Apathy. Hipocrisy. There are real demons in the society.
Hustisya, one of the five feature films under the Director’s Showcase of Cinemalaya this year, showcased the acting prowess of the Philippine superstar, Nora Aunor, as helmed by acclaimed director, Joel Lamangan. She stars as Biring, an efficient member in a human trafficking syndicate controlled by some powerful men in the society.
A middle-aged woman who revolves her life with her work in the syndicate, her best friend and her family, Biring is a one-of-a-kind character (thanks, in part to Ricky Lee’s great writing). Despite having a key role in their human trafficking operations, she seems to care about the people they victimize. Shown as religious and a devout Catholic, she seems apologetic about her own sins. However, in her line of work, she sees and hears no evil. Conscience visits her once in a while, but the system where she and everyone’s a part of keeps on dictating her what she has to do. In the end, what will really matter to her? Her family? Her money? The system? Or her soul?
The movie is a clear cut portrayal of the evils of Manila. While a very few lavish in its riches, a whole lot wallow in the mud. Life in the city is compared to how a frog preys on a mosquito. The former must wait patiently while deceiving the latter it is a part of the surrounding. When the right moment comes, the frog eats the mosquito. This is similar to life in the capital: be victimized or be the victimizer. Such analogy represents the kind of world many of us live in.
Joel Lamangan is able to capture Aunor at her sometimes antsy, sometimes cool and collected demeanor for her character. Biring’s hard to portray as she jumps over the thin line of what is good or bad. Lamangan makes sure Aunor’s able to show the ambiguity that she is. Moreover, I like how he stages Aunor’s character with what others call her money shots in the film. Thankfully, he does not only take good care of his lead star. Hustisya’s supporting cast is also made good, especially Rosanna Roces (whose portrayal of Biring’s best friend and one of the heads of the syndicate brought about amusement and wonder) and Rocco Nacino (who’s a revelation in the film as the soulless lawyer/member of the syndicate).
I am not a fan of some initial scenes where blurred shots of Nora and Manila are being screened. Moreover, a little more care could have been done not only in the camerawork, but some uneven lines in the screenplay. The pacing is a bit inconsistent, but the duration of the film surely made up for it.
Hustisya is one of those Filipino films that are really heavy to watch as it tackles real-life atrocities that real people do. This makes it hard for some people to even see. But I doubt it was filmed for everyone. What Hustisya and other movies of its kind need is the appropriate audience to look at what it tries to portray, listen to what it has to say and act upon what should be done.
Hustisya’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4 out of 5
After watching the film, I realized that real justice cannot be served here in this world.