FILM REVIEW. I was ready to like ‘Kita Kita’ but…

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 07 August) –Let me begin by saying I was ready to like Kita Kita. I was expecting it to be a quirky romcom with Alessandra breaking the manic pixie dream girl mold and Empoy being a charming boy-next-door with his humor and wit. I was ready to fall in love with it.

I didn’t.

Empoy’s character in Kita Kita is a classic stalker and manipulator, which annoyed the heck out of me.

That scene where Empoy was retrieving the kaldereta from Alessandra’s porch and Alessandra was apologizing for her attitude (which she didn’t have to apologize for, to begin with. Because how many times did she say no to Empoy’s offer of food and company, and how many times did Empoy ignore it? How many times must a woman say no for a man to listen?), and he began to make Alessandra feel guilty for refusing his “kindness” AKA unsolicited advances? That’s classic emotional manipulation right there.

That scene in the boat where Empoy was sitting beside Alessandra, where he suddenly brought out his umbrella and draped his arm over Alessandra’s shoulders and held the umbrella over them in a gesture resembling an awkward embrace — a thing he did AGAIN in the flower fields.. that is not romantic. Invading one’s personal space is never okay.

And that scene where Empoy’s presence in Alessandra’s life prior to her blindness is revealed as she read Empoy’s letter, where we find out that he has been following.. nay, stalking her? And Alessandra’s character is apparently okay with it?? Talk about normalization of unacceptable attempts at establishing a relationship.

I did like the cinematography and production design, and the movie was a visual treat with hints of Wes Anderson and Wong Kar Wai here and there. But in a movie where we are supposedly reminded to look beyond the superficial, the movie hardly delivers as it reinforces patriarchal norms — where men can do whatever they want even if women say no, and where women are expected to eventually develop feelings because of a man’s “effort,” welcome or otherwise.

P.S. That scene where Alessandra discovers Nobu’s cheating and tells him “malandi ka pa sa babae!” as she seethes in anger? WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?? Hindi naman ako nainform na kababaihan pala ay malandi by default at kasarian pala ang standard para sa kalandian, mga kapitbahay. (Marrian Pio Roda Ching is a feminist from the Southern Tagalog Region who relocated to the Bangsamoro in 2012. She works as a writer, editor, and human rights advocate who strongly supports the Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination)