CAVITE

NR
Reviews

Adam (Ian Gamazon), a Los Angeles security guard, finds himself in the Philippines, where he has arrived to attend the funeral of his estranged father. No one shows up to meet him at Manila airport, but he gets a cell-phone call from a ferocious-sounding, homophobic creep who tells him his mother and sister have been kidnapped by a fanatic Muslim terrorist group. The distraught Adam is instructed to go to the small town of Cavite, and this order is followed by numerous others, which have the effect of sending the guy every which way and that, while we get an informal Cook's tour of the seamiest, most impoverished side of the country. The fact that his pregnant girlfriend has just told him she's dumping him and getting an abortion, added to his receiving what he is told is his sister's finger in a cigarette box, only increases Adam's angst as he tries to locate his family.

Films like Cavite don't come along every day, which should make the Philippines tourist board, as well as PETA, very happy. At one point, Adam goes to a cockfight, and the sweat-inducing, messily hectic violence he witnesses emblemizes the entire project. Co-directors Gamazon and Neill Dela Llana seem determined to bury our noses in poverty, bereft of even the smallest sign of hope or beauty. Apparently, the filmmakers couldn't induce any actors to get involved, so Gamazon was forced to take the very central role. Although a near-solo presence in every scene, he's obviously not an actor, and much of the film's power is diminished by this defect: He basically expresses anger and horrified anguish by shouting "Fuck!" and variations thereof, over and over. The film was made on the merest of shoestrings and, while admittedly very resourceful, suffers from a ceaselessly roving camera and overuse of shaky handhelds, as well as even less successful editing tropes, and some very fake-looking blood. And that hectoring, abusive unidentified voice on the phone forever screaming out instructions, accompanied by hateful epithets, proves both wearisome and anti-dramatic.

-David Noh