By the Cinema Evaluation Board
Film Development Council of the
CINEMA EVALUATION BOARD
Summation of CEB members’
comments on Balangiga: Howling
THE DIRECTORIAL CREDIT reads “Not a film by Khavn.” This could very well be a statement of what to expect in Khavn’s “films,” like Balangiga: Howling Wilderness. It is not a film, in the sense that it uses the digital format and not what used to be the standard, 35 mm film. It is not a film, because it doesn’t follow the conventions of filmmaking. Thus, viewers can expect something different in Khavn’s films, something unorthodox, something experimental.
Khavn’s Balangiga: Howling Wilderness is an experimental, impressionistic treatment of the aftermath of the infamous Balangiga massacre. The “film” takes us through a tortuous journey of escape and survival from the perspective of a young boy named Kulas. One reviewer writes, “This reminds me of Kulas, the naive, simple-minded young man played by Christopher de Leon in Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon? The director uses a minimalist approach, eschewing the usual big scenes that characterize most period films. There’s a bit of humor, too, and the use of stop motion photography gives pause to the viewer for contemplation, temporarily taking us out of the film.” An equally positive note comes from another reviewer, “The journey through the landscape of war and colonialism is depicted in painfully poignant vignettes.”
On the other hand, there are other reviewers with strong, negative reactions to the film. One reviewer finds it “a rambling narrative with no clear direction.” Another cites the attack against Catholicism, particularly “the grotesquely, lewd scene of a shaman masturbating while singing Salve Regina.” The reviewer concludes that “Over all, the Balangiga story is ultimately bigger than the story of hate, murder, and sexual perversion that this film unfortunately chose to focus on.” Another reviewer writes that the film “is just a long, tortuous journey with many artsy gimmicks.” Another concludes that “This is a perverted movie masquerading as high art.”
The performances of the two kids (Justine Samson as Kulas and Warren Tuaño as Bola), both non-actors, are quite good. However, one reviewer raises the question of exploitation of these two kids. Kulas, for example, carries “the burden of the whole film, even placing him in difficult situations.” How the filmmakers protected these kids from exploitation is not apparent in the film.
The other production elements, like cinematography, sound, and editing, are more than functional. The design, through the choice of locations, is economical but visually interesting. One reviewer notes that “there are some fine cinematic moments.”
The members who reviewed Balangiga: Howling Wilderness were clearly divided in their assessment of the film. Finally, the body has decided, by a majority vote, not to grant the film an incentive. (by Doy del Mundo)