When the trailers for “El Presidente” were released, it seemed entirely possible that an entertaining historical epic could be made depicting the life and times of Emilio Aguinaldo. Fortunately for future filmmakers, that epic has yet to be made, as Jeorge ‘ER’ Estregan and his team have come nowhere close to creating it.
Based partly on Emilio Aguinaldo’s memoirs, “El Presidente” details the life of the future president from his days as a 17-year old cabeza de barangay in Binakayan, Cavite, through his time as a key figure in the Philippine Revolution, the American period, the Second World War and his death.
Right ingredients, bad stew
While marketed as an historical epic, “El Presidente” is anything but. Don’t misunderstand–all the right ingredients are in place: big-name stars, extravagant production design, extensive use of real-life locations and no shortage of large-scale battles. Furthermore, the director, Mark Meily is no stranger to cinematic period pieces, having previously directed “Baler.”
While much is made of Aguinaldo's martial prowess, little time is given to actual character development, with events happening around the supposedly great man.
The production was not lacking, but the film suffers in the handling of its subject matter; specifically, a complete lack of emotion and drama in its interpretation of some of the most tumultuous decades in our nation’s past. As we awkwardly shuffle from one broadly-depicted historical vignette to the next, the reason for this lack of engagement becomes painfully obvious: the film’s complete refusal to take a stand–-substantiated or otherwise-–on the events being portrayed.
Bereft of any sort of context or commentary, the depth of “El Presidente’s” narrative goes about as far as: “Spaniards stupid, Americans evil, Aguinaldo good.”
As a direct result of these deficiencies, the audience is left to accept (over a protracted running time they will never, ever be able to get back)...
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