This year’s QCinema International Film Festival hailed Cleaners as the Best Film under the Asian Next Wave category. Not just that, the coming-of-age film from writer-director Glenn Barit also won the Audience Choice Award and Best Screenplay.
I watched this movie after it bagged those awards and as a lover of nostalgia myself, I can say that it was hands down amazing, heartfelt, and packed with so much elements that will precisely remind you of your precious high school days.
In case you didn’t know, Cleaners is a stop-motion film as Barit decided to present it to the audience by laboriously photocopying over 40,000 frames that they shot and coloring each frame with highlighters. The photocopied frames were then scanned and digitally sequenced. The result? An artsy, retro-looking black and white visual playing at 8 frames per second on our theater screens.
Cleaners is an anthology divided into six chapters, telling stories of high school seniors with different idiosyncrasies residing in Tuguegarao City in Cagayan province circa 2007-2008. They each faced different conflicts in their lives which made them break out of their comfort zones.
In the first act, we witness a girl named Stephanie (highlighted in green) who struggles with her “need to belong” as well as academic challenges during Nutrition Month.
The second story is a comical one! It revolves around three Emo boys Eman, Lester and Arnold (highlighted in orange) as they unexpectedly get teamed up with class president Angeli (highlighted in yellow) for a folk dance presentation for Buwan Ng Wika.
The third one tells the bittersweet “love story” of bullied students Francis (highlighted in blue) and Britney (in fuchsia). Unaware that she's keeping a huge secret, the former plans to ask the latter to be his prom date.
The last narrative shifts to a more serious mood as it presents the tale of Junjun (highlighted in purple) who's persistent in running for the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) to follow his parents' footsteps. His story deeply tackles the underlying dirt of local political dynasties.
Courtesy: Cleaners Film
It is really stupefying how this movie managed to accurately depict high school life during that pre-smartphone era while showcasing each character’s struggle dealing with the pressure of being “clean” despite the harshness and impurities of the life they’re in.
It's filled with relatable elements: teenage angst, funny classroom moments, demanding school teachers, haircut policies for boys, conflicts between classmates while making a group activity, annoying school gossip, the feeling of madly falling in love for the first time, and rising above hate, bullying, and peer pressure. If you were a class officer, you’ll surely love a particular scene!
The nostalgic scenes from each storyline will make you look back at those golden and crazy high school days. You'll tear up from laughter over some scenes and you'll also cry with the heart-pinching and realistic drama.
Cleaners was also successful in using hits from Typecast, Mayonnaise, and Unique in the most fitting way! You'll never hear "Will You Ever Learn", "The Boston Drama", "Bakit Part 2", and "Apoy ng Kandila" the same way again after watching this film, perhaps because you'll embrace these tunes even more!
For obvious reasons, one key scene really caught my attention. It's when the Emo boys get confronted by their teacher for their “punk” looks and unwillingness to participate in the folk dance number. The three give the teacher a CD comprising of the songs they love and sincerely ask her to listen to it because one track is “Number 1” on the MYX charts! That’s right, MYX was mentioned in the movie! I think the boys are pertaining to My Chemical Romance's “Famous Last Words” since it was written on the CD case with a signature “emo” razorblade.
Cleaners is indeed the perfect blast from the past for those who were in their teens during the mid-2000s! In the meantime, enjoy these MYXclusive performances of the songs that were featured in the must-watch movie: