A captive of Captive

Gritty, in-your-face, a mirror of Philippine society. These are some of the words I associate with Brilliante Mendoza’s films. This director doesn’t mollycoddle the viewers that’s for sure. He paints reality as how he sees it – no more, no less – and hopes that by showing the ugly reality, his films would somehow serve as a vehicle for change.

Captive is no different from his other films. The 2 and a half hour film is based on the Dos Palmas kidnapping of missionaries and Filipinos by the Abu Sayyaf group more than a decade ago. Most of the events in the film really happened, about 25% were added for dramatic purposes and to help the story move but they’re mostly fictional characters and scenes. One of the fictional characters is Therese Bourgoine, played by French actress Isabelle Huppert, whose perspective it is we watch. Bourgoine is a missionary who was abducted together with her motherly companion Anita Linda, two other foreign missionaries, and tourists of Dos Palmas Resort. The story progresses with ransoms paid, captives freed, captives killed, and even a Stockholm syndrome which was surprising but actually happened between a tourist and one of the Abu Sayyaf bandits back in 2001. Brilliante Mendoza used many of his staple actors like Ronnie Lazaro, Coco Martin, Sid Lucero, etc. The acting wasn’t stellar for some however because they were overshadowed by Huppert and the more commanding Raymond Bagatsing and Ronnie Lazaro.

The film made me squirm the whole time as Brilliante captured the harsh realities of kidnap-for-ransom, religious fanaticism, terrorism, and the government’s indifference neigh shady cooperation with the kidnappers for a share of the ransom money because these facts are hard to swallow, but in the back of the Filipinos’ collective mind, they all ring true.

What amazed me about Captive is Brilliante’s research on what really transpired that ghastly 18 months and how he was able to show as much details in the 25 days he shot the film. That’s saying a lot about how talented and organized he is. My film experiences scream that such a film is impossible to shoot in 25 days but Briliante was able to do so. Not only that, he made everything seem believable. I thought the film was shot in Basilan but he admitted to us that the locations were in Batangas and Quezon.

Captive will premiere at SM Pampanga, Brilliante Mendoza’s hometown, on September 2, 2012. There will also be a Manila gala premiere in Greenbelt 3 the next day. Regular screening at SM Cinemas and Greenbelt will begin on September 5, 2012.

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.