Watch 'Cleaners' for a Much-Needed Nostalgia Fix During Quarantine

Straight from the pages of your high school life.
Photo/s: Courtesy of Cleaners

Critically-acclaimed 2019 film "Cleaners" can now be viewed via streaming platforms, giving nostalgic Filipinos in lockdown a chance to revisit high school, warts and all.

After garnering awards in film festivals here and abroad, the debut film of 28-year-old filmmaker Glenn Barit can now be streamed on KTX, Upstream, and Spamflix. The film was recently hailed by website Letterboxd's top film of 2021, alongside another Filipino movie "Oda Sa Wala", in a mid-year ranking of the 25 most top-rated films by users of the global social media app.

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Set in the year 2008 in Tuguegarao City, Cleaners follows the life of rural catholic high school students as they navigate the pressure of being "clean" across various facets of their young adult lives, from uncontrollable pooping in school to getting exposed to the dirty side of politics in the Philippines.

By quite literally taking a page from what it was like to be a high school student through its form, Cleaners, when viewed in 2021, is the ultimate ode to the before-times.

"The film looks like a high school project," said director Glenn Barit. "I wanted to create a film that strikes as visually organic in respect to the time and serve as a tribute piece for textbooks, manila papers, highlighters and pens before the dominance of the internet," he said, explaining why he came to produce a film whose 34,560 frames were all photocopied and highlighted by hand to resemble what usually happens to school reading materials.

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This was meant to challenge the conventions of modern digital films that are known for its clean, glossy and crisp digital pixels, Barit said. "It's a statement about how 'imperfect' cinema can be something of equal value," he added.

Nostalgia abounds in quarantine. Especially for Zillennials who are forced to navigate pandemic life primarily through the screens of their phones and computers, being reminded of the past can be quite a bittersweet experience. It's a sentiment that is perhaps, best put by one of the loudest songs in the film's soundtrack that is an ultimate throwback to the mid-2000s.

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"So what's the point in all of this? When you will never change. The days have passed, the weather's changed. Should I be sorry?" the opening verse of Typecast's "Will You Ever Learn" goes.

Courtesy of Cleaners

Still, nostalgic content is thriving as they offer much-needed recourse — the promise that although things weren't perfect before, they were once, and can always be, better.

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Apart from the high school nostalgia it evokes, Cleaners pays homage to regional cinema, an often overlooked realm of the Philippines' national cinematic experience despite richness in narratives. Before he pursued higher education in Manila, first in Ateneo and later on, the University of the Philippines, Barit himself was a high school student in Tuguegarao.

After receiving grant from the 2019 QCinema International Film Festival, where it won Best Film, Best Screenplay and Audience Choice Award, Cleaners received more recognitions here and abroad, such as from the 30th Youth Critics Circle Film Desk, Gawad Urian 2020, and the 2020 Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino.

It also graced the screens of prominent film festivals such as Busan International Film Festival in Korea, Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival in Taiwan, and Torino Film Festival in Italy.

Courtesy of Cleaners
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"Sad kasi hindi kami nakapag theatrical release man lang or parang isa pa sana na screening. I-screen na dapat kami sa Tuguegarao mismo days before the lockdown happened. Andami sanang pwedeng naganap," Barit told reportr, explaining what happened following the film's promising debut.

"As a filmmaker, may longing pa rin for theatrical screening. Although masaya naman na mas madaming makaka-access sa streaming sites pero iba pa rin 'pag live for me. Lalo pa ngayon na ang hirap, mga estudyante ay 2 years nang online. So parang may ganong paralellism din," he said.

Cleaners is now streaming on KTXUpstream, and Spamflix.

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