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Bamboo Dogs | Khavn de la Cruz

At the GIFF’s “Salle des territoires virtuels” in Geneva we could meet Khavn de la Cruz and discuss with him, for example, Rez Cortez’ liberating and sublimating dancing and singing in the epilogue, or Khavn de la Cruz’ work on the screenplay and editing, and discover his artistic multiversity and how this has an influence on his filmmaking.

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1986: the Philippine military “creates” a paramilitary group, later named Kuratong Baleleng, to illegally dispute the communist guerrilla. 1995: Kuratong Baleleng has become a powerful crime syndicate, largely collaborating with the Philippine police, but the forces of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission, led by Panfilo Lacson perpetrate the massacre of 11 of its members, amongst which a teenager. 2016: Panfilo Lacson is re-elected as senator. 2017: in Rodrigo Duterte’s self-defined “war on drugs”, a police raid kills the Mayor of Ozamiz Reynaldo Parojinog, one of the last representatives of the Parojinog’s family, leader of the declining Kuratong Baleleng’s syndicate. 2016: after two films on the 1995 massacre, Khavn de la Cruz starts shooting his Bamboo Dogs.

This limited selection of dates and facts introduces the political background of a movie that is not very informative, as it is shot entirely from the point of view of the protagonists of the massacre, where executioners and victims end up being reconsidered simply as people, fundamentally weak and powerless individuals. The story is almost entirely set in the van that will host the last journey of the members of the criminal gang, and in the Manila night, a camera that is very close to them provides a highly empathic effect. Some sequences – especially the one depicting the feelings of the dying teenager – give the impression of being in the mind of the characters, though the subjective standpoint is not limited to an individual but wanders, changing the persons’ perspectives and following very different tempos. The result is a powerfully immersive and authentic filmic experience – something that has to be lived more than talked about.


Text: Giuseppe Di Salvatore | Audio/Video: Ruth Baettig

First published: November 18, 2018

Bamboo Dogs | Film | Khavn de la Cruz | PHL 2018 | 80’ | GIFF Genève 2018

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