies from beneath their windows. Lovely music, the bittersweet melancholy of a dying tradition, and an irresistible romanticism make this a fest charmer.

Bay Area resident Aguilar reconnected to his Filipino musical heritage after his father’s death, when he returned to his native country and began exploring the dwindling tradition of the haranistas. With the dying of courtship rituals, the concept of having one’s beloved serenaded from outside her home in the middle of the night has also petered out, yet the custom gave rise to a wealth of songs, most of which were never recorded.

Aguilar began his search for elderly practitioners north of Manila, traveling to small villages with his guitar in hopes of convincing remaining haranistas to play for the camera. The men he finds — a farmer, a fishermen, a tricycle driver — are in their late 60s and 70s, the repositories of a rich lyrical heritage about to die out. Eventually, Aguilar got them to a studio, and their album, “Introducing the Harana Kings,” as well as a worldwide tour including the Hollywood Bowl, have become unexpected successes.

Bautista should have included a section on the music’s origins, especially as one man makes the highly unlikely claim that the style predates the Spanish conquest (the songs are intimately linked to Spanish habaneras). Fortunately, the lyrics are all subtitled, allowing international auds to relish the poetry of lines like “Listen to my song / open your window / even the stars appear to be waiting.” In the age of “Call Me Maybe,” it’s nice to be reminded that yearning lyricism was once the realm of all young would-be lovers.

Visuals capture the lush greenery, sandy beaches and colonial towns of the northern Philippines in an attractive, straightforward way. Best of all, though, is the music, honest and open-hearted, the kind that leaves behind the glow of romance.

Serenade

Philippines-U.S.

Production: A New Art Media, Pacific Ethnographic, Wanderlustproject Films production. (International sales: New Art Media, San Francisco.) Produced by Fides Enriquez, Florante Aguilar. Executive producers, Fides Enriquez, Valeria Cavestany, Barbara SyCip, Sonia T. Delen, Sol Manaay, Iraida Que de Vera, Vincent Que de Vera, Jim Maliksi, Jean Maliksi, Norma Edar, Florante Aguilar. Directed by Benito Bautista. Written by Florante Aguilar, Bautista.

Crew: Camera (color, Super 16, HD), Peggy Peralta; editor, Chuck Gutierrez; music, Aguilar; sound, Raffy Magsaysay, Jason Galindez; assistant director, Emma Francisco. Reviewed at Dubai Film Festival (Asia/Africa Documentary), Dec. 14, 2012. (Also in Busan Film Festival -- Wide Angle.) Running time: 103 MIN.

With: With: Florante Aguilar, Celestino Aniel, Romeo Bergunio, Felipe Alonzo, Liwayway Espino, Raul Manikan, Mang Tino. (English, Tagalog, Ilocano dialogue)

More Film

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Agents Accuse Writers Guild of Threatening to Throw 'Industry Into Chaos'

    The dealmakers appear to be getting nowhere. Negotiators for Hollywood agents and the Writers Guild of America have achieved little progress at their seventh session on Tuesday, with a chaotic scenario looming on April 7. “When Guild leadership is ready to move on from their declared threatening phase, we stand ready to work through these [...]

  • Zoe Lister-Jones The Craft

    'The Craft' Remake Finds Director in Zoe-Lister Jones

    “Life in Pieces” star Zoe Lister-Jones will write and direct Sony Pictures’ remake of “The Craft” for Blumhouse and Red Wagon Entertainment. Doug Wick, the producer of the original “The Craft,” will return in the same capacity along with partner Lucy Fisher through their Red Wagon banner. Jason Blum is also producing and his Blumhouse [...]

  • Carol Burnett

    Carol Burnett's Mother-Daughter Story 'Carrie and Me' in Development as a Movie

    Carol Burnett’s bestseller “Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story” is in the works as a movie at Focus Features with Burnett, Tina Fey, Eric Gurian, and Steven Rogers producing. Burnett will produce through her Mabel Cat Productions with Fey and Gurian under their production banner Little Stranger along with Rogers (“I, Tonya”). The sibling [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Writers Guild Plans for Agency Pact Expiration: 'There Will Be Difficult Moments'

    Leaders of the Writers Guild of America have sent members contingency plans for the possible expiration of its agency franchise agreement on April 7 — and admitted that it may be a rocky road. Members received the letter Tuesday from the guild’s negotiating committee as the WGA and agents were about the hold their seventh [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Entertainment One, Universal to Partner on Home Entertainment

    Entertainment One and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment have signed a multi-year, multi-territory distribution agreement. UPHE will serve as the home entertainment distributor of eOne’s offerings across both physical and digital formats. The pact covers film, television, and select family content and includes all sales, marketing, and distribution, spanning the U.S., Canada, U.K., Germany, Spain, Australia, [...]

  • Will Smith Jada Pinkett Smith

    AFI, Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation Launch Second Young Women in Film Intensive

    The AFI Conservatory and the Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation have partnered to launch the second annual Young Women in Film Intensive. The AFI Campus in Los Angeles will host 45 high school girls for an eight-week filmmaking workshop, where students will receive mentorship from current fellows and working professional alumni of the AFI [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content