Indie Film: Sundalong Kanin (Rice Soldiers)

Movie as described by its studio: Sundalong Kanin is a film about four young children during the World War II who wanted to be soldiers in order to fight the Japanese Army. What started out as play, starting off as “sundalong kanin,” (a sort of toy soldier, “saling pusa”) they quickly learned the difference between a real gun and the toy they use to play with.

Every Cinemalaya season, I’m always one of those who’d just pick randomly and think, “Surprise me.” Truth be told, when I was picking a movie last Monday, I was looking at the title with less people in the theaters. Probably because part of me likes rooting for the underdog, while another part of me just hates crowded theaters. So when I picked Sundalong Kanin, I wasn’t quite sure what I was in for.

I saw later that the poster had kids in it. I am not too fond of child actors. Let me tell you this, though: I was pleasantly surprised. These kids could really act! And I’m pretty sure the direction had a lot to do with it.

The film started off as playful and funny. Even though this was set in the 1940s, the boyfriend and I reminisced about our childhood and we were smiling all throughout. Even when the Japanese soldiers landed on Philippine soil, the children still had something to smile about. It was all play. The transition from playful shenanigans to harsh destruction of innocence was smooth, but it was cruel nonetheless.

Many of the scenes really affected me so much, especially the ones surrounding the girl Alice, with whom the boy Nitoy held a cute childhood crush. I was so stressed about her story — her dream of becoming a teacher utterly snuffed out by the war — that I ended up lightly jabbing the boyfriend’s shoulder while sobbing inconsolably. You’d always expect the worst when it comes to war movies, which I usually avoid, but I did not expect the heavy emotions that ran through me despite bracing myself for it.

The adult actors were all pretty good, as expected of Cinemalaya actors, but I must say that the children were impressive. Incidentally, the boy who played Benny was sitting right in front of me in the theater. When I found out who he was (while the credits were rolling and he turned to talk to the women beside us), I suddenly felt embarrassed that I had been crying through half the movie.

If you haven’t been to Cinemalaya yet, give this one a shot.

Images found on the Sundalong Kanin FB page.

Janice O’Hara and Denise O’Hara

Nathaniel Brit, Ian de Leon, Marc Abaya, Gardo Verzosa, Via Veloso, Enzo Pineda, Paolo O’Hara, Che Ramos, Diana Alferez, Dante Balois, Elijah Canlas, Angelo Martinez

Director – Janice O’Hara
Producer – Denise O’Hara
Associate Prod – LA Dacula
Line Producer/Scriptwriter – Jerry O’Hara
Asst Director – Mara Marasigan
DOP – Nelson Macababat
Prod Manager – Melanie Entuna
Prod Designer – Fiel Zabat
Art Director – Poly Garcia
Post Production – SQ Film Lab

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