×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Birdshot’

The second feature by young Filipino filmmaker Mikhail Red ("Rekorder") is a gripping combination of police procedural and coming-of-age drama.

Director:
Mikhail Red
With:
Arnold Reyes, Mary Joy Apostol, John Arcilla, Manuel Acquino, Dido de la Paz, Elora Espano, Rolando Inocencio, Ronnie Quizon.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6135042/

Tenderness and brutality exist side-by-side in “Birdshot,” the impressive second feature by young Filipino filmmaker Mikhail Red (“Rekorder”). Intertwining the stories of a farm girl who unwittingly kills a protected bird and an idealistic rookie cop who succumbs to corruption during a missing persons investigation, Red delivers a compelling study in the loss of innocence while also offering potent commentary on the state of things in the Philippines. Still enjoying a successful festival run that began with the Best Asian Future award at Tokyo, “Birdshot” opens domestically on Aug. 16 and is well worth the attention of distributors elsewhere.

In a refreshing change from city-based tales of corruption that are a fixture of Filipino cinema, “Birdshot” unfolds in lush countryside surrounding a sanctuary for the haribon (Philippine eagle). Since being declared the national bird in 1995, this species has become critically endangered by the deforestation of its natural habitats. Killing a haribon is punishable by lengthy prison terms and hefty fines.

Diego Mariano (Manuel Acquino) works as caretaker of the land around the sanctuary, and is also the widowed father of 14-year-old Maya (Mary Joy Apostol), a sensitive girl who’s just experienced her first period and whose mother died in childbirth. The girl tells her father she wants to see the world beyond their isolated shack, but in the meantime, Diego wants Maya to become self-sufficient should anything happen to him. After fumbling her first shooting lesson, Maya takes Diego’s rifle into the sanctuary and mistakenly kills a haribon.

Also entering new and dangerous territory is Domingo (Arnold Reyes, “Graceland”), a rookie cop and proud new father who’s just arrived in the area. While investigating the disappearance of a busload of farmers en route to Manila with grievances about unfair treatment, Domingo is ordered to drop the case. According to his cynical partner Mendoza (John Arcilla, “Heneral Luna”) and their fearsome local commander, de la Paz (Dido de la Paz), all that matters now is finding the haribon’s killer.

Using the missing persons case to draw parallels with the still-unresolved Maguindanao bus massacre of 2009, Red and co-writer Rae Red (also his cousin) leave no doubt that Domingo’s orders are politically motivated and involve high-level corruption. In this outpost where malfeasance is endemic, it means authorities have deemed the life of an animal to be worth more than the lives of humans. As Mendoza tells Domingo, “These are the cases we solve here.”

Following threats to the safety of his unnamed wife (Elora Espano) and ominous stares from fellow officers, Domingo buckles dramatically. As if to leave no doubt he’s now on the same page as everyone else, he commits sickening acts of violence upon Diego when the latter is brought in for questioning and eventually winds up in a cell with detainees planning a breakout. The question of whether Domingo is feigning compliance and will ultimately emerge as a hero is cleverly left open until deep into the drama.

The brutality around Domingo is in stark contrast to elegantly composed sequences that show Maya sensing danger and retreating into the forest at night when her father fails to return. At various moments, Maya is watched by figures wearing robes and masks, as if they might be spirits observing her passage to womanhood and guiding her to the world beyond this isolated backwoods. These enriching excursions into magic realism are beautifully composed and expertly edited into the narrative.

Filmed in earthy tones with splashes of red in significant items of clothing and set decoration, “Birdshot” is wonderfully well directed and performed. Impressive newcomer Apostol has a magnetic screen presence and holds her own in the company of reliable pros Reyes and Arcilla. Haunting soundscapes by composer Teresa Barozzo, a frequent collaborator of Brillante Mendoza, rounds out the film’s classy technical presentation.

Film Review: ‘Birdshot’

Reviewed at BiFan Film Festival (World Fantastic Red), July 19, 2017. (Also in Tokyo, Goteborg, Osaka Asian, Titanic Hungary, Vilnius, Taipei, Cinemalaya, New York Asian film festivals.) Running time: 116 MIN.

