BALANGIGA: HOWLING WILDERNESS

 

Philippines, 1901. A young boy flees the town of Balangiga with his grandfather and their buffalo to escape the American occupation. As they travel through the countryside strewn with carnage, they find an infant amid a sea of corpses. Together, the two boys struggle to survive in the howling wilderness.

Filipino rebel poet Khavn De La Cruz returns to the site of the 1901 Balangiga massacre under American occupation with this masterful, hypnotic and hallucinatory, brutal yet soulful anti-war odyssey of boy and a child.

“/…/ an elegy to purity, a lyrical and heartbreaking testament to humanity’s pursuit of freedom from whatever form of imprisonment. /…/ Powerful and tender.”
– Francis Joseph Cruz, Rappler

“Remember that New York Journal cartoon captioned KILL EVERYONE OVER TEN? Published on May 5, 1902, it showed a US firing squad aiming at four blindfolded children. The editorial criticized Brig. Gen. Jacob H. Smith’s now infamous order to kill and burn, and shoot everyone over the age of 10. The Philippine Occupation was the first war in which, as historian Gail Buckley points out, ‘American officers and troops were officially charged with what we would now call war crimes.’ In 44 military trials, all of which ended in convictions, including that of General Jacob Smith’s, ‘sentences, almost invariably, were light.’ That was Balangiga, 1901. /…/ Why talk about the horrors of an Occupation long forgotten? Because Occupation is not a thing of the past. Balangiga, 1901 may as well be Philippines, 2017. We remain a country occupied, still struggling to come into its own, torn by conflict within and without. We are victims of poverty, capitalism, and globalization, at a time when we have just about convinced ourselves all wars have been fought and won. There is no Filipino today that is unmarked by tragedy, past or present. Until all of humanity understands that no one wins in a war – no one walks home whole, not even the victors, Balangiga: Howling Wilderness is a film that needs to be made: as an evidence of war, as a plea for peace. /…/ This story will be shot simply and starkly. No armies thundering across plains, no generals plotting each other’s demise, no grand declarations of patriotism – just the story of a child trying to make it to the next day and town alive.”
– Khavn

“This is Not an Open Letter to the Cinema Evaluation Board (on their decision to give Balangiga: Howling Wilderness a zero rating). /…/ ‘This is a perverted movie masquerading as high art’ is my favorite observation, possibly made by the same commentator so obsessed with sexual deviancy all this while. What character in high art one asks is totally free of perversion? Not Hamlet, with his unhealthy fixation on his mother; not Raskolnikov, who’s repressed (for all that, watch him with his sister Dunya); definitely not Catherine or Heathcliff – O no! High art is often tainted with extremes of emotion and circumstances, with the human psyche stressed beyond normal shape. Peek into the Bible itself and you’ll find a collection of perversions, paraded before the reader for his delectation if he so chooses. More, Khavn’s kind of perversity speaks to us directly, addresses the sins of the present administration. Malevolent foreign power out to exploit us? Yes. Obscenely murderous governing authority? O yes. Random extra-judicial killings, the bodies left to rot? Absolutely up-to-the-minute relevant. To the expanding collection of anti-Duterte films released so far (Treb Montero II’s Respeto, Mike de Leon’s Citizen Jake, Lav Diaz’s Panahon ng Halimaw, and I hear about Erik Matti’s Buy Bust) I would add this film.”
– Noel Vera, Critic After Dark

Read the full article: https://criticafterdark.blogspot.com/2018/08/balangiga-howling-wilderness-khavn-de.html

BALANGIGA: HOWLING WILDERNESS
Philippines, 2018, DCP, 1.85, colour, 115′, English subtitles

directed by Khavn
written by Achinette Villamor, Jerry Gracio, Khavn
cinematography Albert Banzon
editing Carlo Francisco Manatad
music Khavn
cast Pio del Rio, Justine Samson, Warren Tuaño
produced by Achinette Villamor, Khavn, Edong Canlas

In collaboration with Kino Otok – Isola Cinema film festival.

 

Q&A: Director Khavn De La Cruz in attendance!