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EDSA XXX: Nothing Ever Changes in the Ever-changing Republic of Ek-Ek-Ek: Rotterdam Review

EDSA XXX: Nothing Ever Changes in the Ever-changing Republic of Ek-Ek-Ek - H2014

The Bottom Line

Manic energy drives the film along, but the local-knowledge jokes are at risk of lost in translation.

 

Venue

International Film Festival Rotterdam (Spectrum), Jan. 24, 2014

Director

Khavn

Cast

Epy Quizon, Sheree, Bong Cabrera, Althea Vega

Producers

Achinette Villamor, Khavn, Ronald Arguelles

Maverick Filipino filmmaker Khavn delivers a musical satire about the political chaos in 2030 in a fictional nation based on his home country.

Filled to the brim with mocking asides directed against the Philippines' political, social and even cultural elite and some choice words (delivered as all-singing, all-dancing gags, of course) for the all-too-gullible masses, maverick multi-hyphenate artist Khavn's latest outing is an over-the-top, completely devil-may-care hoot. While its major moral about revolutions as more-of-the-same political shows is probably universal, international audiences -- Thai and Egyptian audiences will now certainly empathize, and even the left-wing supporters of the Democrats despairing about Barack Obama's unfulfilled promises of change -- will probably be unable to capitalize on some of the jokes situated distinctly in local knowledge.

Take the film's title, for example: the very long subtitle is necessary because people with no knowledge of modern Philippine history will be able to decipher the meaning of EDSA XXX -- while notionally the abbreviated form of Manila's biggest boulevard, the name coupled with a roman number is now shorthand for the country's modern-day anti-government movements, with three having already having been and gone (the first one ousted the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in February 1986, the second brought down the scandal-engulfed Joseph Estrada in January 2011, with his supporters trying to bring him back to power with a third three months later).

It's based on this seemingly never-ending political merry-go-round -- Estrada, for example, is now Manila's mayor, with his son (or maybe even himself) reportedly readying to run for president in 2016 -- that Khavn's satire revolves around, what with the film beginning with a list of the 30 People Power leaders who have led uprisings against the establishment in the "Republic of Ek-Ek-Ek" (with real-life Filipino presidents Aquino and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo leading this line under the nicknames of "Yellow Pray" and "Mole Small").

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The fictional leaders which follow on the roll-call -- appearing on screen like a computer-game countdown of top players – will grow increasingly comical and grotesque, with the 30th (that is, the leader of "EDSA XXX") being "Third Eye" (Epy Quizon). A fumbling idiot who apparently deserves no worship or following at all – with his name suggesting the additional eyeball growing out of his forehead -- the fervent blind faith of his followers is Khavn's charge against idolatry, illustrated by a musical number showing them in near-hysterics because of his presence.

Further pokes at the Philippines' contemporary political circus would touch on corporate control of politics (the ignoramus is propped up by behind-the-scenes business bigshots – a support which has been alleged as essential for the real EDSA revolutions in the past) and monopoly of power within the selected few families (Third Eye is said to be the illegimitiate son of the "First Daughter" of Ek-Ek-Ek's previous president, and is to return from his banishment to depose his and "save the country").

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The visual dynamism (anchored by DP Albert Banzon's DV-driven vigor, with deliberate distortion from fish-eye lens and the like) helps elevate the anarchical humor to high levels, as Khavn – who pens the music and actually provided live piano accompaniment at the film's premiere at International Film Festival Rotterdam on Jan. 24 – leaves no stone unturned and no idols divinity unchallenged. And this includes ribbing at his fellow Phillipine filmmakers, even: in one of the scenes which would certainly go down well with future festival audiences, a director by the name of Ishmael Brocka (a combined name of two of the country's most revered socio-realist auteurs) is being awarded the "Pan d'Or" at "Canness", with the winner pompously saying on stage, "Blessed are the poor."

This is probably Khavn's statement against the interaction between international festivals and some sections of Philippine cinema in propelling poverty-stricken drama as the new art – an exploitation of people which the film has shown as underlining nearly every political movement in Ek-Ek-Ek/The Phillippines. Interwoven within the film are real archive footage of demonstrations past, a reminder perhaps that EDSA XXX is, beneath the manic energy and out-of-this-world jokes, is just a larger-than-life of a very real disorder in the system. And dedicating the film to "Filipinos who know how to live for live of freedom and liberty", this film is a clarion call for action rather than an artistic put-down of the masses – and a bombastic and sometimes gaudy spectacle too.

Venue: International Film Festival Rotterdam (Spectrum), Jan. 24, 2014

Production Company: Kamia Road Studios, Creative Programs Inc

Director: Khavn

Cast: Epy Quizon, Sheree, Bong Cabrera, Althea Vega

Producers: Achinette Villamor, Khavn, Ronald Arguelles

Screenwriter: Khavn

Director of Photography: Albert Banzon

Production Designer: Icx Icay, Kristine Kintana

Editor: Jeremiah Domingo, Carlo Manatad

Sound Designer: Dan Gil

Music Composer: Khavn

International Sales: Kamias Road Studios

In Filipino and English

No rating, 80 minutes