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Dancing Dynamites in Brillante Mendoza’s Tirador (2007) July 17, 2008

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Cinemalaya, Indie Sine, Noypi, UP Screening.

English Title: Slingshot
Directed by Brillante Mendoza
Cast: Coco Martin, Jiro Manio, Nathan Lopez, Kristoffer King

Provocative, gritty, and reckless, Tirador marks the first time that Mendoza has achieved inimitable completeness. After a foray of haphazard features that gained him substantial fame and following from the international circuit, he now holds this proof of esteemed mastery for all his non-believers like myself to see. Sitting through from start to finish, it feels like Mendoza has randomly placed hydrogen bombs in every corner of the street, every rundown house in sight, and in every character’s body, exploding and swiveling in squalid kaleidoscope, until the seismic pressure is strong enough to melt ideologies and annihilate fluid identities, carving integrity in his name that previously suffers from unfounded fanaticism.

Filth is omnipresent – – it’s as if every frame is shot in dirt, in mud, in despicable squalor. Tirador is a glorious depiction of life on the run, filled with remorseless characters trapped in dog-eat-dog situations thinking only of a way to survive in the city that is both manic and morbid, that gulps them down mercilessly. Unlike Libiran’s Tribu, there is neither insistence to deliver a clear-cut narrative nor sentimentality to justify the horrific and horrified lives of its characters. The shapeless narrative fits right into the eye of the target – – the result is magnanimous filmmaking: rabid, relentless, pounding with deafening force, a brisk style that succeeds greatly in every aspect. Here, no frame is wasted; every shot complements one another. Even particular scenes that probably account for Mendoza’s hasty eloquence are done maturely enough not to affect the brilliance of its treatment – – the worst they can do is stretch the running time, but even that increases the volume of its effective nihilism.

In Tirador, violence is not criminal; it is a way of life. The amoral lives of the marginalized members of its community are reflective of the constant degeneration of Filipino urban culture that once became a paragon of modernity but now drowns itself in the abyss of nomadic living. The ubiquitous faces of shameless politicians that the film subtly shows add to the bewilderment and self-pity that any local moviegoer would feel upon realizing the extent of what these characters would need to go through to support themselves and their families. There is pain in Mendoza’s comic delivery of some scenes – – like when that woman accidentally leaves her denture in the sink, where it falls in the tube and eventually into the adjacent gutter, it shows not caricature but a piteous boundary of emotions, the hopelessness mixed with desperation, the hopefulness mixed with lowly vanity, but the pain is there, waiting to be exhumed. Same goes with those thieves in the appliance store who plead for their lives after getting caught – – and doing it again just a minute afterward – – it captures both the absurd and the profound.

The raid in the beginning is depictive – – dark, stark, and unapologetic; the political assembly in the end is revelatory – – nonsense, nonsense, nonsense. It’s this lack of responsibility from our statesmen and lack of trust from our people that inhibit the progress of our land. This small film, edited in such intense playfulness and accompanied by Barrozo’s haunting score, is a display of a nation’s fall into pieces, slowly swimming along the molten lava of global hegemony and unforgiving political misanthropy. Now I wonder what our history books will tell us fifty years from now. * * * * *


1. monch - August 7, 2008

sometimes, a film review like this makes the actual film a lot better than what it really is.. thanx to the flowery choice of words used by the reviewer that paints a picture far from what it really is, much to the dismay of moviegoers..

but in fairness to Mr.Bolisay, his review of “Tirador” is valid, save for a few exaggerations here and there.. This is one of those few indie films that really stands out for its raw beauty.. though i still see some unnecessary “babad” shots that are typical indie trademark, “Tirador” succeeded in depicting the plight of those living below poverty line.. There was no pretense in its storyline and treatment.. I wish i could be as well-versed as Mr. Bolisay when it comes to vocabularies so i can also pay tribute and give praises to “Tirador” and its maker, Brilliante Mendoza.. but in my limited command of the language, i take my hats off to everyone involved in making this film worthy of retrospection.

2. Richard Bolisay - August 7, 2008

Pardon my vocabulary, Mr. Monch. My exaggeration probably accounts for getting impressed by the film. Once in a while I have that urge to write excessively and misuse words for I think that’s the only way I can express the feelings I have for a film that I saw. If I only describe the film for what it is, then literature must be really, really limited and ineffective, and that’s not true, isn’t it? I’m glad we share the same admiration for Tirador, Mr. Monch.

3. Jhay - September 2, 2008

Clearly we can all agree that Mr. Brillante Mendoza film techniques is unabashly unique as he shows us a grim and morbid overview of the present state of those who live below the poverty line. As an individual and film enthusiast myself the movie was close to home, for I too have experience living under the same conditions but I was lucky enough to get a good education and a good job. Watching this movie brings back fond memories of my youth as I too witnessed such scenes which were not meant for cinema purposes but for survival.

4. Richard Bolisay - September 3, 2008

Great luck you have, Jhay. But I imagine people in these situations really have to work hard, harder than usual, to move out of extreme penury. It really is survival of the fittest.

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