Lower East Side
350 Grand Street, New York, NY 10002
F, J, M, Z to Delancey Street-Essex Street; B, D, Q to Grand Street
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Engkwentro ("Clash") (Pepe Diokno | Phillipines | 61 min.)
US Premiere. Engwentro ("Clash") begins with a chase, and never stops moving. Next to the title, we see a young man running in the dark. Minutes later, he's panting in an alleyway, his t-shirt ripped, his hair sweaty. His girlfriend hasn't hustled enough money for them to get out of the slums while the trouble blows over. He heads home, where along with his meth-addicted father and uncomfortable schoolboy brother they represent the past, present and future for men in this shantytown. Inspired by true events, the film follows the story of these two brothers, Richard and Raymond, as they try to head in opposite directions in life but clash on opposing sides of a gang war.
Throughout the course of the day, the two brothers wander and race through the slum's crowded alleyways. Richard, the older brother, steals and deals his way toward escape, while also trying to keep his brother Raymond out of trouble and in school. But Raymond sees the hopelessness of leaving, feel abandoned by his brother, and seeks the comfort and potential power in gang life. They stumble across the same dealers and fighters in a way that highlights the wild energy and liberation of these lives even within the confines of this repressive inescapable landscape. And their parallel stories frame a classical dramatic structure that is gripping and propulsive.
Told almost entirely in a single shot, the film has an impressive naturalism. Seemingly an astonishingly agile piece of verite cinema that unfolds in a dreamy approximation of real-time, the film is actually a masterpiece of narrative fiction, created on a labyrinth set constructed expressly for this script. 22-year-old first-time director Pepe Diokno timed out the dialogue and the action, and then built his locations with specific timing and distances in mind. This deft filmmaking netted Diokno the prize for best debut feature at the 2009 Venice Film Festival.
Omnipresent in the movie is the disembodied voice of the mayor, reciting motivational campaign speeches from radios, TVs and speaker trucks moving through the city. His repeated denials of the notorious City Death Squads in fact serve as a threatening Orwellian affirmation of these feared governmental vigilantes. Everyday, at least one person in the Philippines is murdered by unknown forces, widely believed to be paramilitary police units assigned to dispose of alleged gang members, petty criminals, drug dealers, and street children. And given the continuing inadequacy of the Philippine justice system, many Filipinos seem to accept the need for such brutality in approaching the nation's crime problem. This intense and engaging film serves to humanize the slum dwellers and criminals without shying away from their brutal and illegal ways.
Eventually the two brothers must face each other down in a dramatic midnight brawl. The emotional and moral climax is stunning, but the result hardly matters given the ultimate fate society deals to these kids.
- Mark Elijah Rosenberg