Venice Film Festival

VENICE -- A film within a film where delusion, illusion and theatrics weave an imagery that is as provocative as it is terrifying. Zooming on the modern day evil of television journalism out to capture the best shot and stories, often thrusting the microphones and cameras right into grief, "Jay" exhibits awfully cruel manipulation and deceit. Though not quite for popcorn munching Coke sipping crowds, it is not quite arthouse either, falling somewhere between the two lines.

Often the movie resembles a documentary, with Jay (Baron Geisler), a homosexual director of a television reality show fashionably named Channel 8, getting into the thick of a brutal murder of a Manila professor, also named Jay (R J Payawal) and a homosexual as well. Was the dead Jay's sexual preference the reason for the television guy's almost obsessive interest in the incident? This is never clear, but what is, is Jay's detached look at a tragedy of this magnitude where a young man is killed and his family of mother and two younger siblings virtually orphaned. For, the professor on the verge of a taking up a job in the U.S. had promised a bright future for his folks.

Jay lands in the town where the professor's family lives, and breaks the terrible news, and how? He switches on the family's television which is beaming the murder story. Disbelief soon gives way to shock and despair, and it is not until Jay takes the dead man's mother, her daughter and son to the embalming room that realization sets in, and the camera rolls to record the hysterical weeping and cursing that follow. Jay stands aside coldly instructing his cameraman. The utter horror of this sinks in as we begin to understand the inhuman selfishness of modern television journalism where exclusivity and one upmanship is all that counts.

But there are scenes that are beyond the realm of reality. When a part of the footage is destroyed, Jay asks the mother to re-enact a sequence even going to the extent of placing another body in the morgue for her to weep again. But when he does a take asking the police to re-enact the arrest of the suspect, he escapes -- and is finally caught after a difficult chase. Would the police really allow this? Would a grieving mother actually agree to a re-take? Would the young daughter sing for the camera in a moment such as this? Are people so crazy about appearing on television? These are questions that may well get the movie fewer stars.

However, the movie is well crafted, and though not scripted intelligently enough touches upon a kind of journalism today that thrives on sensationalism to sell. So what, if the camera has roll over feelings, intruding on the most private moments of men and women. Do viewers cherish images that play upon human anguish? Jay says yes.

Production company: Cinemalaya. Cast: Baron Geisler, R.J. Payawal, Coco Martin and Flor Salanga. Director/screenwriter: Francis Xavier Pasion. Producers: Francis Xavier Pasion, Ronald Mangubat. Director of photography: Carlo Mendoza. Music: Gian Gianan. Costume designers: Cha Idea. Rowena Sanchez. Production designer: Errol Kelly. Editor: Francis Xavier Pasion, Chuck Gutierrez, Kats Serraon. No rating, 96 minutes.