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.