Khavn – Squatterpunk (2007)

Filmless Films presents
This is not a film by Khavn.

An ode to joy amidst poverty, SQUATTERPUNK is the pre-Spanish
Philippine part of Khavn’s “Black Silence Trilogy.” Set in the slums
of Manila, we follow the lives of the youth as they scavenge the
garbage beach for a living while still managing to play around.

The best social realist documentary in the Philippines, SQUATTERPUNK is a daring & adventurous film shot in the kind of slum neighbourhood where police protection is rare. The film, energetic and funny in a place that is supposed to be depressing, does not exactly fit into the social awareness approach of a direct cinema documentary. The score of the film is loud if not deafening. And not in vogue.

Director Khavn, the enfant terrible of Filipino cinema, brings us back to the Ôno futureÕ eighties of authentic anarchic punk. But it is consistent in its style of black-and-white images and its rhythmic montage that is clearly driven by the music-based sound track. Compared to the ironic collage way of working in most of KhavnÕs other films, this one is crystal clear if not neat. Well, only in comparison with his other sometimes exuberant experiments. By any other standard, it is a wild and pulsating film.

SQUATTERPUNK shows something of life in the slums in a quite special way. It shows how poor, forgotten and ignored children can have a good time. Playing & swimming in rotting garbage can apparently be fun. So it is not the clichŽ image of tears in a childÕs eyes that makes us aware of this disgraceful situation but the vitality and pleasure of the protagonists. In addition, maybe even stronger than pity, this pleasure enforces the inevitable message: no future. (Gertjan Zuilhof, Rotterdam International Film Festival)

Rambunctious & relentless, Khavn’s aptly titled “Squatterpunk” applies pure adrenaline rush to a day in the life of a Manila shanty town. A bit less harried than many of this wildly active filmmaker-musician’s other features and shorts, docu marries a constantly roving camera (often mounted with ultra-wide-angle lens) with a nonstop punk-rock soundtrack that fuels the action with bursts of aural energy. Terrific fest fare will widen Khavn’s growing fan base (especially among young Asian hipsters), and looks to be a solid specialist vid item.

Center of the pic is young Hapon, leader of a gaggle of youngsters in the desperately poor seaside slum of Isla Puting Bato (with Manila visible in the distance). Kids will be kids: Running, scampering, diving into filthy ocean water, the tykes manage to turn their direly poor surroundings into the world’s most unlikely playground.

Pic turns several conventional notions on their heads, not least of which is standard liberal ideology, expressed in countless docs, that expresses hand-wringing pity toward the poor. Khavn (nickname for Khavn de la Cruz) appears to reject this, kids in these circumstances as they actually are, with endless energy & nerve. This may offend some viewers demanding a more PC line, just as others may not appreciate the driving punk sounds of the Brockas (named in honor of late Filipino film master Lino Brocka).

Latter reference is telling, since the community here is exactly the sort of setting in which Brocka frequently located his complex melodramas. Khavn tips his cap to his mentor while adopting a freewheeling approach that does away with storyline, dialogue and almost any natural sound. Precendent here is actually in the earliest pre-20th-century experimental silent pics that linked motion-filled images with music, and the tradition of the “city symphony” film.

Pacing (via editing by Lawrence Ang, Caloy Carlos & Sunshine Matutina) is breathless, but with enough pauses and quiet passages to vary mood and texture. Albert Banzon’s intensely physical camerawork suggests the lens is like a small kid, dashing close to the ground and taking everything in.

Remarkably, lensing was done in a single day. As usual, to ironically stress his championing of latest in digital vid cinema, opening credits announce “This is Not a Film by Khavn.” (Robert Koehler, Variety)

Tweaking the poverty documentaries omnipresent in festival circles, SQUATTERPUNK turns its camera on a group of children living in a squalid Manila slum. Unlike most poverty documentaries, the film is less concerned (or not concerned at all, actually) with making any points about the hopelessness of their condition, but instead follows the kids as they play and walk around like little tough guys, complete with Mohawks and a fuck-you attitude. (Jason Sanders, Filmmaker Magazine & Cinemascope Magazine)

SQUATTERPUNK wants it viewers to be prepared for a feature-length music video quite unlike anything MTV is likely to broadcast. Shot in black-and-white to relentless punk rock energy, its “stars” are squatter kids living off the waste of Manila. Diving into dark waters teeming with refuse and scavenging for food, the nameless next generation still make time to shave their heads Mohawk style and bang madly on makeshift drums or strum beaten up guitars. (Philip Cheah, Singapore International Film Festival)

A rollicking ride into the depths of poverty-inspired despair, with that distinctly Philippine sense of hope, rising above the regular smell of garbage, swinging and slamming with joyous riot music. This is Khavn returning to the bare, essential, and simply punk. (Joel Toledo, Bridport Prize Winner for Poetry)

Despite the crude, violent, exploitative connotations of its title, SQUATTERPUNK casts a tenderly poetic eye at the squalor of Philippine society. (Lourd De Veyra, Palanca Awardee for Essay)

Pinoy Punk Rock is the music that reflects the lively and chaotic world of the urban poor in an independent masterpiece titled SQUATTERPUNK by the internationally award-winning director Khavn. (Jude Bautista, Manila Times)

701MB | 01:19:05 | 720 x 384 | avi


Subtitles:English hardsubbed

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