Captive: A case for understanding
MANILA, Philippines - Captive, Cannes-winning director Brillante Mendoza’s latest film, is nothing less than a gift to Filipinos.
It is not so much a film as a beautifully-woven argument that compassionate understanding can do so much more for our country than apathetic tolerance.
This film is also an immersion into humanity, not just of our own but also of the people we haphazardly call our “enemies.”
The blurring of lines and lives
At the start of the film, it is clear who the enemies are.
They emerge from the dark sea of the night on a boat, as silent as predators on the hunt.
The heavily-armed, long-haired Abu Sayyaf members are about to wreak havoc and strike fear among the innocent tourists in Dos Palmas Beach Resort in Palawan, starting a chain of events that lead to 18 months of their harrowing captivity amidst the jungles of Mindanao.
The editing is breathe-taking, the scenes harrowing as Mendoza’s brilliant eyes allow us to see the kidnapping of the tourists using half-lit images; a panicking, half-blind camera and the erratic movements of shadows all ending in an explosion of birds in sky, frightened by a fired gunshot.
He has captured perfectly the chaos and dread that only a kidnapping in a resort by terrorists can inspire.
But the lines separating enemy and innocent are soon blurred as we see and hear all-too familiar gestures of hospitality and courtesy coming from the uncouth and rowdy rebels.
They assist their captives into the boat, giving priority to women and the elderly. They protect them from rain and sun, feed them and even demonstrate gallantry as the rebel leader strictly forbids his men from touching the women.
Through the eyes of a captive
The juxtaposition of these two natures of the Muslim terrorists — the erratic transition from gentle to violent — accommodating to terrorizing is a central theme in the film.
We see all this through the eyes of one of the abducted, a French social worker named Therese Bourgoine.
Cast in the role is the magnificent Isabelle Huppert, one of Europe’s leading actresses. Her performance is riveting, bringing vivacious life to a woman of strength and grace.
Throughout the tumultuous events of their captivity, she serves as the sane beacon of light, anchoring both characters and audience into the reality of their situation and the hope that, one day, they may be free of it.
Why watch this film?
Many more surprises await those who watch this breathtaking film.
I could not help but join in the half gasp, half guffaw of the audience when Tado Jimenez appears in the scene as a long-haired, bespectacled Abu Sayyaf member complete with endearing shouts of “Hey Joe!”
You can also expect spine-tingling performances from Ronnie Lazaro, Raymond Bagatsing and Sid Lucero who play Abu Sayyaf members so minutely that you feel you can describe them as if they were your friends.
Despite the film’s seemingly heavy premise, it is light-hearted in so much as the real events were themselves light-hearted at times.
As the film winds itself to its inevitable conclusion, relationships of camaraderie and affection are formed between hostages and rebels. In-between the gunfire and panic of military operations gone wrong, there are quiet moments of playful conversations as both sides try to find the humanity of each.
Viewers will also witness the unfolding of almost unbelievable events that transpire during the ordeal.
Two hostages marry Abu Sayyaf leaders and one young hostage ends up falling in love with another young rebel, the same one who brutally kills her fellow captive.
A male hostage is taught the ways of Islam and becomes a terrorist himself. These, unbelievably, actually happened.
Lovers of the image will also find the film’s cinematography at par with their standards.
From monumental aerial shots of the rebels’ boat in the middle of the sea, it scales down to an ultra-sharp macro shot of two spiders fighting against their sticky web then scales out again to capture the verdant jungles of Mindanao.
All the scenes were shot using state-of-the-art Alexa cameras, the same camera that shot Martin Scorsese’s Hugo and the HBO series “Game of Thrones.”
Above all else, people should watch this film for that rare gem that can stop wars and make the world a better place: understanding.
Walking out of the cinema house after watching the film, I felt like I was a much better person.
The film had single-handedly managed to do what news reports, newspaper articles and talk shows could not: dispel my unexamined notions of the Muslim terrorists in Mindanao and their cause.
This film should be watched by all Filipinos because it makes the case that what our fellow country-men need is more than our tolerance.
They need our understanding. - Rappler.com
Captive's Philippine premiere will be on Sept. 2, Sunday, at SM Pampanga; and Sept. 3, Monday, at Greenbelt 3 Cinema 2. It opens nationwide on Sept. 5.