Carlo (Tony Labrusca) is a typical millennial jock who downplays the atrocities committed during Martial Law. Aiming to discredit the claims of his professor, he interviews a retired colonel (Eddie Garcia). Unknown to him, the colonel is suffering from Alzheimer’s and believes the country is still under Marcos’ rule. He captures and tortures Carlo and later on a couple of his friends.
In some perverse way, Carlo writhes through what the victims decades ago went through, torture after torture, mockery after mockery, denial after denial. The director claimed at the start of the gala screening that everything we see is based on the real-life stories of Martial Law survivors, and they were all against toning down the violence.
For this very reason, ML is painful and exhausting to watch, but rightfully so. Some may argue that the gore and brutality are already excessive, but I think those are necessary elements to reach a level of primal empathy. What reaches the screen is a film that is so visceral, affecting, and distressing that 30 minutes in we feel like we are in Carlo’s skin. Its excellent score and tight editing help build the energy.
All this reaches a peak towards the climax. More agonizing than any physical abuse is the lack of justice in the end. As Carlo breaks down and anguishes on his lack of agency, we as an audience feel enraged. The parallels between Marcos and the colonel is so uncomfortably evident, so is the link between Martial Law and EJKs.
Eddie Garcia isn’t given much material to work on due to the mystery and vagueness of his character, but he is such an unnerving presence. This is a great launching film for Tony Labrusca and he doesn’t disappoint.
ML is unlike anything I’ve watched in Cinemalaya, so it’s an easy film to recommend if you have the stomach for it. But what I’m more concerned about is what happens after. Will we let the emotions simmer, or will we finally make a stand?
Directed by: Benedict Mique
Starring: Eddie Garcia, Tony Labrusca