dinig sana kita I went to a Cinemalaya screening at the CCP for the first time last Sunday to watch this lovely, lovely movie Dinig Sana Kita. It’s a feel-good piece that can make you cry buckets. It’s not entirely original, as teenage issues are nothing new; it even harks back to Crazy/Beautiful. But brilliant filmmakers have a way of retelling stories in a way that makes you see and hear things differently.

In Dinig, troubled teenager Nina (Zoe Sandejas) meets the deaf Kiko (played by real-life deaf actor Romalito Mallari) when her parents send her to a deaf interaction camp in Baguio. The camp is organized by Dr. Dela Pena (Robert Sena) who specializes on special education for the Deaf, and with (for?) whom Kiko works as (sort of) an assistant. As most kilig stories go, they don’t hit it off right away; Nina is too rough for the mild-mannered Kiko. But as the camp is supposed to build understanding between the Deaf and those who can hear, they slowly learn to work through their differences and Nina becomes friends with Kiko and his pals.

While in Baguio, Nina is diagnosed with anxiety attacks which take roots from troubles at home, no thanks to a domineering father and an almost servile mother. To deal with her problems, she takes comfort in alcohol and loud music. On the other hand, Kiko also has issues of his own to deal with: he needs to find his biological parents while working at the school for the Deaf and pursuing his passion for dance. This is the part where one realizes that parents have a way of screwing up their kids’ lives. But kids are resilient and music, dance, friendship, and other aspects of their world that they could choose to supplement the families that they were born into serve as their anchors. By the time Sa Ugoy ng Duyan is cued, it’s impossible to remain unaffected by the almost true-to-life story of a child abandoned by his parents. While Nina shares half of the story, Dinig Sana Kita is largely Kiko’s tale.

I hate crying at the movies, but it’s that good at tugging at heartstrings. And yes, you have romance (it’s a love story, after all!), barkada gimmicks, LOL moments that bring the house down with laughter, and even brushes with thugs and authorities. It also sheds light on the tough choices that workers face as they opt to move abroad instead of serve their country. In this film’s example, if you think that there are very few good teachers left who are still serving in the country, then think of how much fewer special education teachers are still around.

Given the context within which its story developed, perhaps the best thing that I like about this film is that it does not preach. It doesn’t lecture about life’s miseries because we already know that life ain’t grand all the time anyway. What it does is show you reasons to listen, if not with your ears, then with your heart.

The last time I felt this good about a film was…hmm…Amelie, which I watched four times at the cinema. Dinig Sana Kita is a love story that is a lot like love: it makes you cry, makes you laugh, and at the end of the day makes you ask why you have allowed yourself to get so immersed in it.

The film is not perfect and there are technicalities that Mike Sandejas and co. could have dealt with better. However, Dinig Sana Kita is not exactly about film-making for film-making’s sake, but about telling a good story, and in that it does so effectively. I hope that there will be wider distribution for this film, which gives us all reason to hope that Filipino cinema has a future.

I’m watching the other festival entries this Saturday as well. Cinemalaya is running until Sunday, July 26, at the CCP, and Dinig Sana Kita‘s last screening is on Saturday, 6:15PM at the CCP Main Theatre.

UPDATE: You can catch the next screenings at the UP Film Institute on August 3.

And now, here be the photo-ops… šŸ™‚

zoe sandejas, dinig sana kita
With pretty Zoe Sandejas, who also happens to be the director’s daughter.

Romalito Mallari, Dinig Sana Kita
With Rome Mallari. (Right, the high point of my movie-going experience is having my photo taken with the lead actor while looking like a loser. Where is a stylist when I need one?)

I managed to drag Doji to the CCP.

Ironically, this film is a family affair, off-cam, being directed by Mike Sandejas (the lead actress’ father) and co-written–I think–with Nina Sandejas. I believe the musical director’s name is Francis.

Update: Nina Sandejas wrote the theme song, while director Mike Sandejas wrote, directed and produced the film, according to Nina. Musical Director is Francis Reyes. Me wants DSK OST.