Production: (The Philippines) A Solar Pictures release of a TBA Studios, Tuko Film Productions, Buchi Boy Films, CJ Entertainment presentation of a PelikulaRED Production, with the support of Doha Film Institute, Asian Project Market. (International sales: PelikulaRED, Manila; TBA Productions, Manila.) Producer: Pamela L. Reyes. Executive producers: Reyes, Mikhail Red, Fernando Ortigas, E. A. Rocha. Co–executive producers: Maricris Calilung, Ting Nebrida.

Crew: Director: Mikhail Red. Screenplay: Rae Red, Mikhail Red. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Mycko David. Editors: Jay Halili, Mikhail Red. Music: Teresa Barrozo.

With: Arnold Reyes, Mary Joy Apostol, John Arcilla, Manuel Acquino, Dido de la Paz, Elora Espano, Rolando Inocencio, Ronnie Quizon.

More Film

  • Greek Films Under the Spotlight as

    Greek Films Under the Spotlight as Thessaloniki Goes to Cannes

    CANNES–Five projects by Greek filmmakers were presented Monday at Thessaloniki Goes to Cannes, the Cannes Film Market’s pix-in-post industry showcase supported by the Thessaloniki Intl. Film Festival. The third edition shined a spotlight on dynamic new fiction features whose producers are currently in Cannes looking for festival premieres, sales agents and distribution. Thessaloniki Intl. Film [...]

  • Martin Rejtman'Seymour: An Introduction' film premiere

    Martín Rejtman To Direct ‘The Practice’ – Five Countries To Produce

    CANNES — Argentina’s La Unión de los Ríos, Portugal’s Rosa Films –a co-producer on Albert Serra’s Un Certain Regard entry “Liberté”– Chile’s Forastero, Netherlands’ The Film Kitchen, Germany’s Pandora Films and Mexico’s Interior XIII have teamed to co-produce “The Practice” from Argentine director-screenwriter and writer Martín Rejtman (“Silvia Prieto,” “The Magic Gloves”). A pedigree multi-lateral [...]

  • Apollo 11

    Film News Roundup: 'Armstrong' Doc Set for Release on 50th Anniversary of Moon Landing

    In today’s film news roundup, a Neil Armstrong documentary and “The Invisible Man” get release dates, “Forrest Gump” and “Saving Private Ryan” get re-released and Patrick Fugit gets cast. RELEASE DATES Gravitas Ventures has bought worldwide rights to the Neil Armstrong documentary “Armstrong” and will open the film on July 12 in theaters and on [...]

  • Inside Goop's Wellness Summit With Gwyneth

    Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop Summit Proves Hollywood Retirement Is Working for Her

    Across the country on Saturday, movie theaters sold over $12 million in tickets to “Avengers: Endgame,” helping it amass $771 million in the U.S. since its release in April. On the same day, in a stunning urban greenhouse complex in DTLA, the film’s supporting star Gwyneth Paltrow counted tickets of her own — pricey, perk-loaded [...]

  • Johnny Depp

    Johnny Depp's Ex-Lawyers Claim He Owes $350,000

    Johnny Depp was hit with a $350,000 lawsuit on Monday from a law firm that claims he has not paid his bills. Depp retained Buckley LLP in the fall of 2017 to sue his former entertainment law firm, Bloom Hergott LLP, which he accused of pocketing $30 million in fees without a written agreement. Three [...]

  • Keanu Reeves stars as 'John Wick'

    'John Wick 4' Confirmed With a 2021 Release Date

    John Wick will be back in exactly two years and a day. Lionsgate announced Monday that it has scheduled “John Wick 4” for May 21, 2021. The studio made the announcement via a text message to fans: “You have served. You will be of service. John Wick: Chapter 4 is coming – May 21, 2021.” [...]

  • Krysanne Katsoolis Sets Up Viewpark With

    Krysanne Katsoolis Sets Up Viewpark With $200 Million Fund

    Veteran film industry executive Krysanne Katsoolis has launched Viewpark, which will finance, package and release high-end film and TV content. Viewpark has partnered with former Wall Street executive Keith Price’s Obsidian Asset Management to create a multi-million dollar fund for the production and marketing of its slate, Katsoolis told Variety. Obsidian, based in London and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content