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Private Wars

Philippine filmmaker Nick Deocampo searches for the father who abandoned his family some years before in "Private Wars." Somewhat overloaded agenda-wise, featurette works best as a straightforward docu investigation of personal history, whereas attempts to incorporate political-tract elements, and crude dramatic sequences, are much less successful. Specialized educational programmers and gay fests might find helmer's story intriguing enough to overlook those flaws. His own father beheaded by invading Japanese soldiers in 1942, Leonardo Deocampo joined anti-Axis guerrilla forces as a teen; such early violent experiences led to later alcoholism and a schizoid, often abusive relationship with wife and children. The family still debates whether Dad walked out one day due to marital squabbles, illness or underground political activism.

With:
With: Behn Cervantes, Majella Palacios, Michael Macabebe, Norman Cossip, Evelyn Vargas, Marlevic Violeta.

Manila-based helmer travels back to his hometown to follow a faint trail, with relatives and bystanders offering conflicting leads on his father’s current whereabouts. (He’s never found.) Intercut with these segs are home-movie

snippets, archival footage and some staged “reconstructions” of family traumas.

Latter are not at all stylistically differentiated from rest of pic, making for awkward, melodramatic impact when an actor playing Leonardo drunkenly threatens “young Nick” at gunpoint in a classroom, when the grandfather’s head

bloodily rolls into a river, when “infant Nick” (an obvious doll) is thrown from his cradle, and so forth. Deocampo’s pretentious, often repetitious (English-language) narration also grows overbearing as he draws blunt parallels

between family trials and the Philippines’ long history of colonialist exploitation.

Late in progress, helmer brings his homosexuality to the forefront, again trying to lend political and cultural significance to personal angst. While his points are valid enough, “Private Wars” is too self-pitying, and too

unsophisticated in structure, to juggle so many elements within its hybrid docudrama-diary form.

Nevertheless, pic holds value as an expression of the direct impact larger events maintain over individual lives. Tech work is acceptable on a verite level, though acting and staging of dramatic fragments never rise above amateur level.

Private Wars

PHILIPPINE

Production: An NHK Enterprises production. Produced by Nidaira Masao. Directed, written by Nick Deocampo.

Crew: Camera (color, 16mm), Luis Quirino; editors, Fred De Leon, Deocampo; music, Joey Ayala; sound, Emmanuel Clemente; production design, Rei M. Nicandro. Reviewed on videocassette, San Francisco, Feb. 23, 1997. (In S.F. Asian American Film Festival.) Running time: 66 MIN.

With: With: Behn Cervantes, Majella Palacios, Michael Macabebe, Norman Cossip, Evelyn Vargas, Marlevic Violeta.

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