Lola (France/Philippines; 110 min.)

directed by: Brillante Mendoza
starring: Anita Linda; Rustica Carpio; Tanya Gomez; Jhong Hilario; Kethcup Eusebio; Benjie Filomeno

Bruce says: "Ever since I first saw THE MASSEUR, a rough but auspicious directorial debut, I’ve been a huge Brillante Mendoza fan.  This prolific director, a winner of the 2009 director’s award at Cannes for his prior film – the sensation stirring KINATAY,  is assembling a courageous and accomplished body of work that places him in elite company in world cinema.

"LOLA (grandmother in Tagalog) refers to two women, both grandmothers of boys involved in a tragic accident which began with a stolen cellphone and ended in a fatal stabbing.  First we see an old woman and her great-grandson buying a candle which we assume is for mass as they are near a church.  They do stop at the church but continue on in the pouring rain to a deserted spot under a bridge where they light the candle.  'What are you doing here?' asks a very young kid (with a t-shirt that surprisingly advertises 'SEX.' ) 'My uncle was stabbed here yesterday,' replies the great-grandson.  From the bridge the twosome continues on to a funeral parlor where they first are led to the high end section where they find a beautiful specimen for 180,000.  Then they look at the other caskets down to the cheapest which is 17,000 , still more than they can afford.   For the next few days the grief stricken woman suffers through high winds and pouring rains as she shuffles through the local bureaucracy getting employers papers, the death certificate and donations to defray the costs of the funeral. 

"Meanwhile we get to see the grandmother of the killer on a similar mission.  She takes food to her grandson Mateo who is in jail.  Then she begins calling on local politicians and lawyers in an effort to get her grandson pardoned.  Hers is a family of street vendors working without permits and having their wares and carts destroyed during regular police raids.  This Lola’s son is dying and she, in spite of her advanced age, takes on the role of saleswoman, housekeeper, cook and nurse.  Her other grandson Bebong spends all his time watching TV never lifting a finger around the house, not even to care for his father.  It appears that if she can raise 30,000 she may be able to settle with the victim’s family, buying her grandson a new lease on life.

"Both grandmothers are hard-working, well- loved and respected.  Yet each in her own way is a supreme con artist, knowing how to milk the system to get money necessary to forge through a crisis.  The script for LOLA was inspired by a true story seen on a TV news program.  One of Mendoza’s favorite techniques is to follow his characters through the streets so that the camera describes the community in which his characters dwell.  As always the physical environment is a character in his films.  In LOLA the endless insufferable rain, too, is a character. 

"Mendoza is a great documenter of dichotomy: haves and have nots, the religious and the secular; political animals and apolitical victims; and, most of all, the genders.  Mendoza admits that he does exaggerate difference in gender to make a point, which is good news.  In his films, the men and women seem to inhabit different worlds.  It is the women who do the work and provide the glue which keeps the family and the community held together.  The women stress the importance of life rituals that define their culture.  The men are rarely contributors in any sense.  More often they are parasites who grab money, food and sex to feed their endless need for pleasure.  5 cats"