Cinemalaya ‘Bula sa Langit’: Raw, restrained drama on the trauma of war

‘BULA Sa Langit’ director Sheenly Gener. | photographs courtesy of cinemalaya

Sheenly Gener’s beautifully nuanced drama, Bula sa Langit, is about Ritz (an excellent Kate Alejandrino) and her boyfriend Wesley (Gio Gahol), a soldier who comes home after an assignment in Marawi.

The film calls to mind Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper — the theme of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) from the perspective of both the sufferer and his romantic partner.

As director, Gener takes a restrained approach and injects an underlying sense of unease. Every moment, you hold your breath, fearing for Wesley’s inevitable meltdown, or bursts of anger and violence.

Alejandrino, as a low-class motel worker, delivers a flawless performance of a woman highly attuned to her boyfriend’s moods. When Gahol’s Wesley takes her to his hometown in Laguna to meet his parents (brilliant portrayal by Soliman Cruz and Sharmaine Buencamino), we get a fascinating glimpse into the dynamics of the couple in the company of family, friends and strangers.

Wesley’s parents aim to provide comic relief. Although not funny, they cut through the underlying tension of Wesley’s quiet suffering.

‘Bula Sa Langit’ is one of 11 full-length films competing in the 2022 Cinemalaya.


The audio of this film is terrible but is compensated by the rest of the film’s technical triumphs– from Chuck Gutierrez’ neat editing to Dix Buhay’s adroit cinematography. Their work complements Gener’s ruminative treatment to a film that brims with unspoken emotions.

The present-day setting is intercut with scenes from the Marawi siege from the viewpoint of Wesley, his trauma palpable to the audience. There is also a side story of a comrade in battle, played by AIR, who provides the audience a different angle on the mental effects of war. This adds an interesting layer to Wesley’s journey.

Wesley’s PTSD, however, is mildly captured, which makes the audience invested but not wholly sympathetic. Wesley inspires curiosity rather than empathy.

Though the script’s (by Adrian Legaspi) political statements are clear on the Marawi crisis in 2017, the film is more interested in Ritz’s perspective as the lover of a hero. However, one scene takes a jab at a pro-government supporter through Wesley’s impassioned aunt who unfortunately sounds shallow and vindictive, too lengthy and out of place.  A glaringly theatrical scene in a very subtle movie.

Overall, Bula sa Langit is memorable for its rawness and authenticity. If you like quiet, delicate indie movies, make sure to catch this. Delivering concise, low-key drama with a remarkable cast ensemble, Gener is a director to look out for.

3.5 out of 5 stars

‘Bula sa Langit’ is in the main competition lineup of the ongoing Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival.

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