Movie Reviews: Dukot Thursday April 18, 2024 EDT 
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movie reviews

Dukot Nov 17, 2009

Dukot (2009)
Released also as: Desaparecidos (Philippines: Spanish title)
Rating: star star star star star
Cast: Allen Dizon and Iza Calzado
Director: Joel Lamangan
Script Writer: Bonifacio Ilagan
Genre: Fact-based Drama

2 activists couple were abducted by the military. The woman was repeatedly tortured and raped in front of her boyfriend. The boyfriend was repeatedly tortured as well. Both were summarily executed. The human rights groups used all avenues to get the victims released but the Arroyo-compliant administration simply dragged its feet.

Enforced Abductions and Summary Killings
Enforced abductions and summary killings of those who fight for civil rights under the law have pockmarked the landscape of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's presidency - activists, farmers, workers, students, film makers have disappeared, some, never to come back. All you have to do is Google "disappearances, abduction, killings, Arroyo" to find out more details.

Disempowered Public
Despite my blogging of such atrocities, I feel ineffective. I believe I share that frustration with the general public who wants to see positive change in the status quo. Worse, this ineffectivity spawns a growing indifference to these crimes against humanity. Increasingly, public protest has diminished as the numbers of disappeared/tortured victims increase. The attitude has been: "as long as it's not in my backyard".

2 UP Students Missing
My outrage heightened when I heard that 2 UP female students, Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, went missing while doing community development in the rural area of Bulacan. It can only mean one thing - they were abducted by the pro-Arroyo military and were either already dead or being tortured. The blog sites talked about it, but I don't know if anything was actually done. Was UP doing anything about this? Is my alma matter even concerned about such matters now? The news just died down and the students were simply reduced to statistics.

Inside the Torture Camp
New hope came to light when a tortured Raymund Manalo escaped from the military and told tales of what he saw in the torture camp. He talked about seeing the 2 students. In his words,

"She (Sherlyn) was tied to a bench, her feet were lifted, water was poured to her nose, and she was electrocuted. She was screaming. She was tortured for a long time. The 2 students were taunted (by the soldiers) that their private parts were raped by wood inserted inside their sex organ."

Business As Usual
The mainstream media picked up on it and again, people started talking about it...and talked more about it. But again, nothing was done. All the while, I thought that all it took was a survivor to tell the whole world what's going on, and the ensuing international outrage would topple down the Arroyo administration. But frustratingly, a survivor did come out of the wood work and told the world what happened. Perfunctory lip service was done by the administration, but on top of that, it was business as usual. The public once again looked the other way.

Ending Thoughts
While the movie is only fact-based and not a true story on a single individual, based on Manalo's account, I thought I'd see the tortured body of a half naked Iza Calzado, dress all tattered and torn, beaten up beyond recognition, with cigarette burns all over her body, blood flowing between her legs and a piece of bloodied unshaven wood nearby. But no, Isa was still beautiful after being repeatedly raped, except for a bad hairdo and a smeared make-up.

Also, the movie stopped at pointing the blame on the military cell unit. The finger pointing to Palparan and Arroyo, who in everyone's mind are the real culprit, was only implied, at best. Maybe it's politics. Maybe it's fear of retribution. Maybe it's keeping with the censor ratings. I really don't know except that it must have been difficult...very difficult to hold back when you know there's so much more to show.

But in ending, I still applaud the movie makers for making a film that takes full focus on the issues of enforced abductions and summary killings. Other movies in the past have only gone as far as mention the issues in passing but never went beyond that. While the film makers' effort are brave, I still feel it fell short of calling on an indifferent public to action. I can go so far as say the film stirred up emotions among its viewers, but it didn't get them outraged enough to act on the issues.

I even suggest that if money is not the motivation of this movie (afterall, how many indie films really made money?), perhaps it would have been more effective to develop a movie that shows all, I mean ALL the brutally, holding nothing back, but designed for online FREE Zeitgeist. To protect the people involved, maybe use unknown actors with no credits to the production people. Such a movie will spread like wildfire on the internet and put urgency on the abductions, disappearances and killings in the Phlippines to a global audience.

--- TheLoneRider

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