Dukot’s fearlessness emanates from its depiction of the truth about the worsening human-rights situation in the Philippines today. As Bonifacio Ilagan, the scriptwriter, put it: “It minces no words in pointing out the real perpetrators” of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Dukot (Desaparecidos) is no doubt the most courageous full-length Filipino film ever produced in decades.
The collaboration of Palanca awardee Bonifacio Ilagan and multi-awarded director Joel Lamangan resulted in a powerful film that continues the tradition of Lino Brocka and Mike de Leon — that is tackling socially relevant subjects and politically charged themes.
More than a love story, Dukot provides a human face to the statistics of human-rights violations in the Philippines. Allen Dizon and Iza Calzado play the role of two young activists who were abducted by state security forces. What happens to them during their captivity is a combination of real-life stories told by the fortunate few who managed to escape from or were freed by their torturers.
Gina Alajar, Robert Arevalo and Raquel Villavicencio were able capture the agony of parents waiting and searching for their missing loved ones. In their characters, one could get a glimpse of what Edita Burgos, Evangeline Hernandez, Erlinda Cadapan, Concepcion Empeño and many more mothers and fathers and relatives of victims of enforced disappearances, or the desaparecidos, went through.
(Dukot is a Filipino word that means to reach in to take or pluck something out of something, say a pocket. The word also has come to mean abduction.)
Also among the cast are Snooky Serna, Emilio Garcia, Felix Roco, Jim Pebangco, Mon Confiado, Rico Barrera, John Apacible, Menggie Cobarrubias, Tony Mabesa and Armaine Pagcu.
Ilagan proudly said that members of the cast have been enlightened by the film. In a special session with the cast, Karapatan’s Ruth Cervantes and Desaparecidos’s Aya Santos, whose father remains missing to this day and whose mother had been imprisoned and falsely charged with common crimes, discussed the human-rights situation in the Philippines. During the production stage, the actors had the chance to interact with families of victims of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.
Ilagan told Bulatlat that it was Lamangan who asked him to do the film early this year. Lamangan has been invited by various people’s organizations in several activities espousing human rights. He performed one of the poems of former political prisoner Axel Pinpin in the simultaneous event in Manila during the historic Permanent People’s Tribunal Second Session on the Philippines in March 2007. The international tribunal indicted President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo guilty of gross violations of human rights.
After the recent limited screening of the film at the Adarna Videotheque at the University of the Philippines, National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera congratulated Ilagan for the courageous script.
Executive producer Carina D. Pagcu of the film who runs the CDP Events and Entertainment Production said she cried after reading the script. “I got scared, too for its courage and honesty. I talked to my husband. We agreed that this may not earn but we’ll pull it through. We’ll try the international festival circuit and the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Win or lose, we’re doing a significant movie.”
Dukot’s fearlessness emanates from its depiction of the truth about the worsening human-rights situation in the country today. As Ilagan put it: “It minces no words in pointing out the real perpetrators” of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.
Both Ilagan and Lamangan recognize the possibility of the film not being shown in the country. The reasons are obvious, Ilagan said. The country’s censors had given X ratings — thus effectively banning them from public exhibition — on films that tackle not only sex or violence but such issues as extreme poverty and social injustice.
Brocka’s Orapronobis, a similar film dealing with human rights situation under the Aquino regime, was banned by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB).
Still, they are optimistic. “It must be shown here. We want the Filipino people to be able to watch the film in major cinemas here,” Lamangan said.