11 April 2018 | plsletitrain
Brillante takes a bold statement
Brillante Ma Mendoza is usually a hit or miss for me. He had a lot of misses, but he's got some hits for me too. This one is for me one of his strong films, if not the strongest. This film got the attention of the Cannes. And even if I'm not big on awards, I think this film deserves whatever recognition it got.
I know I've had enough with the "Look at us, oh we're so poor and we live in hell" pity party that is the common subject of most indie Filipino films. But I don't know why I loved this. Probably because it didn't look like a movie at all. It was so real and reflective of the state of the Philippines that it almost looked like a documentary.
Brillante engaged the talents of veteran Filipino actors here. The lead actress, Jacklyn Jose, is already a no-brainer. She could pull off any role, whether a protagonist, an antagonist, or even a plain bit player and she'll still steal the show. I was particularly impressed with her here, with no make-up and "acting" that looked so natural it never felt like she was just acting at all. There's a recognizable supporting cast(Julio Diaz, Mon Confiado, Mark Anthony Fernandez, Baron Geisler, Andi Eigenmann, Maria Isabel Lopez, and Allan Paule whose number of gay roles in indie films I've lost count already, and some others) that gives life to the bleak situation being portrayed.
Brillante takes a bold statement here, but not controversial. Just congruent with reality. He centered on the controversial drug war, but not on the most publicized extra-judicial killings. He focused on the other side of the narcotic trade that's been in the circles for so long but was never exposed.
Rosa (Jacklyn Jose) is your typical slum family matriarch. Along with her husband, Nestor (Julio Diaz), they engage in small-time sale of illegal drugs. They got arrested after their house was raided and they were found in possession of the drugs. Instead of undergoing standard booking procedures at the precinct, they were brought to a separate backdoor office where they were made to bargain for their liberty. The policemen, seeing that they could make use of a bigger fish than the ones they caught, made them confess of their supplier. But despite doing so, they were still asked for money in exchange for their freedom. Same thing happened with their supplier. Their 3 children did all ways to raise the money. Giving up their goods, their body, their pride.
Over-all I'd say this is a statement film. I commend Brillante for outing the abuses and corrupt practices of rogue policemen in the country. There are no long shots of nothing here, pure statements, pure reality.