Lino Brocka – Bayan ko: Kapit sa patalim AKA This Is My Country (1984)

Kapit was well covered by media, as any competition film in Cannes is covered, except that the rave reviews were numerous. Festival reports had it that, of the critics, only a minority found the film’s “constant agit prop a little hard to digest, however much they sympathized personally with Brocka’s politics.” Le Quotidien’s Gerard Lefort felt that the famous Costa-Gavras could stand comparison with Lino Brocka! Brocka garnered enough inter­ national prestige in the 1984 Cannes event to put Philippine cinema an—foremost in Brocka’s priorities— Philippine politics in the limelight.

There is something more to this “po­litical tool”of a film. It is, more than his previ­ ous films are, a personal film. As Brocka unwinds the story o f the film ’s making, that story gets entangled with the story of Brocka’s po­litical development, and soon you realize that the two stories are of one weave. And you be­ gin to agree with Brocka that the story of the film ’s protagonist creates so many resonances in his personal life. Then it only seems logical for Brocka to be uninclined to make distinc­tions between the film’s artistry and its poli­tics.

The background story for Kapit is based on a strike waged in 1970 by 30 employees of Pan-Asia, a small company “No earthshaking event,”says Brocka, “but it was for the workers a matter of life and death.” Screenwriter Pete Lacaba, at that time a writer for Asia Philippines Leader, covered the strike and exposed the harassment done on the workers. For the film, he inte­ grated that story with another news item: a hos­tage case resulting in a shootout between gang­sters and police.

Turing, the protagonist, played by a Brocka favorite, Phillip Salvador, is a printing press employee whose fellow employees are on strike. He sympathizes with them, but he does not join the strike because o f personal considerations: his wife is pregnant and he is deep in debt. He chooses to become a scab. When that doesn’t suffice, he goes along with theft. Too late he realizes that in such a given system, no individual stand, for sur­vival or for justice, can prosper.

As for Brocka, he declares that he can, with clear conscience, recall no act on his part that can be tagged as cooperation with government poli­cies. Such a stand, however, he now sees as very much like Turing’s: an individual stand. He has recently realized, Brocka says, the need to inte­grate one’s individual stand with a united effort. He only hopes that, unlike Turing’s, his realiza­tion has not come too late.

The Concerned Artists of the Philippines,of which Brcka is a founding member, is proof of this realization. “The artists have to unite,”says Brocka. Obviously this need is echoed in the minds of many artists. So it was that the movement that started out as a reaction to film censorship balloned out to a program of concern about other issues.

Brocka made Kapit beneath the gloss of some sex-dramas he was known to be doing. Going two ways at the same time could have driven anyone schizophrenic and there was yet another complication. Brocka was constantly being asked to speak at rallies and meetings, to marshal assembly points or to man negotiation panels.

Kapit’s first day of shooting was also a critical day of the August Twenty One Movement’s (ATOM) Tarlac-to-Tarmac Run. Brocka was chairman of the Manila welcoming committee, the group “that had to face the trun­cheons and the soldiers.” Brocka’s friend Pierre Rissient (French critic and director), who was act­ing as adviser and devil’s advocate of sorts, was hammering him to “concentrate, concentrate.”On the film of course. Also doing some hammering was Lacaba, his scriptwriter. Brocka was forced to negotiate a delicate balancing act, giving over some of his organizational responsibilities to Lacaba.

Then came Lakbayan, the boycott movement’s May action. The closer the boycotters inched toward Manila, the more Brocka was pressured into involvement and responsibility. By then Rissient was breathing down his neck, pry­ing into his schedule, questioning the night shootings which Brocka had arranged in order to accommodate his political activities. Rissient at last put the question to him: “Will you shoot or will you join the rally?” How could he choose? “Both,”said Brocka.

Hoping to bring Rissient over to his point of view, Brocka took him to Binan, San Pedro, and Alabang—stopover and rally points for lakbayan South. Almost praying for a mild epi­demic to engulf his actors for at least that shoot­ing night, Brocka dragged the Frenchman through those arduous kilometers. The sight of marchers who were bravely and determinedly ex­pressing a unified protest could show Rissient a whole lot of precious lessons, Brocka was think­ing. Including this pertinent lesson: that it was important “for the people to know that the artist is one with them.”That at that point, Brocka, who had given the Filipino several films that spoke of the Filipino’s plight, was most effective in putting across the artist’s message to the people.

Rissient finally seemed to understand Brocka’s point.

Kapit Patalim (Bayan Ko) has been invited to open the Toronto Film Festival. It will also be in the London festival, despite the written ob­ jections of a certain Alexander Walker, who tagged the film as “just another one of Brocka’s Tondo melodramas.”Walker is, for very vague reasons, a long-standing adversary of Brocka. The Tokyo festival will also screen Brocka’s film before it returns to the Philippines. It is hoped it will finally be screened in Manila’s theaters— if censorship laws do not bar its way.

— excerpted from Sotto, Agustin L. and Pet Cleto. “Two Filipino Films Make Waves in France. Philippine Panorama, 2 December 1984. From The Urian Anthology, 1980-1989, ed. Nicanor Tiongson.

2.86GB | 1h 49m | 792×576 | mkv


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