Friday, August 18, 2017

Alipato: The Very Brief Life of an Ember (Khavn, 2016)

Image result for alipato poster khavn

Khavn is a prolific filmmaker notorious for his provocative, disgusting, highly kinetic oeuvres. I've seen a handful of these films and I'm not a fan of them. Khavn must be happy. I've read somewhere that a film of Khavn was awarded a Special Mention prize in an international film festival and Khavn was dejected. He said his purpose was to offend or shock people. He didn't expect the jury to love or like his film. The title of that film is Alipato.

Hey, Khavn. I loved Alipato, too. I'm also a fan of two earlier works Paalam Aking Bulalakaw and Pahinga.

Alipato is a scary, damning take on what happens if the present drug war does not succeed. Alipato shows Mondomanila denizens being plagued by a gang composed of kids. The film suggests that all adult criminals must have been salvaged or rubbed out so children are left to take over as gang members in Mondomanila, circa 2025.

The drug war of the present administration is bound to fail because of wrong focus. The emphasis should be on eliminating poverty and reducing income inequality. As long as they experience hunger, several poor people will be tempted to enter the illicit drug trade. Getting rid of adult pushers permanently will only pave the way for hungry, angry young teens to take their place.

The head of the nefarious Kostka gang is a teenager. Along with his troop of mostly pre-teen kids, they wreak havoc and chaos. One by one, the members are introduced to the audience via profile cards with their names, favorite things, and major achievements. They are then seen slashing open the throats of jeepney commuters.

A monumental gun battle with the police left the gang in disarray. Gravestones are flashed on screen to update audience on who died. In just one day, more than a dozen people died in that fateful battle. The onscreen figure though is still below the daily killings we've seen the past few days. 32 people in Bulacan and 25 people in Manila have perished in the hands of the police within a 48-hour period in August 2017.

The young Kostka gang leader escaped the clutches of death but was imprisoned for more than 20 years after a failed bank robbery. The jail sentence storyline is a joy to watch because of its animated segment and stop-motion sequences. Khavn and Rox Lee collaborated on this wonderful animated segment showing the brutality experienced by the leader at the hands of fellow prisoners.

Dido de la Paz portrays the newly-freed, grizzled, senior citizen leader of the gang. Surviving gang members pester the leader for a share of the bounty. Soon after, gang members are targeted by a mysterious entity.

De la Paz is the undisputed revelation of Cinemalaya 2017. He won the Best Supporting Actor Award for his portrayal of an old-school poet in the film Respeto. He played a big role in Alipato. During a post-screening forum at Cinemalaya, he shared that he was shocked to see himself onscreen having sex with a naked pregnant woman. He vowed never to do anything of that sort again.

The pregnant woman was the third one selected for the film. A member of the casting crew mentioned that they had a hard time selecting people to act for the film. They have to spend late nights to spot and convince the dregs of humanity to join them.

The best scene in the film is the parade of weirdos and low-lifers at the start of the film. With a bouncy music as accompaniment, the procession is led by a man dressed in papal regalia.

So, this is what Mario Vargas Llosa's Canudos look like if put on film. The freaks, midgets, scoundrels, prostitutes, and outcasts converge in Mondomanila, the Canudos of the Philippines.

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