Film-Forward Review: [CAVITE]

Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Adam (Ian Gamazon) passing through a 
cemetary to his next destination
Photo: Neill Dela Llana

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Directed, Written & Edited by: Ian Gamazon & Neill Dela Llana.
Producers: Ian Gamazon, Neill Dela Llana & Quynn Ton.
Director of Photography: Neill Dela Llana.
Music: Ato Mariano.
Released by: Truly Indie.
Language: English & Tagalog with English subtitles.
Country of Origin: Philippines/USA. 80 min. Not Rated.
With: Ian Gamazon & Dominique Gonzalez.

Putting a completely unique and startling spin on the somewhat clichéd identity crisis of a second-generation American, Cavite follows Filipino-American Adam (codirector Ian Gamazon) as he returns to his native country upon his father’s death. Immediately after his arrival, he inexplicably becomes the pawn of a Muslim extremist, who has taken his mother and sister hostage. Linked by a cell phone that somehow found its way into his backpack, Adam follows the omnipresent caller’s orders, which take him through Manila slums to the city of Cavite. He must do as the caller demands or his mother and sister will be killed. Cavite, not unlike the Oscar-nominated Paradise Now, offers multiple perspectives on the possible reasons for terrorist activities, but is very case-particular in its exploration of the tensions between religious groups in the Philippines, and thus revealing much about the country’s history.

Shot with a DVX-100 camera on location, the footage is constantly caught between becoming either headache-inducing or an exciting example of cinéma vérité. Fortunately, Cavite manages to tend toward the latter, creating the very vivid sensation that the viewer is actually following Adam the way his anonymous and invisible captor might. Though the plot is more often than not too unrealistic, it is nevertheless sufficiently engaging to cause the viewer to forget the improbabilities of the occurring events – not an easily achievable feat.

Throughout, Adam’s terrorist caller speaks to him in Tagalog, while Adam replies in English, obviously for the viewer’s benefit, but also to reinforce the fact that Adam is out of touch with his roots. A film that most second-generation Americans can likely relate to, Cavite illuminates the viewer specifically on Filipino culture. At one point, Adam stops to get a soda at a convenience store, which is actually just a stand along a dirt road where the vendor pours a bottle of soda into a ziplock bag and hands it to Adam with a straw. (This points out how poor certain parts of the country are – the woman must recycle the bottle for money.)

Though the ending of Cavite is a little too improbable (and the acting at times amateurish), it nevertheless leaves the viewer with new questions relating to terrorist motivations. Because one becomes so invested in Adam after following him in close proximity throughout the film, it is difficult to dislike this slightly whiny character; as a result, one cannot hate him for the gruesome act he agrees to perform. In this sense, Cavite is much like Paradise Now, forcing the viewer to empathize with a character who acts in a manner that would otherwise render him detestable. Parisa Vaziri
May 26, 2006



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