“’Pag nagluluto ka, kahit ano, dapat mong isipin kung sino ang ipagluluto mo. ‘Pag nasagot mo na ‘yan, alam mo na kung ano ang lulutuin mo…” – Inang
Directors Cenon Obispo Polomares and David Corpuz surely know how and what to cook for their audience with their Cinemalaya entry, “Kusina”.
Kusina (Her Kitchen), like the title suggests, is a film that centers on the kitchen as the “heart of most Filipinos’ homes” where anything can happen. Kusina tells the story of Juanita, from birth till death, wherein the kitchen is the silent witness.
This year’s batch of Cinemalaya entries served us a variety of films to choose from — different genres to different cinematic techniques. Kusina served us an epic film and made us taste the different flavors of life through the story of Juanita, played by Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo.
(Warning: This article discusses some details of the plot and other elements of the film – may contain spoilers.)
In the movie, the kitchen is the center of everything — the place where Juanita’s whole world revolves. Juanita does everything through cooking since it’s the only thing she knows best. She never stepped out of her world and focused too much on her kitchen that she forgot to explore the world outside it. Kusina served as her sanctuary, her life, and at the same time, her prison.
Most people who watched Kusina lauded it for giving a unique cinematic experience with its constructed single-set minimalist kitchen where the whole film takes place. Some even commented that Kusina may have taken notes to Lars von Trier’s “Dogville” with its theatricality and for using a similar creative technique for the film. Nevertheless, Kusina’s take on artistic storytelling felt like a breath of fresh air than the typical Filipino family drama films we see nowadays.
Kusina served the viewers a message of how women, particularly mothers, are influenced by the social norms and stereotypes that “staying at home” is the best for them. The patriarchal system that runs in most families show how women are typically subdominant to their husbands. In the case of Juanita, her husband Pelès wanted her to be a stay-at-home mom – that’s also what she wanted but she felt like Pelès left her with no other options to consider. Pelès’ statement “Gano’n talaga…” (“That’s just the way it is…”) when Juanita asks him why she has to be just a stay-at-home mom while he works for the family, garnered certain reactions particularly from female audiences who watched the movie.
For her comeback movie, Judy Ann proved that she is still at the top of her game. She delivered a stellar performance with her portrayal of Juanita that truly represents a woman and a mother who’s hungry for love, attention, and self-respect, exhausted for relentlessly providing for others before herself. She may not have won the Best Actress award but she definitely won the audience in her tremendous acting especially in that heart-wrenching heavy breakdown scene.
Juanita represents every mother whose unconditional love and devotion for her family is expressed through the daily meal she prepares for them. The film paid homage to mothers whose tireless efforts and selfless acts show how they always put their family before everything and everyone – even themselves.
The person, probably, who greatly influenced Juanita’s whole being was her grandmother, Inang (Gloria Sevilla), who practically raised her and taught her the values, lessons she grew up with, and most importantly, how to cook. When Juanita asked her Inang how she learned cooking, she told her that it was mother who taught her, and it was her mother’s Inang who taught her mother. In every hardship and every death Inang would always scatter salt – a superstition to drive away negativity. Juanita picked this up as she grew up as she herself experienced several tragedies in her life.
Kusina was screened at CCP and Ayala Malls Cinemas (Glorietta 4, Greenbelt 1, TriNoma, Fairview Terraces , U.P. Town Center, Solenad and Ayala Center Cebu) during Cinemalaya 12’s run on August 5-14.