This is the first the time I experienced a dominantly young crowd applaud at the end of a local film.
Heneral Luna is an inspiring film, didactic in an entertaining way.
This film is probably one of the best local historical period drama ever produced, along with Raymond Red’s “Sakay,” FPJ’s “Asedillo” and Albert Martinez’s “Rosario”.
The trouble with me sometimes, when it comes to these kind of films, is that I tend to look for details that were missed and events that were deliberately distorted. Drives me crazy! But even the best period films based on real historical figures, “Braveheart” for example, did not nail everything perfect.
The challenge period movies face is that its writers and directors had to take liberties to dramatize and to communicate—here’s where they’re often hit. For Heneral Luna, with its budget, they face far more difficulties.
But even autobiographies gets confronted with charges of deliberate falsehoods—difference is that making movies is a form of art, it will always be subject to the mind of its creators.
There are three things I like about Heneral Luna, the film:
First, they showed the human side of him. Instead of centering on his epic battles (which they could have since he was the only real military leader in that cabinet, and a fighting one at that) they spent time presenting who he was as a person. They also steer clear from the rumors about Luna, like the one where he was supposed to have handed the “treasury” to his lover (although she did appear there as somewhat of a power broker).
Luna was a renaissance man, he enjoys poetry like his women, he understand medicine, he was a legendary guitar player; short tempered but the only man that was capable of prolonging the war if not win it completely.
The success of the film was not the depiction of the battle scenes (which for me were not impressive in the movie) but in how they highlighted Luna’s attributes and weaknesses.
At the end of the movie, everyone understood who he was, his purpose, why he did what he did; why he was prepared to die for his country and why he was executed by the very people he sought to liberate.
Second, while the subject of the film is heavy, they made the characters people the audience can relate to. I suspect Antonio Luna to be a very serious fellow, judging on accounts about him and how he writes, but we have to remember that while his generation were highly educated and Hispanized they have qualities that are no different from ours today.
The scenes where the hero was depicted as being jovial amid a perilous battle, connects with Filipinos today. Do we not smile and continue to laugh even when we’re faced with the most trying events in our lives?
Third, the message. I think many Filipinos now understands that if we are to succeed as a nation, we have to rid our government of corruption. We can no longer afford to be soft on those who err and steal so they can enrich themselves and their families.
Luna tried to rectify corrupt cabinet members and undisciplined military leaders. It proved costly on his part; he made powerful enemies. Even today, the leader that would endeavor to do what he did would end up like him—if not maligned, jailed if not killed.
Why? We’re too divided, we go tribal easily.
In order to move this country forward, we can’t afford leaders sleeping with our enemies and having their pockets lined with the “kaban ng bayan”. Luna’s character in the movie spoke of this in his intense debates against the rich cabinet men of Aguinaldo.
When a Luna like figure comes, I hope, we Filipinos will support that leader. It going to be demanding to get behind leaders that are not cowed by special interests, local military upheavals and other nations—they’re going to make unpopular decisions, hard ones but there’s no alternative.
We need the kind of revolution Luna called for—united with zero tolerance for the corrupt and those who wish to tear the country apart.
There’s some crazy uproar about what the movie failed to show—how it demonized certain individuals considered national heroes by certain groups and families. Again, it’s the message we need to focus on, not the personalities. Not because your relatives and kababayan took part in the revolution entitles them to be national heroes.
The film’s message is timely, election’s just around the corner.
Do we really want the Aguinaldos, the Buencaminos, the Mascardos and the Paternos to continue leading us, or do we want a Heneral Luna?
I say we must have a Heneral Luna, and we must be Heneral Lunas. All of us.