buwaya cinemalaya 2014Verdict: Value for Money

Pinoy Rebyu Score: 3.24 (21 ratings)

Genre: Drama

Writer/Director: Francis Xavier Pasion

Cast: Angeli Bayani, Karl Medina, RS Francisco, Jolina Salvado

Synopsis: Divina is preparing for her daughter Rowena’s 13th birthday when she hears shocking news: her daughter has been attacked by a crocodile, her body still missing. As Divina searches for the body of her daughter in the marshlands of Agusan del Sur, she learns a lesson more tragic than her fate: not all predators are underwater. The film is based on actual events.

MTRCB rating: PG

Running time: 98 mins



4.5         Jennifer Dugena (PEP)

Bwaya doesn’t push audiences to root for, side with or wish punishment for anyone or anything. It allows audiences the freedom to just watch and see so that (in the words of the real-life Divina) the world will (hopefully)”not forget” about her daughter.” (Read full review)

4.0         Oggs Cruz (Philippine Star)

“As with all of his works, Pasion, by making his own methods of filmmaking as bait for discourse on the thin line that separates art and exploitation, establishes countless layers within a simple tale of grief, making Bwaya a film that satisfyingly perplexes as much as it sensually pleases.”  (Read capsule review)

4.0         Rob San Miguel (Brun Philippines)

“This commitment to authenticity elevated a culturally distinct story into something universal, which is the pain of losing a young child and having no control over powerful unfathomable forces.” (Read full review)

4.0         Manuel Pangaruy (Tagailog Special Presents)

“Tahimik ito, payapa at parang natural light lang ang ginamit na ilaw. Hindi ito naghuhumiyaw at nagsasabing s’ya ang bida sa pelikula kahit na breathtaking na mismo ang nasabing lugar. Dahil dito, maayos na naipinta ang contrast ng pagiging kalmado n’ong community (kabilang ang relasyon ng mga tao rito) at ang turmoil mula sa trahedyang naganap.” (Read full review)

4.0         Renelson Morelos (Ramblings of a Film Urchin)

“Pasion tells his story in a deliberate and deceptively calm manner that it tends to evoke that there’s something sinister and dangerous lurking beneath and around the tranquil marshland – and not necessarily in the form of predatory reptiles.” (Read full review)

3.5         Skilty Labastilla (Pinoy Rebyu)

“A gorgeous-looking, well-meaning film that unfortunately stumbles towards the last act as it searches for a purpose higher than the mere retelling of a tragedy. The ‘crocodiles on land’ thesis is not well fleshed out, and I’m not sold on the decision to include the interviews and footage of the real parents as it makes the film feel like a TV documentary, which ironically makes the filmmakers seem complicit to the very media exploitation that the film criticizes.

3.5         Jason Jacobo (Young Critics Circle)

“Angeli Bayani inhabits the role of a hysteric so well that she herself can no longer predict the pendulum of breakdown, save for that moment of waking upon fake filigrees strewn all over her forlorn face. The last mistress of screen madness could only be Lolita Rodriguez, until this actress.” (Read full review)

3.5         J. Neil Garcia

“On one hand, not even the shamanistic voiceover of an ancient Manobo crocodile story can render the tragic incident’s actual (deadly) reptile mythically resonant; on the other, there’s that commonsensical question that isn’t remotely answered by the film–of how this horrific ‘event’ couldn’t have been the first that this riverine community has had to face, and yet it seems to be that way, going by the film’s dramatic focus on the mother’s singular and bottomless grief (a role played exceptionally well by the increasingly formidable Angeli Bayani). (Read full review)

3.5         Jonell Estillore (Film Police)

“The cinematic direction boasted in Bwaya is just the tip of the iceberg; the story in itself is consuming that it is impossible to easily let go of the phantasmagoria it intends to create inside one’s soul.” (Read full review)

3.5         Zig Marasigan (Rappler)

“The allure of Bwaya is not simply that Divina is a special case among mothers, but that she is special because she is a mother. And that resounding statement, whether it’s communicated through fact or fiction, is elegantly conveyed in Bwaya.” (Read full review)

3.5         John Tawasil (Present Confusion)

Bwaya is a fascinating look into the lives of these people in the marshes. But with an ending that feels incomplete the overall effect is blunted a bit.” (Read full review)

3.5         Carl Papa (Whatever Carl)

“There is no denying the fact that Bwaya is a really well made film. It is masterfully shot. There were moments of just pure beauty. Those aerial shots were stunning and just beautiful.  The pacing and the shifting from documentary feel to the narrative was fluid… However, compared to Pasion’s other works, I was not that affected or emotionally connected to it.” (Read full review)

3.5         Misstache

“The cinematography was simple yet beautiful especially the aerial shots, the opening wide shot of the lake, the cloud-filled sky, and the rainbow. The whole film evokes a sense of calmness and terror at the same time. I liked how they did not resort to exaggeration; its simplicity is its asset.” (Read full review)

3.0         Jessica Zafra (InterAksyon)

Bwaya may be an impressive achievement, but when will this talented filmmaker stop aiming for ‘achievement’ and take a real risk? When do we see the soul behind the technique? That’s something to look forward to.” (Read full review)

3.0         Nicol Latayan (Tit for Tat)

“What faults I find in its approach were almost made up by the fantastic visual scenes in the film. Those wide aerial shots of the rivers and the boats are just breathtaking to see, and given the difficulties and circumstances of shooting there, it was really impressive. Angeli Bayani continues her streak of great performances; her portrayal of Divina is both heartbreaking and vulnerable.” (Read full review)

3.0         Macky Macarayan (The FilmSoc Report)

“While the film makes the crocodile who snatched Rowena the obvious antagonist, it also carries an understatement that not all predators are underwater, as Divina (Angeli Bayani) finds out. The only regret in Bwaya is that Pasion could have explored this understatement further, instead of just mentioning it as a matter-of-fact.” (Read full review)

3.0         Emil Hofileña (Cinemil Movie Reviews)

“The cinematography tells the story so much better than the actual dialogue and plot. Through mood alone that these shots establish, it adds so much to the story. However we’re really not given that much to chew on. There’s so much room here for substance and sometimes this movie tries to go into these deeper topics but it just does not at all. We’re left with a slow-paced story that is extremely straightforward.” (Watch video review)

2.5         Dicot Alvarado (Letterboxd)

“Amongst the fictional staging, the film also presents dialogue with people who seem to be the actual individuals the film is based on. It ultimately tries to bring these two parts together, and adds some moments of abstract experimentation as it goes along. It’s intriguing, but it’s inconsistent, and really doesn’t seem to work and doesn’t seem to make sense.” (Read full review)

2.0         Philbert Dy (Click the City)

“The movie almost seems to exist as a form of grief counseling for the bereaved parents of Rowena. And that’s fine, I suppose, but I’m not entirely sure it’s something that should be seen by other people.” (Read full review)

1.5         Richard Bolisay (Lilok Pelikula)

“What is sick about it is not the film, which, removing the meta elements, is in fact a persuasive look into the various layers of violence experienced by being born and raised poor, but the filmmaking—the insistence on pointing a finger, the tenacity to draw attention to oneself and appear bright and thoughtful in the midst of anguish, and the nerve to make the audience feel such disproportioned terror, showing the infinity of excuses that comes with freedom of expression.” (Read full review)

1.5         Ian Rosales Casocot (The Spy in the Sandwich)

“The film seems to provide an answer near its long-awaited end: to concretise in film the memory of a girl eaten by a crocodile in the marsh’s shallow waters. But the attempt honestly feels so derivative and so superficial, one is rather tempted to forget.” (Read full review)


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