By Danica Lacson
There was no road to pass, no way to escape.
It makes you grit your teeth, utter curses and close your eyes, hoping this day will pass to try again tomorrow. Hopeless.
You choose to live another day.
The victory of life over hopelessness was the message Isabel Maria Luz Quesada wanted to convey in her award-winning short film.
Proclaimed Best Screenplay and Best Short film during this year’s Cinemalaya Film Festival, Pektus film revolves around a day in the life of Yong (Nonie Buencamino) and Chino (Jojit Lorenzo), both miserable and confined in the apparent hopelessness of their situations.
“I think what sets my film apart from the other short films was its storytelling and how it presented its message clearly and effectively,” said Quesada, although admitting that winning two awards for her film was an unexpected feat.
Bound by expectations from social structures and norms, and molded by the city life, Yong and China were ultimately pushed to a dead end until their chance encounter in a one-way alley changed their lives.
Pektus, through its main characters, explored the themes of determinism, free will and the man’s capability to alter his situation. By way of its thematic contradiction from the fast-paced interwoven images of the city to silent and still scenes in the cemetery, it dwelled on contracting themes of death and life, circumstance and choice.
“I’ve always been interested with stories that explore the human condition, more so the inner struggles of man with himself and his environment.” the director said.
“The world is a mess. The city is dying. It seems pretty hopeless. But at the end of it all, life prevails. Life is chosen over death, no matter how hopeless it seemed,” she added.
The optimistic take of Pektus, however, fell short in painting a picture of utter hopelessness of its characters to evoke a more sympathetic connection with the audience.
The victory over life’s cul-de-sacs in the film was not triumphant enough to bring in satisfaction in its conclusion.
In its attempt for optimism, Pektus fell in the trap of striking the viewer as a tad too ideal.
Poverty in the country remains a challenge with more than a quarter of Filipinos living below the poverty line. With the tendency of society’s structure to bless those born with privilege in more ways than one, poor Filipinos turn to prostitution, theft and drug trafficking for a living.
In the election of Rodrigo Duterte as president, his campaign promise of bringing down the crime rate in the country through confronting the nation’s drug trade has escalated to heinous summary killings.
Meanwhile, this present war on drugs declared by the president does not reach the luxurious subdivisions or the flashy clubs where more privileged people reside in and flock to.
Accused of selling drugs in Bonifacio Global City, Radio DJ Karen Bordador and her boyfriend were subjected to due process of the law, a right not given the victims of drug-related killings.
In Pektus, Yong and Chino were given second chances to make better their lives. Reflective of reality, being members of the middle class gives them this privilege, but for those who remain in society’s hem there is no way out except through the road of chance and the choice to escape.
With gritted teeth, a few chants and curses and eyes wide open, the only exit for those who have long been oppressed and for those who have known nothing but poverty throughout their lives remain going against the system which permits power to reside in a small percentage of society.
The only way to overcome hopelessness is to topple the capitalist system where second chances will remain a privilege to a chosen few, and this can only be achieved if people choose to escape, if people choose to break their chains. #
(Photo grabbed from IMDB website.)