SHARING MEANINGS, SHARING RESPECT, LOST INN A CULTURE OF SHARED SILENCE
Gigi Javier Alfonso
This is an important film of 2017.
Respeto is about groups and individuals in our community, in this place, at this time. It captures the beat of everyday life of survival, addiction to drugs, vice, and both huge and petty power tripping. It abounds with the verve of living, face to face with killings and enveloped in the socially created rationale for their deaths.
In our contemporary times, we have maintained public and participatory events, happenings, rituals that create communities and shared meanings. Going to mass, the malls, the movies, and sabong are just a few examples of when communities create shared meanings through ritual. Some of these activities require only our passive presence, but some of them spark competitiveness, when a party should lose and another win, and when the witnessing crowd gets their adrenaline going as they make choices, bet with pride, and become impassioned about the ritual. In the place that Respeto creates, underground rapping is the ritual that proclaims who are to be praised or humiliated and respected or excluded.
This film opens with a busy, rich, and textured rebut and joust of rhythm and rhyme, young men and women cheering and booing, reacting with arms lifted high to the beat of the harsh diarrhea of words, riddled with cursing and berating lingo. It then zooms out to the scene of a concrete overpass beside the railroad track, and then closes up to a locale that shows squalor – poverty visualized, the murky cemetery, a meeting place of leisure. One understands that seemingly no words of gratitude, praise, hope, and love can escape into its atmosphere that is clogged with air rising from mounds of trash and mire.
Respeto is about us, our awareness of these realities, and it weaves us as one through our media connectivity. The images and sounds it portrays have already entered our homes and sensibilities, and it paints the scenario that these realities are just a few steps away from our front and back doors every day. It seeks to be honest, truthful, and stark without losing the lyricism and the eloquence in its use of film language. Njel de Mesa and Treb Monteras II’s screenplay is superb.
The performances are amazing. In the midst of it all is a young out-of-school youth Hendrix (played by Abra with much ease and naturalness), who wants to gain respect through his “rappoetry.” He crescendos at the right moments and falls silent and makes his face speak in moments of complex emotions. His times spent with friends Betchai and Payaso (ably performed by Chai Fonacier and Ydos Bogadiong) amidst the grim and harsh environment manages to be lighthearted and refreshingly real. Noteworthy, too, is the sensitive performance of Dido dela Paz as Doc, a victim of martial law at its height of impunity whose poetry was muted to oblivion. Kate Alejandino as Candy, the object of Hendrix’s affection, Brian Arda as Mando, a pusher and the boyfriend of his sister, Connie, played by Thea Yrostoiza – all of them give convincing performances as well. The amazing rappers headed by Breezy G. as Loonie and the hoods of the community complete the effective ensemble. These performers are the key to pushing the narrative forward.
Respeto was ably produced by Monster Jimenez. Director Treb Monteras II successfully orchestrated the sounds and images to present a story and a filmic experience. The cinematography by Ike Avellana, which kept the camera constantly moving and participatory throughout the film, with some moments of pause to give space t o silent moments of inner tension, was handled with mastery. Even the defocused moments that show Hendrix’s disappointing realization, walking away from Candy, were essential. The cinematography kept the viewing beat appropriate and connected and got one into the mode of suspended disbelief ‘til the end, as the pages of poetry and books flew all around, punctuating the film’s organic unity woven together by Lawrence Ang’s seamless editing.
In spite of the bleak reality it portrays, the film suggests some sort of hope, when denizens of the slums show care for one another even in a space where social justice is difficult to find. Respeto pictures a community where there seems to be no choice but to be cocky, smart-assed, self-absorbed, brooding, whose larger context is a society that tolerates the silence of the many, and it is this comfortable and unquestioning silence by the many that the film addresses. In doing so, it makes us reflect on why there are no voices of resistance and protest in many places and the shrieks and wailing only come from the areas of the poor and marginalized. The culture of silence is the greatest breeding ground for impunity and violence to become king in this land of uselessness.
