Thepremiere night of Dukot (Desaparecidos) was unusual because it didnot only have celebrities as guests but it was also attended by representativesof militant groups. Family members of human rights victims were also there towatch the film even though the torture scenes were very graphic and difficultto watch.
Dukot is an indie film about political prisoners who sufferedtremendously when they were abducted, tortured and even killed without dueprocess.
My Cinema, Greenbelt 3 in Makati Citywas completely filled up with people last Saturday, September 19. The timing ofthe screening was very appropriate since this Monday, September 21, marks the37th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law.
But when the cast and crew of Dukot (Desaparacidos) shottheir film last March, they did not anticipate that their end product would bereleased at an auspicious date.
Thirty-seven years ago, on September 21, former President Ferdinand Marcos declaredMartial Law, triggering a crackdown on militant people who have been outspoken abouttheir anger against the dictator.
It's now 2009 but the filmmakers want to show that even though Martial Law hasbeen lifted, those in authority continue to silence people who are brave enoughto question and critique our social conditions.
In this case, Junix (Allen Dizon) is abducted by the military because he islisted in its so-called Order of Battle. He used to be a student leader justlike Maricel (portrayed by Iza Calzado). However, they take different paths inlife: Junix chooses to live with and organize Aetas in Zambales while Maricel decidesto abandon the movement so she could finish her schooling. She eventually findswork in a call center but she kept her relationship with Junix a secret.
Her mother (portrayed by Gina Alajar) becomes distraught when Maricel suddenly goesmissing. Little did she know that her daughter has also been abducted bymilitary intelligence agents to get Junix to reveal crucial information aboutthe movement. Junix is tortured and Maricel is raped right in front of herboyfriend.
Because her daughter Maricel has become a desaparecido, the shy mother mustersthe 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 askquestions 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 andClassification Board (MTRCB). However, because of Direk Joel's discussion with theMTRCB, the film was given a rating of R-18.
According to line producer Dennis Evangelista, they sacrificed one scene sothat the MTRCB would allow them to screen the film.
Direk Joel explained: "Na-X ito nung una. Pina-alis ang litrato ni GMA [incumbentPresident Gloria Macapagal Arroyo] sa isang eksena. Pinalitan na lang. Yun yung compromise. Pero yung isanglitrato ni GMA sa conference room, hindi ko pinayagang tanggalin. Nagkaroon ngdiskusyon at naunawaan nila kung saan kami nanggagaling."
PEP (PhilippineEntertainment Portal) asked Direk Joel to elaborate on the X rating initiallygiven by the state-run censors board.
"Hindi ako pumayag but there's compromise somewhere. Ayaw kasi nilangma-identify sa kasalukuyang administration ang problemang sinasabi ng movie. Ofcourse, they are trying to protect the state.
"We have to be aware that people who are disappearing left and right atpinapatay ng walang habas. Walang katarungan and these are against humanrights. Ang dami nang nawala, more than 1000 people have disappeared."
Did they really plan to release the film in time for the anniversary of thedeclaration of Martial Law?
Allen Dizon, the lead actor and producer of the film reveals, "Nagkataon langkasi nag-shoot kami nung March."
POLITICAL PRISONER. PEP also took this opportunity to talk to directorJoel Lamangan about his own personal experience as a political prisoner duringthe time of Martial Law.
In the movie, the character of Junix was beat up badly as he was tied up. Theabductors used his body as an ashtray and burned numerous cigarettes on hischest. The hapless victim was also tied down on a wooden plank and givenelectric shock, his head was dunked into a huge drum of water and he was madeto 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 exactlyhow I experienced it.
"I was detained for four years and after that, pinakawalan na kami but therewas no charge. I was detained at Camp Vicente Lim and Bicutan."
In Dukot, the captors of Allen and Iza were dressed in civilian clothesbut in Direk Joel's case, during the 1970s, he saw torturers who were inmilitary uniforms while others were in civilian clothes since these wereintelligence agents.
ALLEN'S COUSIN IS A DESAPARECIDO.To prepare himself for the horrific torture scenes, Allen Dizon was instructedto watch the Hollywoodfilm Passion of the Christ.
How long did he tape his torture scenes? "Two days yun. Magdamag yun. Talagang tumatamasa akin yung mga suntok nila para maramdaman ko yung sakit. Kasi kung fake,kulang e, dapat tatama talaga.
"May mgagalos nga ako kasi lagi akong nakahiga sa [plank where he was tortured]. Kahityung 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 abductedhim 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 yungtorture 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 pagmamahalng 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 angbuhay ng mga aktibista. Minsan wala silang makain, hindi sila natutulog para saipinaglalaban nila. At mahirap palang dukutin!"
The actor-producer also revealed that he has a relative who became adesaparecido (disappeared one).
"Meron akong kamag-anak, Tito ko actually, na dinukot. He was only 15 years oldthat time. Hindi na namin nakita. Mga kapatid niya, mga taong labas. Hindi na namin nakita. Hindi na rin namin nakitaung katawan. Kaya nung nabasa ko yung script, sabi ko hindi ko na pakakawalanito."
The script of Dukot waswritten by Palanca awardee Bonifacio Ilagan who was himself a victim ofabduction and torture when he was a student activist and political detainee. Hissister 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 filmfestivals 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 ahard-hitting photojournalist, Gina Alajar as the mother of Maricel, and RobertArevalo and Raquel Villavicencio as the parents of Junix. Felix Roco is cast asNoel, the younger brother of Junix. John Apacible and Benjie Felipe portray theheartless captors who brutally tortured the victims. Completing the cast are JimPebangco, Mon Confiado, Rico Barrera, Menggie Cobarrubias, Tony Mabesa, RichardArellano, and newcomer Armaine Pagcu.
Dukot will have its Manila run on December2, in time for the Human Rights month celebration.