Inspired by true events, Dayang Asu (Dognation) narrates a disturbing reality inherently familiar to us all. We live in a society that has corruption as an integral part of its system from the richest of the rich to the poorest of the poor. Perhaps some are innocent, but most of us, one way or another, have taken advantage of someone. A close friend, a student (teacher), a boss (an employee) or a traffic enforcer. The sad part is we don’t feel guilty about it, for in our own version of the truth, we are just surviving. Our moral grounds are subject to our personal needs and desires. A dog-eat-dog world ‘ika nga.
The film was supposedly an entry to Cinemalaya two years ago but, due to funding issues, production stopped. (Googling, I found an old trailer of the previous version of the film, which had an English title that I loved: “In Pampanga, We Eat Dogs”. I wish I knew about this film sooner. Tsk.) Fast forward to now, the script found its way to Cinema One Originals and last November 10 (gala night), it officially premiered. I attended the gala night and even joined in during the Q&A. I don’t usually participate in Q&As but, that night, I was so elated by the film I just had to confirm my thoughts. I asked if an alternate ending was considered, even though I absolutely loved the ending. What struck me was how passionate the director Bor Ocampo was with his response. No wonder the film was so powerful. More movies please!
Beautifully shot in the province of Pampanga, the film introduces us to Tonton (Junjun Quintana) a diligent out of college youth working for his father, Peping (Ricky Davao), a good son and kuya to Jeljel (Inna Tuason). He also cooks the best kalderetang aso (well, according to his father). Working alongside Tonton in the quarry are three other men whose names I don’t recall, except for Bor (if I remember correctly), who is named after the director I guess.
Peping and his men are tasked by the mayor to cook him kalderetang aso for his birthday. Side note: When I was 8, I witnessed my pet dog, Douglas, killed, cooked and eaten. 🙁 As they complete this task, they are exposed to different scenarios displaying their lack of moral judgment and revealing their corrupt selves. One particular scene (that is part of the trailer) is when Peping’s driver backs up and hits a parked jeepney. Obviously, the jeepney driver is not at fault, but Peping is able to turn the tables around, just like that. Like cancer, the film slowly destroys each character. (And I now realize that the pace of the film is a figurative device. WOW!) Scene by scene, we discover how broken the system is.
Not that I need to mention it, the performance of the cast is outstanding. Ricky Davao and Junjun Quintana are not native Kapampangan speakers but their performances are as authentic as it gets (at least to a non-Kapampangan speakers’ ears, like mine). Ricky Davao is a veteran to these types of roles and, as expected, he delivers. He always does. Junjun Quintana, one of my faves, has always been a reliable actor. More projects for this guy, please! Elora Españo of Ninja Party, also has a small non-speaking role. I actually didn’t realize it was her until I read the programme.
As an audience member during the gala night commented, the cinematography is nearly perfect. The buildup is slow but certainly not dragging. Everything is intentional. There are no unnecessary shots. Transitions are smooth like the one where the camera pans out to an aerial shot of the city hall transitioning to the scene of the governor’s children playing with a remote-control helicopter. Writing this down now also makes me realize how many figurative devices are in the movie. *sings* It’s all coming back to me now…
More importantly, the film delivers a message which is still very much relevant today. In elementary, we are taught to always follow the rules and always do the right thing. The real world, however, hinders us from doing so. Nakasanayan na eh. We justify the little things we do to the point that they become our truths. The cycle goes on.
The challenge lies in our hands. Will we ever break this cycle?
Dayang Asu (Dog Nation)
Director: Bor Ocampo
Cast: Ricky Davao, Junjun Quintana, Inna Tuason, Lui Manansala, Bernard Laxa, Elora Españo
Synopsis: “Amidst legalized corruption, a son proves to his father that he is fit to survive in a dog-eat-dog world.”
Catch Dayang Asu and the other films in Cinema One Originals Festival 2015 until November 17. #C1Orginals #KakaibaKaBa
UPDATE: Albert Banzon was awarded Best Cinematography for Dayang Asu.