MATAPANG NA PROTESTA SA KARAHASAN
Matapang ngunit matimpi at may bahagyang hinahahon ang pagsasaysay ng Respeto sa karahasan ng maykapanggyarihan sa pagsugpo sa gamit ng droga. Bumubukas ang pelikula ni Treb Monteras II sa malinggal at halos nakabibinging palitan ng mura at insult ng dalawang rapper sa gitna ng mga mirong nagsisigawan at nagpapalakpakan bilang suporta sa bumibersong kapanalig nila. Nakabibingaw ng pandinig ang malayang pag-ilandang ng putang-ina at iba pang murang itinatapon sa kalaban.
Kuwento ito ni Hendrix, isang palaboy na drug-courier sa isang urban poor community sa Pandacan. Minsan napagkaisahan ng barkada na upang makakuwarta ay pasukin ang Malaya bookstore ng segunda-manong libro na pag-aari ng makata at dating guro na kilala bilang Doc. Nahuli sila ng may-ari at ipinapulis. Hindi nagharap ng kaso si Doc, sa halip ay kailangan nilang isaayos ang tindahan na may mga istanteng nawarat dahil sa tangkang pagnanakaw.
Ang naratibo ng Respeto ay dito nagsisimula. Sa tindahang isinasaayos ng barkada, naharap si Hendrix sa mga tulang nasa librong kanyang binubuklat-buklat. Si Hendrix, bilang rapper ay may kakayahan sa pagberso. Kaya lamang ay lagi siyang talunan sa rap battle na kanyang sinasaliihan. May maitutulong sa kanya ang nababasa niya sa Malaya Bookstore. Bilang dating guro, napansin ni Doc ang hilig ni Hendrix sa pagberso at naging malapit ang loob niya sa rapper at ninais niya itong tulungan. Sa isang pagkakataon, kasali si Hendrix sa rap battle, pumasok si Doc at pinahiya niya ito dahil si Hendrix daw ay nagnakaw ng pera at berso niya.
Minsan naman, nilait si Hendrix ng mga nakatatandang rapper na lantarang humalay sa bar girl na crush niya. Wala siyang nagawa upang pigilin ang paglapastangan. At iyon ay kanyang iniyakan. Nilapitan siya ni Doc upang aluin at isiniwalat nito na sa panahong aktibista siya ng kilusan, inaresto silang mag-asawa, tinortyur sila at pinatay ang isang anak nila. Noon ay wala siyang nagawa, subalit pagkatapos ng panahon ni Marcos, nakilala niya ang isa sa mga sundalo, lasing ito at hindi siya nakilala. Pinatay niya ito sa palo ng bato, at inakala niyang luluwag ang kanyang loob sa ginawa niyang pagpatay, ngunit hindi iyon nangyari. Sa palitang iyon ng hinaing, nahinang ang relasyon nina Doc at Hendrix.
Birthday ni Hendrix at binalak ni Doc ang isang pabuya sa tirahan ni Hendrix. Nang gabing iyon, pinatay ang ate ni Hendrix at ang barkada nito. Namagitan si Doc upang sansalain ang pulis niyang anak. Hindi kinilala ng pulis ang kapangyarihan ng ama. Nang tumalikod siya, dumampot ng bato si Hendrix at ginamit iyong sandata sa pagpatay sa anak na pulis ni Doc.
Isinara ang Respeto sa matalinghagang pag-ulan ng mga pahina sa eksena. Talinghagang ulan, na may iba-ibang pahiwatig– senyal ba ito na ang ginawa ni Hendrix ay pagsasanib ng sensibilidad ng matandang makata at ng kabataang rapper? O pagtatala ng protesta ng sambayanan sa karahasan ng drug war?
RESPETO (2017) Direction: TREB MONTERAS II; Screenplay: TREB MONTERAS II, NJEL DE MESA; Production Design: POPO DIAZ; Cinematography: IKE AVELLANA; Editing: LAWRENCE ANG; Music: JAY DURIAS; Sound: CORINNE DE SAN JOSE; Cast: ABRA (Hendrix), DIDO DE LA PAZ (Doc), LOONIE (Breezy G), KATE ALEJANDRINO (Candy), CHAI FONACIER (Betchai), SILVESTER BAGADIONG (Payaso), BRIAN ARDA (Mando), THEA YRASTORZA (Connie), NOR DOMINGO (Fuentes); Produced: MONSTER JIMENEZ; Running Time: 96 mins.
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