TUHOG (Jeffrey Jeturian)

Film within a film-structured movies are always interesting watch. Not only do they provide a much-needed deconstruction of form and content of cinema itself, but also that much-needed emotional punch a cinephile would surely love. 

Like in BAD EDUCATION (Almodovar, 2004), we witness the characters tell the back story via montage, as if we are part of the cast of characters watching an actual movie. The form was successful in evoking pain and regret, and also of empathy.

In TUHOG, Jeffrey Jeturian and screenwriter Bing Lao tackles sensational media in the Philippines, especially in cinema. The film opens as a film producer hears a pitch for a possible movie- a story of a grandfather who rapes his own granddaughter. 

The director of the film soon after visits the victim of the crime, Floring (Ina Raymundo). Coercing both she and her mother, Perla (Irma Adlawan) to sell them the movie rights to their story, we witness as exploitation cinema unfolds. To think of it, capitalizing on taboo (and morally sensitive) subjects such as incest for commercial value is crossing the line to begin with. 

We then see Floring and Perla relay the story of the events that led to the heinous crime, intercut with what transpires on film: in the finished product, Klaudia Koronel plays Jasmin (the Floring character) while Jaclyn Jose is Violeta (representing Perla); Dante Rivero is Amang, the culprit. 

I expected a Carlo J. level of sensationalism in the fictional film "HAYOK SA LAMAN", the output which Floring, Perla, and the school teachers from their community watches in the theater. I was surprised. The treatment for the film-within-a-film is a cross between Seiko Films circa 1990s and THE SHINING (but this would be unfair to THE SHINING). I was laughing mad by the film's second half.

All players are thrilling to watch in TUHOG- Ina Raymundo is the quintessential victim; Irma Adlawan channels quiet rage; Dante Rivero is hateable (the desired effect) and his real-life counterpart, Nante Montreal is cruel and authoritative. 

And yet, the one I noticed and loved the most was Jaclyn Jose. Playing a representation of the real-life mother forced to watch as her daughter suffers the same fate as hers in the hands of the cruel patriarch, Jose renders a convincing and forceful turn while also maintaining to be funny on occasion. That tree scene in the backyard where Jaclyn Jose conceals a corpse gets top award for the film's best moment in my book. 

In a larger context, TUHOG clearly defines what is provocative and what is obscene, and in order for this satire to work everything exaggerated about the subject has been brought up, from the excessive and gratuitous sex up to the tweaking of facts for dramatization purposes. Acting as a statement to the audience, TUHOG tells us to know which from which, eventually posing a challenge that once we have already defined the glitch in our film industry, what are we going to do about it?



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