Winner of Jury Prize, Mardoquio’s Riddles of My Homecoming boasts of striking, pregnant and haunting images that linger with you. This is Mardoquio’s attempt at artsy stuff, his tiptoeing into a new territory has the grandness of an ambitious young man and the cautions of baby steps. Even when he dives into an opaque material, he is obviously a storyteller first and foremost. Look at how he guides us through the story of two lovers: from their casual meeting, Mardoquio then builds up the foreplay of their lovemaking with suggestive heat, stripping the male lover first then exposing the ‘female’ lover’s secret right after.
Past the images, Mardoquio tries to tackle a difficult subject. His concept of acceptance and rejection here is grounded on gender specificity or the triviality of it. His character (the ‘female’ lover) poses a conviction – I don’t know if it’s Mardoquio’s too – that she should be loved and accepted regardless of her genetalia. When she is rejected by her male lover, she hops on to the next, now a female, and Mardoquio’s psychological rumination during the sexual intercourse couldn’t have come to the fore better. This would have sufficed if the film doesn’t have other stories to tell. It does and those other stories are only serviceable beside the complexity of this one. See, for instance, how trite one story on the ascendance of a cult leader is. Generally, the film thus feels uneven.
Editing should be commended for piecing together a puzzle of images that would have appeared disjointedly heapful at the outset because of opacity of the narrative flow.
My biggest beef with Riddles is its absence of ownership. It doesn’t have Mardoquio’s sensibilities of his past outputs like Shieka, Hospital Boat and Crossfire, which are generally more heartfelt and better works. Riddles is Mardoquio’s show (letting us see what he is capable of, regardless of how half-baked the result is) and his way of groping for new things. In branching out, he is losing his idiosyncrasy.