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Sunday, June 13, 2010

KINATAY!



That means SLAUGHTERED in Tagalog, and it's the title of a brutal and difficult new film from Filipino filmmaker Brillante Mendoza. The story of a police trainee who goes from his wedding into a long and hellish night has drawn comparisons to Fuqua's Training Day and no small amount of controversy: Roger Ebert called it the worst film ever to play at Cannes, the same festival at which Mendoza snagged the Best Director award for the film.

Fan that I remain of the few Mendoza films that have been screened in the US, I was nonetheless disappointed by KINATAY - as fearless as Mendoza and company are in depicting the hellish depths that ensnare our hero, and as unflinching as it is in capturing the horror of graphic violence, it's more limited in scope that Mendoza's previous efforts. Fearlessness, alas, isn't quite enough, and there's no context or point ultimately reached to bring home anything but shock for its own sake. The insistent Catholic imagery and other symbolic metaphors become repetitive and strained. And where Mendoza's previous efforts were as quick and sharp as a punch to the face, KINATAY fills its longer running time with loooooooooooong journeys that ultimately quash the narrative's suspense. Mendoza, perhaps, has assimilated some of the meandering tedium of countryman Lav Diaz (whose many-hours-long opuses have both spellbound and irritated viewers around the world).

I am grateful, however, for the chance to see this film, which despite Mendoza's bonafides and Best Director award, has almost-nil chances at US distribution. Thanks to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts film curator Joel Shepard, one of the nation's best, for snagging a print of this film between overseas festival apperances.

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