premiere night of Dukot (Desaparecidos) was unusual because it did
not only have celebrities as guests but it was also attended by representatives
of militant groups. Family members of human rights victims were also there to
watch the film even though the torture scenes were very graphic and difficult
Dukot is an indie film about political prisoners who suffered tremendously when they were abducted, tortured and even killed without due process.
My Cinema, Greenbelt 3 in Makati City was completely filled up with people last Saturday, September 19. The timing of the screening was very appropriate since this Monday, September 21, marks the 37th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law.
But when the cast and crew of Dukot (Desaparacidos) shot their film last March, they did not anticipate that their end product would be released at an auspicious date.
Thirty-seven years ago, on September 21, former President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law, triggering a crackdown on militant people who have been outspoken about their anger against the dictator.
It's now 2009 but the filmmakers want to show that even though Martial Law has been lifted, those in authority continue to silence people who are brave enough to question and critique our social conditions.
In this case, Junix (Allen Dizon) is abducted by the military because he is listed in its so-called Order of Battle. He used to be a student leader just like Maricel (portrayed by Iza Calzado). However, they take different paths in life: Junix chooses to live with and organize Aetas in Zambales while Maricel decides to abandon the movement so she could finish her schooling. She eventually finds work in a call center but she kept her relationship with Junix a secret.
Her mother (portrayed by Gina Alajar) becomes distraught when Maricel suddenly goes missing. Little did she know that her daughter has also been abducted by military intelligence agents to get Junix to reveal crucial information about the movement. Junix is tortured and Maricel is raped right in front of her boyfriend.
Because her daughter Maricel has become a desaparecido, the shy mother musters the courage to speak up against human rights violations being conducted in the Philippines.
After the screening, an open forum took place and viewers were allowed to ask questions and give comments about the socially relevant film.
FROM X RATING TO R-18. It was revealed that Dukot (Desaparecidos)was initially given an X rating by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB). However, because of Direk Joel's discussion with the MTRCB, the film was given a rating of R-18.
According to line producer Dennis Evangelista, they sacrificed one scene so that the MTRCB would allow them to screen the film.
Direk Joel explained: "Na-X ito nung una. Pina-alis ang litrato ni GMA [incumbent President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo] sa isang eksena. Pinalitan na lang. Yun yung compromise. Pero yung isang litrato ni GMA sa conference room, hindi ko pinayagang tanggalin. Nagkaroon ng diskusyon at naunawaan nila kung saan kami nanggagaling."
PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) asked Direk Joel to elaborate on the X rating initially given by the state-run censors board.
"Hindi ako pumayag but there's compromise somewhere. Ayaw kasi nilang ma-identify sa kasalukuyang administration ang problemang sinasabi ng movie. Of course, they are trying to protect the state.
"We have to be aware that people who are disappearing left and right at pinapatay ng walang habas. Walang katarungan and these are against human rights. Ang dami nang nawala, more than 1000 people have disappeared."
Did they really plan to release the film in time for the anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law?
Allen Dizon, the lead actor and producer of the film reveals, "Nagkataon lang kasi nag-shoot kami nung March."
POLITICAL PRISONER. PEP also took this opportunity to talk to director Joel Lamangan about his own personal experience as a political prisoner during the time of Martial Law.
In the movie, the character of Junix was beat up badly as he was tied up. The abductors used his body as an ashtray and burned numerous cigarettes on his chest. The hapless victim was also tied down on a wooden plank and given electric shock, his head was dunked into a huge drum of water and he was made to sit naked on a block of ice for long periods of time.
Did Direk Joel experience these as well? "Yeah, what you saw there was exactly how I experienced it.
"I was detained for four years and after that, pinakawalan na kami but there was no charge. I was detained at Camp Vicente Lim and Bicutan."
In Dukot, the captors of Allen and Iza were dressed in civilian clothes but in Direk Joel's case, during the 1970s, he saw torturers who were in military uniforms while others were in civilian clothes since these were intelligence agents.
ALLEN'S COUSIN IS A DESAPARECIDO. To prepare himself for the horrific torture scenes, Allen Dizon was instructed to watch the Hollywood film Passion of the Christ.
How long did he tape his torture scenes? "Two days yun. Magdamag yun. Talagang tumatama sa akin yung mga suntok nila para maramdaman ko yung sakit. Kasi kung fake, kulang e, dapat tatama talaga.
galos nga ako kasi lagi akong nakahiga sa [plank where he was tortured]. Kahit
yung yelo, walang patong yun para maramdaman ko kung gaano kalamig."
In one scene, he was made to sit on a block of ice while the men who abducted him grilled him with questions. All the while, a gun was pointed at his head.
How did he prepare for the role of an activist-turned-political prisoner?
"Binasa ko yung script and actually, nung mga panahon na nag-shoot kami, naramdaman ko na ako si Junix Etrata. Naramdaman ko kung gaano kahirap yung torture at naramdaman ko kung gaano kalalim ang pagmamahal namin sa isa't isa.
"Bago nga kami mag-take ni Iza, nagyayakapan kami para maramdaman namin ang pagmamahal ng isa't isa."
How did his perspective about activists change after doing this film?
"Parang gusto ko ngang magmartsa eh. Kasi naramdaman ko kung gaano kahirap ang buhay ng mga aktibista. Minsan wala silang makain, hindi sila natutulog para sa ipinaglalaban nila. At mahirap palang dukutin!"
The actor-producer also revealed that he has a relative who became a desaparecido (disappeared one).
"Meron akong kamag-anak, Tito ko actually, na dinukot. He was only 15 years old that time. Hindi na namin nakita. Mga kapatid niya, mga taong labas. Hindi na namin nakita. Hindi na rin namin nakita ung katawan. Kaya nung nabasa ko yung script, sabi ko hindi ko na pakakawalan ito."
The script of Dukot was written by Palanca awardee Bonifacio Ilagan who was himself a victim of abduction and torture when he was a student activist and political detainee. His sister was forcibly abducted and hasn't been found since then.
Dukot had its world premiere in the 2009 Montreal Film Fest from August 27-September 7. In the coming months, it will be take part in film festivals in Australia, Japan, and Hong Kong.
This indie film is produced by ATD Entertainment and CDP Events and Entertainment. The film also stars Snooky Serna as a human rights activist, Emilio Garcia as a hard-hitting photojournalist, Gina Alajar as the mother of Maricel, and Robert Arevalo and Raquel Villavicencio as the parents of Junix. Felix Roco is cast as Noel, the younger brother of Junix. John Apacible and Benjie Felipe portray the heartless captors who brutally tortured the victims. Completing the cast are Jim Pebangco, Mon Confiado, Rico Barrera, Menggie Cobarrubias, Tony Mabesa, Richard Arellano, and newcomer Armaine Pagcu.
Dukot will have its Manila run on December 2, in time for the Human Rights month celebration.