Cannes ’09 – Kinatay

Last Updated: March 29, 2013By Tags:

By ALI NADERZAD The Philippines is competing this year in Cannes with Kinatay, by Brillante Mendoza. This director was in Cannes as recently as last year with a film named Serbis, about a close-knit family living in and running an adult movie theatre in Angeles. The reception to Serbis was enthusiastic. As my colleague Eric Kohn from Indiewire wryly remarked after last night’s screening, however, the reactions to Kinatay were a lot more mixed. Some audiencemembers clapped while others copiously booed the film as the end credits rolled.

An edgy film about a Manila gang who sets out to settle a score with a wayward customer, Kinatay’s narrative is deceptively simple, almost documentary-like. Peping (Coco Martin) wants to marry Cecile (Mercedes Cabral) but needs to earn more money to support her. When his friend Abyong offers to enlist him to provide assistance to the local thuggery the temptation is too great. A series of odd jobs are his for the taking, although one special project in particular holds the promise of a hefty reward. Once he realizes what the project involves, Peping cannot go back on his decision to join the group.

Eschewing production values in favor of a “street” feel for his movie, Mendoza hand-held the camera. Daytime scenes were shot on 35 millimeter film while nighttime ones were digitally filmed. During a press conference following the film Mendoza lamented the difficulties associated with their nighttime filming. Some above-head lighting helped to resolve some of the difficulties. The actors often operated in near-darkness, especially in the lengthy sequence when Peping and the rest of the crew are driving to Quezon City, a town next to Manila. But the fact that the scenes were not appropriately lit helps to add context to the narrative.
As the mafia don and his crew drove their victim for what seems like hours along a crowded motorway the sights of the busy metropolis and its surroundings blurred into a warm and groggy, neon-struck chaos, aided by ominous synthesizer sounds and a few chords struck repeatedly in variations.

The effect is haunting, to say the least. But Mendoza stayed on message throughout this long scene (which lasts more than twenty minutes), panning the camera right back into Peping’s face, his uneasy stare, his halting expression.
As the car puts more distance between him and Manila, it’s obvious that something’s going to go down and Peping should not have gone along. As the gang gets closer to committing an irreversible act of violence, Brillante Mendoza has the following reminder for us: life is full of choices and we have to be prepared for the consequences.

Kinatay, which means ‘massacre’ in tagalog, is one of our favorite films this year at Cannes.

news via inbox

Nulla turp dis cursus. Integer liberos  euismod pretium faucibua