Director: Pepe Diokno
Script: Pepe Diokno
Cast: Felix Roco, Zyrus Desamperado, Daniel Medramc, Eda Nolan, Bayang Barrios
Running time: 59 minutes
Inspired by true events, Clash (aka Engkwentro) tells the story of two brothers, Richard and Raymond, who both live in a rough ghetto in the Philippines where ‘life is cheap but toilet paper… is expensive’, to quote the title of another film (1989).
Richard is the older brother and is leader of a street gang who deal in drugs and women, and generally make a nuisance of themselves. But Richard wants a better life for himself and his girlfriend, Jenny-Jane (Eda Nolan) and is planning on escaping the ghetto with her and heading off, by boat, to Manila to join Richard’s mother.
He’s also increasingly concerned about his younger brother, who is flunking school to hang out with his mates, and who also seems to be heading into a life of crime, but with a different gang. Richard tries to steer his younger brother onto a different path, but Raymond is set on joining a gang and is looking to impress the leader. Richard becomes even more worried when he sees his brother with a gun… And worried he should be as Raymond has been tasked with killing his older brother in order to show his commitment to the gang that he wants to join.
I was hoping to really like Clash and hoped it would turn out to be another sort of City of God type of film. Alas, writer/director Diokno is no Fernandos Meirelles or Katia Lund. For a start the two leads don’t have the sort of charisma that the street kids in Meirelles’s film had, and Dioko’s filming style is just not as interesting as that often seen in many other ‘coming of age’ movies of similar ilk.
Clash is shot in a hand-held, shaky-cam style that quickly grates on the nerves, and the sound is a little rough at times too. There’s also way too much ‘chasing characters along the narrow back-alleys of the slums where the brothers live’ and not enough characterisation or ‘plot’ for that matter. Initially it’s quite exciting and interesting, but after 20 minutes of the same thing one’s patience is tested. In fact Diokno’s camera is never still, it’s always moving and sometimes this makes it quite tricky to see what’s actually happening. Avoid this film if you suffer from motion sickness!
The film certainly comes across as being very genuine and paints, what I’m sure is, a very accurate picture of the misery and squalor that so many of the poorer Filipinos live in. Everyone we meet in the film is on the breadline and it really is a world of ‘dog eat dog’, with every man or woman for themselves. Sadly, while child killers roam the streets and alleyways, and the poor get poorer by the day, the country’s dictorial leader keeps rabbiting on, in numerous news broadcasts, on just how good everyone’s got it, and how they should all be grateful to him!
The film ends with some grim statistics, including the fact the everyday at least one person is murdered in the Philippines (mostly children), often due to supposed vigilante attacks, although the Philippine government deny the existence of such vigilante gangs.
Sadly, although I found the film to be quite insightful, shedding light on a part of the world that many of us will (thankfully?) never experience, Clash was somewhat of a disappointment, with little in the way of a story or tolerable filmmaking. Thankfully it was, at least, very short…
Simply Media are distributing Clash (Engkwentro) on DVD. There were no extras on the disc.