Kinatay, 2009

The opening sequence of Brillante Mendoza’s Kinatay provides an intriguing foil in its organic, intersecting stories that mirror the chaos of the city, as a young working class couple (and new parents) Cecille (Mercedes Cabral) and Peping (Coco Martin) make their way to city hall to get married and, along the way, encounter a news crew reporting on a potential suicide jumper. With a year left to his police academy training, Peping is eager to make a good impression on his superior officers, even helping out in their daily routine of intimidating street vendors to extort money. However, when an officer recruits him for an unspecified operation involving an exotic dancer, Peping is soon initiated into a darker world of drug dealing, prostitution, and violence, and is forced to confront his complicity in the systematic corruption. Similar to Mendoza’s previous film Serbis, Kinatay provides an illuminating, if truncated regional panorama of a contemporary Filipino city – in this case, the industrial city of Mandaluyong. Interweaving cultural landscape and moral ambiguity, the film finds kinship with Orso Miret’s Le Silence in its well-intentioned, but ultimately impotent social critique. Indeed, by abruptly shifting from the organic approach of the opening sequence to a distilled, linear (if not myopic) perspective that dominates the rest of the film (except for a tire changing scene near the conclusion), Mendoza oddly supplants his fascinating and detailed cultural observation with a far more conventional psychological portrait of guilt, and in the process, creates a sense of indirection not unlike the dilemma faced by his indecisive protagonist.

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