By Mónica Delgado
Filipino filmmaker Khavn de la Cruz places himself in the opposite pole of the new tendencies of Philippine cinema. He’s not interested in the sensitivity or expressiveness of a Raya Martin, Lav Diaz, John Torres or Kildat Tahimik. Furthermore, everything that could be revealed as a characteristic of a cinema sheltered in miserableness and porno-misery (a-la Brillante Mendoza), a mark of certain cinema that evokes the realism and urban dichotomies of a Lino Brocka, is transformed in Alipato, The very brief life of an ember, to become an pure affront in every sense, a transgressive form of pop cinema, with remarkable ethical ruptures.
It’s inevitable to associate Alipato to the argument and structure of Terajama’s Emperor Tomato Ketchup, a sort of subverted Lord of The Flies, where the infant universe is seen as an analogy of anarchy, where the annihilation of the adult word is an essential requirement. Like in the emblematic avant-garde film of Terayama, Khavn transforms the acts of the children from the sexualizing and moral aging, to make them part of an environment where the carnivalesque and grotesque, is part of a decadent dystopic future, located literally in a dumpster.
Alipato is divided in two parts: the first one describes the life of the protagonist, an adolescent leader of a gang formed by children that takes control of a poor suburb in Manila. In this part, the plot seems to recover different imaginaries of a marginalized and lumpen childhood (far away from Buñuel’s Los Olvidados and closer to the Brazilian Ciudad de Dios, for example), but here, it focuses itself in exploiting the nudity of the infants, the jokes with double meaning, and the “Jodorowksi-an” tone of midgets and freaks, in a world delivered to the power of these children with guns, knives and cigarettes. In the second part, Khavn places his character twenty years after, where the remaining members of the gang still taking over the dumpsters of Manila.
There’s a lot of farce, comedy and unnecessary sexual jokes in Alipato (a trademark of several of Khavn’s films, in his creation of Mondomanila, his personal Philippine Macondo), but here, there’s an abuse to associate the transgressive, exposing smoking children, or raped and killed women under the gaze of a goat. An is in this sense, that Khavn de la Cruz plays with the limits of legality in his bet for a total independent cinema. This is why Alipato turns out to be an attractive experience but at the same time, a very uncomfortable one, since it confronts all the politically correct practices of exposure of children in a film, with the same sexualized and transgressive intentions that Terayama had forty years ago. There’s a gaze that dwells in poverty, a porno-misery of sorts in this impoverished Manila. However, Khavn turns this lucrative gaze of misery in a stylistic choice, questionable as it might be, but that ultimately helps to configure unique original universe.
Alipato, which was in competition in Outros Olhares en Olhar de Cinema, must be one of the most free films of the last couple of years, especially since the Filipino filmmaker becomes a great recycler of iconic themes in cinema: police movies, exploitation, B-movies, and digests them in his own way, without restrictions, playing the part of writer, producer and musician. What can be freer than to make a film where children are used as an analogy of human bestiality? This is an intense experience that will leave nobody indifferent .
Director: Khavn de la Cruz
Script: Khavn, Achinette Villamor
Cinematography: Albert Banzon
Editing: Carlos Francisco Manatad
Producers : Khavn, Achinette Villamor, Stephan Holl, Antoinette Köster.
Kamias Overground, Rapid Eye Movies