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Monthly Archives: March 2015

Pulitiko for Rent

Jema M. Pamintuan

Mapahahalagahan ang malinaw na pagbabalangkas ng pelikulang “Badil” hinggil sa buong kayarian, danas, at naratibo ng panahon ng halalan sa ating bansa. Nagbukas ang pelikula sa mga eksena ng pangangampanya: lumilibot na muli sa isang maliit na bayan si Ponso (Dick Israel), ang datihan nang tagasuporta ng isang kumakandidato para sa pagka-alkalde na si Del Mundo (Tonton Gutierrez). Alam na alam ni Ponso ang mapa ng bayang nakatatak na sa kaniyang gunita, ang mga katangian at pangangailangan ng mamamayang aabutan niya ng salapi kapalit ng pangakong iboboto ng mga ito si Del Mundo. Markado ang bawat tahanang bibisitahin pagkat nakasisiguro na si Ponso sa katapatan ng mga ito kay Del Mundo. at madalas ay positibo ang nakukuha niyang tugon mula sa mga naaabutan ng pera. Dahil kagagaling lamang sa sakit ni Ponso, ipinagkatiwala niya ang tungkulin sa kaniyang anak na si Lando (Jhong Hilario), na siyang lumibot sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng baryo para mag-abot ng salapi sa mga pinagkakatiwalaan at inaasahang botante. Tinalunton ng galaw ng kamera ang mapa ng maliit na baryong ito, at unti-unting ipinakabisa sa mga manonood ang kasuluk-sulukan ng bituka ng korupsyong nakabalabal na sa ating mga halalan, mula sa antas ng barangay at munisipyo, lunsod at lalawigan, at pambansa.

badil

Isinalaysay ni Lando, sa pamamagitan ng kaniyang panaka-nakang pag-aalinlangan at tahimik na paninimbang sa trabahong inihabilin sa kaniya ng ama, ang hubog ng ligalig ng panahon ng halalan sa kanilang baryo. Mula sa pagiging tahimik at kiming anino ng kaniyang ama tungo sa higit na may tatag na disposisyon, mababakas na may ipinangangakong antas o istatus ang pagpapatuloy ng naumpisahan ng kaniyang ama. Batid ni Lando ang saklaw ng kapangyarihang ngayon ay hawak na niya; sa isang banda ay halos napasakamay na nga niya ang politikal na kapalaran ng kaniyang baryo, lalo pa dulot ng kaniya ring puwersadong pakikipagmabutihan sa iba pang politikong sangkot sa pandaraya. Sa bisa ng pagtatanghal ni Jhong Hilario, masasaksihan ang pag-usbong ng panibagong tuta sa pagmanipula ng pagpapaandar sa isang maruming halalan.

Iisa lamang ang pamilyar na mukha na magpapakampante at gagabay sa pagpapasya ng mga botante, ang salapi. Inilatag ng pelikula kung paano napupunan ang puwesto ng mga tauhang hindi man nakikita ay malinaw pa ring umiiral ang kanilang impluwensiya sa mga mamamayan ng baryo. Pawang naroon lamang ang mga larawan ng kumakandidatong si Del Mundo, sa mga t-shirt, sa mga streamer at poster, at sa istiker na may pangalan nitong idinidikit sa perang iniaabot sa mga botante. Naitaguyod pa rin ang impluwensiya nito na tila baga naroon pa rin siyang nakikipagkamay at nangangako. Ang katawan ng kandidato ay napalitan/nahalinhan ng monetaryong katumbas, depende kung sino ang kaharap nito. Ang presensiya ng kandidato ay katumbas ng ilang libong piso sa karaniwang mamamayan, at higit na malaking halaga para sa mga nangangasiwa ng kampanya nito, kagaya nina Ponso at Lando. At kagaya ng pahiwatig na iniwan ng huling bahagi ng pelikula, malinaw na rin kung sino ang hahalili, balang-araw, kay Lando.

Makabuluhan ang tunguhin ng pelikula sa pagpaparating ng mga konkretong katotohanang itinatanghal ng panahon ng eleksyon, lalo na sa aspekto kung paano pinagagana at pinaiikot ng pera ang buong istruktura ng halalan. Una, ang pera ay nakapagpapabago ng paninindigan, nakababali ng pangako, nakalilikha ng hidwaan sa mga ugnayan, tulad ng mga halimbawa sa ilang eksenang “na-dinamita” o “pinatay” ang boto. Pangalawa, nakapagpapatahimik ito, natutumbasan ang tinig at hininga ng mga indibidwal na kailangang tukuyin, pasunurin, o patayin. Pangatlo, pinagkukunwari nitong ang halalan ay panahon ng kasaganaan. Dahil umaapaw ang pera tuwing panahon ng kampanya, may ilusyon ng rangya at ginhawa na inaakalang naidudulot at ibinibigay ng kandidato para sa mga botante, nang hindi lubos ang pag-unawang ang “kasaganaan” at pondo ay mula sa mga mamamayan mismo. Kaakibat ito ng pangakong bitbit ng kumakandidato sa kaniyang mga plataporma, na kapag ibinoto ang kandidato, anumang oras ay maaari kang mabiyayaan ng salapi. Ito kung gayon ang malaking delusyon na ipinaiiral ng paggamit ng pera sa panahon ng halalan. Ang kabuuan ng eleksyon, simula pa sa pangangampanya, pagpasya kung sino ang iboboto, hanggang sa mismong proseso ng pagboto, at paglabas ng resulta ng nanalo, ay hinuhulma ng halaga at tagatanggap ng salaping sangkot rito.

Sinasalungguhitan ng “Badil” ang katotohanan na ang nagtatamasa ng seguridad (salapi at tiyak na maginhawang posisyon sa lipunan), sa huling pagsusuri, ay ang mga kandidato lamang, sa pamamagitan ng mamamayang nagsisilbing impukan ng kanilang boto sa panahon ng eleksyon.

