GIVE UP TOMORROW (Michael Collins, Marty Syjuco, 2011)
Perhaps the most disturbing film of the year, GIVE UP TOMORROW centers around Francisco "Paco" Larranaga, who was 19 at the time he was arrested for the charges of kidnapping, rape, and murder of sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong in 1997. He and six other boys who were members of prominent families were rounded up, and the media was quick to put a verdict.
I was ten years old when this occurred, and up until now I am not familiar with the incident (what rock was I hiding all these years?). As it turns out, the Chiong sisters' disappearance (and murder?) and the circus trial of the seven accused, including Larranaga may in fact be the ultimate test of the Philippine justice system. Told through file videos, relying heavily on facts of the case, and supplemented by interviews with Paco's family and friends, as well as journalists who stood watch, and lawyers from opposing sides- filmmakers Michael Collins and Marty Syjuco documents a decade's worth of trial and drama for a film's running time.
One cannot fault the filmmakers from being one-sided, and one may even argue that the accused were so heavily put down by the media and by the cruel justice system of ours that the one-sided treatment of GIVE UP TOMORROW in favor of the accused is justifiable. There are attempts though to give the accusers some words on video, but majority of the content is laying the cards in favor of the accused.
I liked GIVE UP TOMORROW for its firm stance on justice, and the way the interviews and videos were edited evoked from me a combined feeling of rage, dismay, and melancholia. Sad thing, the filmmakers either forgot or did not properly label the file videos they used, and upon much thought and upon hearing what other people have to say, I now agree that showcasing Mrs. Chiong in a later scene where she appears to have lost her mind, is self-serving and too much. An officemate said, "okay, we get it already".
The film's strength draws heavily from Mimi Larranaga (Paco's sister). Mimi is a compelling case study and resource person. Being a natural outspoken character and someone who is so close to the facts of the case, Mimi draws us a picture of what it was like being involved in a tragic incident that spanned more than a decade. You'd want to listen to her.
If the allegations in the documentary are true, such as policemen involved in the case getting promoted because of a grand farce they participated in, then the documentary should make you punch the guy sitting next to you in the theater. Then again, the keyword is in the film's title. Like Paco, when we think about giving up, we should say "Give Up Tomorrow", and on and on and on.
Gladly the film still took a hopeful perspective amidst all the horror. Otherwise it would have been entitled "Bloody Justice" or "The Circus", or some other vengeful or cynical words that can ever be put together.