Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Kadin (2007)

Kadin (Adolfo Alix Jr., 2007)
English Title: The Goat

The story is pure simplicity. A boy (Rico Mark Cardona) wakes up and finds his goat missing. He tries to find the goat before nightfall with his sister (Monica Joy Camarillas). The simple plot's focus is innocence. Set in the backdrop of unclaimed natural beauty (subtly portrayed as being threatened by the arrival of outsiders; there seems to be tension between the natives and the outsiders as shown by a quick fight between the boy and a group of young transients), there are moments wherein the boy's purity is tested; wherein an easier way out from his predicament is to succumb to thievery and other means.

There's a whole lot of walking in the film. It is presumably writer-director Adolfo Alix's hommage to Lav Diaz, whose films span five to eleven hours, mostly consisting of long stretches of travel or other banalities, but are all fascinating works of art. Kadin (The Goat), if anything is fabulous. Alix showcases the ponderous beauty of Batanes, a group of storm-tattered island in the northernmost portion of the Philippines. He even dedicates a prologue to show an engaging ritual by the islands' residents, involving a hog being bled to death and its internal organs used as instruments for fortune-telling --- the rest of the carcass is brought home to serve as meals for the next few days.

However, Diaz is anything but fabulous. Diaz's endless footages are mostly shot in black and white, in low angles, usually immobile, and with almost nothing happening except the natural flow of time. Alix has a canvass of numerous colors, he directs his actors to first walk and then sprint (it is as if his hommage is turning into a critical assessment of Diaz's artistic methods; why walk when they can run), he would always shoot in camera angles that supply aesthetic satisfaction (showcasing the gorgeous bends that carve a mountainside, the serene blue skies, the wind-choreographed vegetation).

That's what differentiates Diaz's films and Alix's trite homage (aside from the obvious, like the running time). Diaz understands the value of duration --- its duties to immersion and contemplation. Alix's aesthetics are mere skin-deep; you understand the tiring mission of the two kids but that is all there is to it, there is no accompanying ache, no gargantuan cross to bear, no historical lesson or psychological burden to ground those minutes of walking deep into our souls. Alix's visuals are just that, visuals --- colorful post cards of unparalleled beauty that are easy on the eyes; no anthropological value, no interesting social milieu, zip, Nada.

I guess my complaint may seems off-tangent; this is after all a kid's tale and their burden is not as ravaging or soul-puncturing as those fractured characters in Heremias (2006), Ebolusyong ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino (Evolution of a Filipino Family, 2004), or Batang West Side (West Side Avenue, 2001). Yet that is Alix's burden to bear since his methodologies allude to grander things, and he delivers a story that is safe, accessible, and inconsequential. If Kadin has any message to bear (again, aside from the obvious morality which is less taxing to be learned from the dozens of picture books in your local book store), it is to cement Lav Diaz as a unique filmmaker. True, Diaz's films look like somebody forgot his camera in an abandoned road side, but there's always something there which is decades ahead and before the moment you set your eyes on his films.

This film is in competition for the 3rd Cinemalaya Film Festival.


selya said...

hi! i stumbled upon your page looking for reviews of this film. i'm about to make one. i saw it yesterday at cine adarna and everything in this film is the reason why i thirst for indie films.

great review!

Sw!tZ said...

This is one movie I will never forget..
It's simply beautiful - amazingly captivating!