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jemaJema M. Pamintuan is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Filipino, Ateneo de Manila University. She has recently completed her fellowship under the United Board Program at Tunghai University (2012-2013) and Georgetown University (2013-2014). She created the musical scores for the independent films “Ang Panggagahasa kay Fe” (2009), “Gayuma” (2011), “Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa” (co-scored with Christine Muyco), and “Bwakaw” (2012).

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Posted by on 15/03/2015 in Film Review, Philippine Film

 

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Reaching the End of Sanity, the Limits of History

Review of Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan (Lav Diaz, 2013)

JPaul S. Manzanilla

It is difficult to pass judgment on something that not only refuses to be judged but places the capacity for judgment on the Solomonic table to begin with. For all its (non)intents and purposes, Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan offers a much denser and perplexing take on the nature of reason and madness, crime and punishment, goodness and evil that lurk and, also, dwell within the human in all of us.

We follow the life of Fabian as he tries to get away from the burden of family and education. He intellectualizes on man’s existence and pontificates on the country’s politics and society along with his friends, fellow law students set to be future cogwheels of the nation’s legal bureaucratic machine. Parallel to his life’s movement is Joaquin, he who is a have-not trying with his wife to feed their family. Fabian tries to write a masterpiece but eventually surrenders to the incompatibility and the failure of this world to his mind’s design. Joaquin became victim of the justice system as he suffers from being blamed for a crime. Eliza, Joaquin’s wife traverses the difficult condition of making ends meet and understanding the ends of their lives.

Many of the scenes are standard, normal fares, passages that are too ordinary that they run against the mainstream blueprint of maximizing film’s precious time-space to show only the dramatic, the spectacular, the eye-popping. Yet for this viewer Fabian’s banter with his barkada, Eliza’s hawking of vegetables in the neighborhood, and the tedium of rural life are all necessary to bear out their living conditions before the story plunges us into the depths of their despicable lives, only to show that vileness is not the climax but their everyday. Herein lies Norte’s promise and disappointment and we need to examine our structure of feeling. If evil were just around the corner and suddenly arrives on our doorstep, we would be surprised. But evil dwells within, resting for a while, nurturing itself, and then it pounces us when we’re least defended because we thought that it is exterior to ourselves; only the dead is safe from its menacing victory. At times, one envies how the murdered ones are finally free from the devil’s grasp. A Dostoyevskyan theme is cogent in a Third World polity such as the Philippines since, like the great author’s environment, the nation is full of contemptible inequality, psycho-sexual because economic and political.

Norte 8a

To our wonder, the film also views the setting from above, using a drone to capture the geography of its characters’ spaces, thereby complementing its probing of mind’s dark interiors. Somehow the vistas appear as flights of fancy, even a loss of consciousness, and then the camera takes us back to the rough grounds of living once again. Joaquin’s movement from the provincial prison cell to the national penitentiary is the height of injustice, which leads us to supreme irony: as Fabian continues to freely explore his psychosis, he is further entrapped inside his terrifying life-world as the guilt of non-punishment torments him; Joaquin then gradually liberates himself from anger and madness brought about by human oppression. This transcendence is utopian, but human, all too human.

Even religion is not safe, as it should, from the merciless hand of the filmmakers. Fabian could not find salvation from the Bible study group that offered transcendence while his sister became patently insane in her pastoral and ultra-religious dreamland. Diaz and co-writer Rody Vera are even playing Engels here in imagining the continuity of property accumulation, monogamous family, and state security on the verge of self-destruction. The child who robotically sings Pamulinawen spites the cruelty of her mother and the tender loving song holds a macabre quality: having genuine love, punishing one completely, and pining for the end of misery. Pairing wealth with wickedness and poverty with principle is dangerously Manichaean. It promotes the perpetuity of inequity.

Is the film a critique of the failures of the nation’s intelligentsia? Would life without this intellectual class be beneficial to the country? The reference to Marcos is not contrived, with the North as setting denoting the dictator’s bastion, and the would-be bar topnotcher/murderous law student drop-out in some way exemplifying the country’s most intelligent president. Just when we thought that we have recovered from the murder of Magda, Fabian later on rapes his sister, and kills his pet dog. Does reason exceeding “boundaries”—reason gone wrong and berserk—ultimately become fascistic and therefore lead to our collective destruction, the limits of history? Should we then favor the intelligence of the subaltern here, they from below who simply live and die and whose lives go unremarked? What we need to assail here is the messianic complex of Fabian and his lot first seen in Fabian who take the law into his own hands by killing Joaquin’s exploiter, thereby leading to the latter’s imprisonment, and second, in his buddies who try to revive the legal case of injustice, not knowing that it is one of them who caused Joaquin’s suffering in the first place. Joaquin’s fate has been determined by the depravity of Fabian. Amidst all these, the character of Eliza probes the limits of personal justice and temperance. Who will save him—and us—from the law?

Norte’s cynical take on humanity imaginably approaches the sophistication of cinematic production. The refusal of closure characteristic of recent and mainly independent filmmaking, is arguably a refusal of packaged solutions to complex problems. It is, however, an admission that, in this time, a resolution of contradictions is becoming more and more difficult, if not impossible, even within the ambitions of the filmic narrative.  We may learn productively from how it breaches the purpose, end, and death of a putative history.

JPaul Manzanilla Picture for AdMU SoSSJPaul S. Manzanilla teaches in the Department of History of the Ateneo de Manila University. He earned degrees in comparative literature and art history from the University of the Philippines and is engaged in research on the histories of photography, cinema, and television in the country.

 
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Posted by on 07/03/2015 in Film Review, Philippine Film

 

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