Looking for Luis Taruc in Cavite (Neill dela Llana and Ian Gamazon, 2005) January 7, 2008Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Indie Sine, Noypi.
Written and directed by Neill dela Llana and Ian Gamazon
Cast: Ian Gamazon, Neill dela Llana, Dominique Gonzalez
Winner in the 2006 Independent Spirit Awards
Cavite is such a surprise that for a while I even wondered whether I should take it seriously or not. It is aiming at a different realism — the type that borders between superficiality and actuality — yet it manages to induce excitement and fear. There is no room for kinetic energy here — the plot pushes itself forward like a space shuttle launch, hurling with no hint of coming back, and silently disintegrates like Challenger — fragments nowhere to be found, save the ocean floor who witnessed its tragic fall into pieces. It is beguiling, to say the least, that the thinness of its narrative — specifically the overblown elements of its plot — is the actual reason why it stands out as an astounding, devastating work. Pretenses and sentimentality are sent to hell — burnt up to the last atom; Cavite‘s terror is real — I am sure it will take a million words before someone could fully describe the idea — and what’s more arresting is that Neill dela Llana and Ian Gamazon are doing all the smash in our faces. Forget about the plot — it is the peripheral details, those morsels of third-world poverty that you can differentiate one by one through your sense of smell, that prevail in this work.
Fear manifests itself in different ways. We go through life because of fear; we do things and we undo things because of fear; and when we die, both our eyes are shut in fear. When we are cremated, our ashes weigh 21 grams of fear. When we decompose, all left to us is fear. It is the building blocks of death — fear. Terrorism breeds fear, and in such course of things, as what Oggs Cruz has stated, oppression breeds terrorism. You could turn both statements in whichever way you like and you would still end up at the same logic.
There’s nothing novel about the idea, especially now that the fight against terrorism is heightened and at the same time, exaggerated. The risk with films that delve on terror is the indulgence in didacticism, which may seem not to give any help to people who are bombarded everyday by crime news and hostage dramas — and are now immune to terror. We still shop at Glorietta and ride the LRT, right? And almost all of our congressmen are still attending their jobs at Batasan. We just have to live with it. And if you remember that scene when Adam is asked to eat balut — have a taste of your country! — we don’t cringe while he sips, instead we sneer at him, realising that his caller is too clever — he won’t ever let him loose.
Cavite is didactic, yes it is, but you won’t even have time to think of the term or take it out of the tip of your tongue while watching the film. Its lack of subtlety amplifies its statement and it seems to me that its entire 80 minutes feels like a back-to-back episode of Prison Break — wrapped in so much thrill and pulsating action, not the type that everyone would imagine though — only our Michael Scofield has neither a map tattooed on his body nor any concrete plans to escape his prison. The only thing he has is objective, and there he goes, coming to Manila, seeing the plight of his countrymen, loving the air, reviewing his history, exchanging deals, and finally saving his loved ones. However, there are ends that the film wasn’t able to meet, and that is one of the main reasons why am I writing this. Cavite may live up to the expectation of some, or perhaps a few, but considering its untimely incredulity — again going back to my first words — I am afraid that it will suffer from being taken for granted and eventually, forgotten. Nevertheless I hope that the political caricature that dela Llana and Gamazon have relentlessly sketched would not smudge easily like charcoal pencils do. There are misses — but the hits are all noteworthy. Unlike Todo Todo Teros, Cavite‘s terror is tangible. Although our cathode-ray tubes are telling us that we are “in the year of living dangerously,’ we say: no worries in here, man, just as long as it’s not me. No bother.
History lane. June 12, 1898 — General Emilio Aguinaldo declared our independence, waving the Philippine flag in front of huge crowds of people, in Kawit, Cavite after claiming the loss of Spain in the Battle of Manila Bay. But then, are we really free after that, yet what is this occasion we commemmorate every 4th of July? Is it a different kind or form or type of independence and sovereignty? Again, are we really free? Well at least in Philippine cinema — it’s a half-yes. Cavite is a frigging testament to that. * * * *