Review of the Cinemalaya best picture winner, ‘The Baseball Player’

August 16, 2022 Mario Bautista 1019 views


THE Baseball Player’ by Carlo Obispo (who also did the memorable Cinemalaya 2013 movie “Purok 7” with Julian Trono giving his most memorable performance ever and “1-2-3 Gasping for Air” about child prostitutes) is the first local film to tackle the war in Mindanao from the point of view of innocent children who get caught in its violence and complexities.

The film opens with an orphan boy, Khalid (JM San Jose), being adopted by a family. The eldest teenage boy, Amir (Tommy Alejandrino, a theatre actor), acts as his older brother or Kuya who tries to connect with him and takes good care of him. It’s only later that we learn that Khalid’s entire family were all killed in the war and he is clearly traumatized by the experience.

Amir is a promising baseball player and his coach is encouraging him to go on training for the sport and be a professional player who can go abroad. But he is being pressured by his family members to train and serve in their camp of Moro freedom fighters

The film is told very serenely, with beautifully photographed rustic scenes of idyllic mountains and enticing rivers with crystal clear waters, actually shot in Tarlac. But in the final scene, all the tranquility is shattered by the incessant sound of deafening gunfire. In the end, you get the feeling that the writer-director took a very abbreviated route in telling his story.

We would have appreciated more Amir’s dilemma if we were given a bit more insight about the crisis their whole family is going through. Even the baseball scenes are not enough for us to be able to fully emphatize with Amir and his passion for the game. And we’re surprised when war suddenly erupts and we see that Amir has already made a decision.

The film is the type that leaves you hanging. Those who don’t like “bitin” endings will find it wanting. So what really happened to the baseball player of the title? We don’t know. But maybe that’s the real intention of the filmmaker. He wants to agitate us. In this life where we are unsure of many things, he wants you to draw your own conclusions.

But that concluding scene of the boy Khalid crying and screaming “Kuya! Kuya! Kuya!” is really haunting. Both JM and Tommy are excellent in their respective roles.

We can’t help but think that given a bigger budget (since the seed financing given by Cinemalaya is really small), maybe Director Obispo could have made a more articulate and more polished film that is not rough around the edges.

As it is, they even give top billing in the cast credits to Sue Prado and Arnold Reyes when Sue has a very minor role as a Muslim teacher and Arnold appears whimsically in only one scene as a ghost who can repair broken bicycles.