Political Film Society - Newsletter #253 - June 1, 2006

June 1, 2006


, directed by Ian Gamazon and Neill Della Llana, is a serious film about the Moslem separatist movement in the Philippines, presumably Abu Sayyaf. Although the early and last frames deal with the humdrum life of thirty-two-year-old Adam (played by the Ian Gamazon) as a security guard in San Diego, most of the movie takes place in the Philippines, where his father has recently been murdered. When Adam arrives at the airport in Manila, his mother does not appear to fetch him. Instead, someone slips a cellphone into his main carryon luggage, the phone rings, and a macho voice tells him that his mother and sister have been taken hostage. They will be released if Adam follows the instructions of the interlocutor. Thereafter, he goes to Cavite, some seventy miles southwest of Manila, where his main carryon bag is stolen, he discovers a finger of his sister in a cigarette pack, and he is ordered to withdraw $75,000 from a bank account that he shared with his father and then place the cash in a bag. He next goes to a cockfight arena to exchange the bag of money for his carryon bag, which now contains a bomb that he is ordered to place in the middle of Quiapo Cathedral in Manila in order to obtain the release of his mother and sister, though the film does not attempt to show the destruction or their release. The premise of the film is the unlikely possibility that someone is constantly watching him despite movements through narrow alleys and passageways as well as various motorized means of transport. The message is about the wholesale massacres of innocent Moslem civilians by the Philippine government, several of which are identified by the voice by location and bodycount. Adam, a Moslem, rejects terrorist methods but is compelled to comply with the orders in order to save his family. The $75,000 is money offered to his father by the government as a reward for information about the Moslem separatist movement, and his father's death is because he was a snitch. However, the cinematography of the road trip presents a stark picture of poverty in the Philippines.

Skinny people, filthy living conditions, destitute children who would sell their services for a pittance, and cockfighting are among the scenes. Adam's transformation from a nice guy into a desperate veteran of terrorism may resonate with the experience of many in similar situations; the post-traumatic stress in the final scenes is portrayed as a numbness about matters that earlier excited him a lot. For a country that had the highest percapita income in Southeast Asia in the 1960s to the present, when the income level is not far from the lowest, Burma, the squalor is well documented on screen, with a finger implicitly pointing at a callous government that does nothing to alleviate the suffering of the poor. Cavite, thus, is a reincarnation of director Lino Brocka by two filmmakers on a low budget without approval from the Philippine government. The Political Film Society has nominated Cavite as best film exposé of 2006. MH

The Da Vinci CodeRelease of The Da Vinci Code, directed by Ron Howard, has been preceded by a lot of hype. The plot, which is based on Dan Brown's silly best seller, has prompted the Vatican to protest far too loudly. Scribbling on Leonardo's painting The Last Supper, detected with blacklights, leads the principals Professor Robert Langdon (played by Tom Hanks) and Sophie Neveu (played by Audrey Tautou) on a treasure hunt of sorts, similar to the film National Treasure (2004). Eventually, the big secret is revealed: Sophie, though unaware of her status until the events portrayed in the film, is the sole contemporary biological descendent of a marriage between Jesus of Nazareth and Mary Magdalene. The keepers of the "secret," including the conservative Opus Dei society, are portrayed as sinister characters, and the plot is preposterous, but cinematography of Paris and London is at least a redeeming aspect. MH