DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / August 07) — Katips is in full swing after winning the FAMAS award for Best Film to come face to face with Marcos’ “historical” film Maid in Malacañang both released in theaters on the same date of August 3.
We saw the movie Thursday night and there were over a dozen people at the last full show. Even if they are so few, there are people in Davao City who saw this movie. Although they are so few, we noticed before we entered the theater that there were five college-age youngsters in front of our queue going to the other movie. But the screen monitor of that movie showed less audience.
If one thinks that this is a historical film to counter the other film, this is not exactly the film to do it. But it’s not meant to be a “historically accurate” film of Marcos’s years as his counterpart.
Katips is an adaptation of the award-winning musical released in 2016, also directed by Vicente Tañada, who appears in both theatrical and film versions. Focuses on the lives of student activists where they exposed Marcos’s propaganda through writing, challenged Marcos’s power through rallies and strikes, and evaded the state-imposed curfew as they run and mingle at night. .
That the struggles of young people are told through songs reminds us The Miserables, And as an adaptation of a stage musical, this film is quite difficult to stage and watch. The staging of the demonstration at the opening of the film and later a strike scene was more like a stage production. The camera work was dizzying, jumping from wide shots to close-ups, and some angles didn’t capture the intensity.
There was also a jarring scene when the cast transitioned from working late at UP’s Philippine Collegian to a ’70s disco romp complete with fake afro hair and outfits. Such scenes may be effective on the musical stage, but they were overload on the wide screen.
As a musical, the story is told primarily through song. One of its narratives revolves around the budding romance of four activist couples, with a good sequence of songs where they interconnect with the lyrics. This is the climax of the middle act.
But while the romance provides the kilig moments, the stirring moments seem to portray the activists in stereotypes. The activists here seem to be always angry. They raise their voices discussing world issues and Marcos’ desire for power. They curse when police scatter and beat them at rallies. They curse when comrades die. An activist becomes comic relief due to her thick Bisaya accent. These scenes don’t dispel the notion of people being prejudiced about activism. If anyone had spoken or listened to the veterans of the First Quarter Storm, they would never lose their hearing as they would never shout their words of conviction.
The film barely addresses Marcos’ legacy. His name is even rarely mentioned, and he is called by his nickname Apo. He becomes more of a symbol in this musical and is compared to an insurmountable mountain.
There are texts that flicker like old news headlines, of politics in the New Society, and a Metro Aide dance number, a memorable symbol of Marcos’s call to discipline. If this is the movie to counter that other movie, it missed those opportunities, and those texts seem intended to be eye-opening for discussion after viewing.
Who then is the enemy in this movie? It is the police that constantly show up to disperse their protests, put red tags on them, scare them and brutalize them. They symbolize what Martial Law is. They are the law. Judge. The Executor. Such characterization was well embodied by Confident Mon, whose eyes and amazing singing voice cast menace.
But what perhaps connects viewers is the pain and grim reality of state repression. When some activists were kidnapped, their scenes of torture seem to be taken directly from the testimonies of martial law victims. Name each method and it is shown here. Here, the film becomes art that unsettles those who had lived in the comfort that Martial Law brought peace and order.
That pain was encapsulated with the song. manhid While it symbolizes the numbness of death and the numbness of loss, the lyrics also evoke that activists are never insensitive to the pain of a strong man plunging the nation into darkness. Thus, pain becomes courage.
But the film jumps to the present and somehow doesn’t show how activists or the movement figured in People Power. There was one scene, Ninoy Aquino’s funeral march, that was inserted and it seemed like the narrative came out of nowhere.
The final scene where the old activists gather at Bantayog ng mga Bayani was full of sentimentality, but it raises questions. Have these activists found closure? Where is the connection to the present, when old Marcos is buried in Libingan ng mga Bayani and another Marcos has taken over the presidency? Isn’t the story continuing, and not just one displayed in museum glass shards of newspaper clippings and photos?
Maybe Katips it serves better as a revelation, a topic of discussion for other films and documentaries that describe the struggles of the people against the dictatorship. Even those who watched Maid in Malacañang you can see this for comparison, and vice versa.
Katips the musical is a sweep of youth in action in the 1970s, a musical that fuels the emotion of passion, of sacrifice for one’s country. There is an enduring line in the last part that goes back to the impassable mountain of Marcos, where the young activists decide to climb other mountains, the strength of their strength, to overthrow the tyrant. And that is perhaps the symbol of the struggles of our time.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. The author, who once aspired to be an artist, watches movies and reads books after work.)