Monday, July 12, 2010
To give credit where it's due, Andrew Leavold has already provided a terrific overview of Boy God (aka Stone Boy, aka Rocco, Ang Batang Bato) over at his very fine blog Bamboo Gods and Bionic Boys, in which he not only summarizes the film, but also gives a substantial amount of background regarding its production. (And if you have any interest in Filipino film at all, you owe it to yourself to also check out the phenomenal capsule history of Pinoy B cinema that Andrew recently posted. It's absolutely essential.) The fact that Andrew has done all of the heavy lifting of providing a context within which to view Boy God means that I'm left free to instead simply focus on what a weird movie it is. Thus, in approaching the film, I think that both Andrew, a knowledgeable person, and I, a lazy person, have been afforded a chance to play to each of our individual strengths.
Darna at Ding, in which he co-starred with Vilma Santos in her last screen turn as the beloved Pinoy superheroine Darna. Like Darna at Ding, Boy God was produced by the Muhlach family's production company, D'Wonder Films, and, in its similarly superheroic themes, represents an attempt to capitalize on the success of that earlier film. As will happen with child stars, encroaching adolescence was necessitating a bit of re-branding on the part of Nino and his handlers, as he was rapidly becoming unsuitable for the cute kid roles that his stardom was built upon. The one-two punch of having him portray Darna's sidekick and then a magical hero made of rock seems, then, to have been a bid to position him as a teenage star of crazy fantasy action films.
Tony Falcon films, and, of course, as in any example of Filipino popular cinema, lots of broad comedy. I have also heard Boy God referred to as a children's film, which it very well might have been by the Filipino standards of its day. But whether you personally would want to expose your toddler to it would be determined by just how well you think a film prominently featuring spirit rape would fit into their regular diet of Pixar fare and Yo Gabba Gabba.
Our adventure begins when a strange, toga wearing specter impregnates a young village woman against her will, with the result that, some time later, baby Rocco is born. Sadly, not long after this blessed event, a spurned former lover of Rocco's mom, village bad guy "Robby", shows up with his motley band of guerrillas to riddle both her and her husband with machine-gun bullets. This leaves Rocco's old grandma with the task of raising him, a process that increasingly involves her having to hide his growing superhuman abilities from the prying eyes of the other villagers. (As is frequent in Pinoy films, both A and B, village life is portrayed here as a seething hellhole of intolerance and malicious gossip.) Eventually young Rocco discovers that his powers are nullified when he is exposed to water, and his grandma helpfully explains that this is because he is made of limestone, and, like limestone (and Alka Seltzer), he becomes stronger when heated, but dissolves when placed in water.
Or is it? To tell the truth, I don't think that any amount of distance, either temporal or emotional, can render Boy God any less strange. That is its true super power.