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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Film Review: ‘Dukot’ (Desaparacidos) echoes human rights abuses in the Philippines

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Dukot by Joel C. LamanganBy Reyvi Mariñas

It has been forty-years now since the Marcos regime declared martial law in the Philippines and many activists and individuals who had been tagged as ‘the enemy of the state’ have been jailed, tortured, and at worst, have been brutally killed or mysteriously disappeared.

After four decades of succeeding presidencies, the spectre of the Marcos dictatorship still remains where the deliberate use of ‘terror’ as a “legitimate and highly effective tool of unconventional warfare” (to use Bobby Tuazon’s words) has become the usual norm, if not the official state policy, against left-leaning activists and progressive groups in the country.

Written by Palanca Awardee Bonifacio Ilagan and directed by a multi-award winner director Joel Lamangan, the film ‘Dukot’ squarely depicts the political reality of today’s human rights abuses in the Philippines.

It deeply portrays the alarming phenomena of the so-called extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances of militant activists, journalists, clergymen, and government critics since Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came into power in 2001.

At present, there are ninety-nine (99) extra judicial killings on the occasion of President Noynoy Aquino’s second year in office (Karapatan, June 2012).

And amidst the introduction of cybercrime law and continuous political killings in the country today, the film ‘Dukot’ is a timely movie that would truly ‘disturb’ and ‘shock’ the Australian audience out of their comfort zones.

The story revolved around the two young activists Junix Etrata (played by Allen Dizon) and his girlfriend Maricel Salvacruz (played by Iza Calzado) who were abducted by security forces, tortured and subjected to inhumane and degrading conditions.
Equally commending were the daring roles played by Gina Alajar, Robert Arevalo, and Raquel Villavicencio, who portrayed the agony of parents waiting and searching for their missing children.

More so, the film resonates a true-to-life story of those who were abducted and tortured such as that of Pastor Berlin Guerrero of the Uniting Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), who has sought an asylum and is now living in Melbourne, Australia.

‘Dukot’ indeed is a very difficult, yet convincing, film to watch; but as previous reviews of the film points-out: “What makes it more difficult to accept is the fact that these inhuman acts are still happening in our society”.

Allen Dizon, the leading actor, together with the producer, Dennis Evangelista, will be in the Melbourne film showing of ‘Dukot’ this month.

Garnering several FAMAS Awards in 2010 including Best Film, Best Director (Joel Lamangan) and Best Actor (Allen Dizon), ‘Dukot’ was shown last 25-27 October in Melbourne. The film showing was co-organised by the Philippines-Australia Cultural Interaction Network (PACIN) and ATD Entertainment Productions.

Reyvi Mariñas is a Human Rights Lawyer and a PhD Candidate at Monash University Law School. He is now completing his dissertation on overseas Filipino identity and political participation in Australia.

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