A visually unique and critically acclaimed cult hit, Cleaners is hitting local streaming services for the first time starting this September 18.
When people say that Philippine cinema is dead, that just means they haven’t watched enough Filipino movies or expanded their horizons outside what the big studios release. In fact, Philippine cinema is filled with movies that can go toe-to-toe with international films in terms of quality. One of those movies is the critically-acclaimed cult hit, Cleaners. Premiered in 2019, the movie has consistently wowed viewers who see the film. Now, the indie hit will have the chance to reach its biggest audience yet as it is finally hitting streaming sites KTX, Upstream, and Spamflix starting September 18, 2021.
The debut feature film of writer and director Glenn Barit, Cleaners is a coming-of-age anthology film about high school student cleaners from a rural catholic school in Tuguegarao City in 2008. These students struggle with different societal pressures of being clean, proper, and pure while they discover that the world is dirty and superficial to begin with.
The first story follows a girl named Stephanie who is tasked with taking care of a plant for her finals project. She also decides to join the school’s dance troupe, which leads to a sticky situation. The next story follows three goth and rock-punk students, Eman, Almond, and Lester, who are paired up with the class president Angeli to do a folk dance for the Buwan Ng Wika celebration. While they are completely different personality-wise, the group learns to work together to do the dance.
The third film follows a boy named Francis who’s made fun of for the fact that he isn’t circumcised. He has a crush on Britany, a girl who is hounded by gossip that she isn’t a virgin. The two start developing a relationship, but their personal issues get in the way of their love. The last story is about a teen named Junjun, the son of a political dynasty. He decides to run for the local SK chairman, which brings him into the dirty world of politics.
What makes Cleaners so unique though is that it is entirely made from photocopying each frame on paper. Around 34,560 sheets of paper were used with the only color coming from highlighters as the protagonists were manually colored. This then gives the film a stop motion effect.
A NOSTALGIC MASTERPIECE
The movie is one of the most visually unique films you’ll see not just locally, but everywhere. The photocopy effect doesn’t distract from the quality of the stories being told. Truth be told, it serves as a great medium for the narratives that are unfolding. Speaking of which, each vignette deals with its own story, but all circle back to themes that you may experience when in high school from young love, to fitting in, working with people you don’t like, and more.
If you went to high school, Cleaners can feel extremely nostalgic and for how it captures high school life. Even if you didn’t go to high school in the late 2000s, the familiarity can still feel all too real. And that’s aided by strong acting by the cast who all come off as real and believable high school students. It’s also commendable how the film is set in a high school in the province, something that isn’t often seen.
INTERNATIONAL AWARDS AND RECOGNITION
But don’t just take our word for how good it is. Prior to its streaming debut, Cleaners has won so many awards to fill a trophy case. At the 2019 QCinema International Film Festival, it took home Best Film, Best Screenplay, and Audience Choice Award. It won Best First Feature and Best Sound and Aural Orchestration from the 30th Youth Critics Circle (YCC) Film Desk.
Also, it garnered 2020’s Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino’s Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Special Citation for Ensemble Performance, Best in Production Design, and Best in Musical Score. It took home Best Screenplay at the 2020 FAMAS Awards. The film also received eight nominations at the 2020 Gawad Urian Awards. It also was shown in a handful of international film festivals like Busan International Film Festival in Korea, Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival in Taiwan, and Torino Film Festival in Italy.
Cleaners is so well-liked that Letterboxd, one of the most popular film review websites in the world, announced that the movie ranked number one in their Top 25 Films of 2021 back in June. It was followed at number two by fellow Filipino film, Oda Sa Wala. Cleaners currently has a 4.2/5 score on the site, making it among the highest-rated narrative feature films on the site.
So, if you need a movie recommendation for the weekend, we highly recommend you check out Cleaners on KTX, Upstream, and Spamflix this September 18.
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