“Children are the future of every nation”
– a hypothetical slogan of the film Haze (Hamog)
Before leaving for the Moscow Film Festival I met one of my fellow countrymen in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, whom I hadn’t seen for two and a half years. He told me that his wife had accepted a job offer with the Asian Development Bank, whose headquarters are in Manila, Philippines.
“Are you happy with your life in Manila?”I asked. “We took the decision to move after some consideration,” my compatriot responded. “We moved to Manila for the future of our three children. All of the employees of this bank get excellent social benefits packages, which guarantee many privileges in life. We are happy. Our children are getting excellent education,”
The Filipino director Ralston Jover planned to shoot a documentary and present stories of children who were expelled to the streets by their own parents. In order to survive, these children were stealing and committing other crimes. Jover was told a stunning story of a Muslim boy, Rashid, who, despite all the circumstances, had organized the funeral of his Christian friend, Moy, who was runover by a car. “I was shocked by these human stories, full of so much humanism. I decided to shoot a feature film,” Jover said at a press conference during the 38th Moscow International Film Festival, on June 28, 2016.
Audiences at the Festival were shocked by the very fact of Filipino children outside the forced to live away from their families: it is well known that the county has a tradition of maintaining big, sturdy families in which even third-cousins are considered close kin. Jover’s Haze was included in the Festival’s main competition. Street-dwelling child offenders are called “batang mamog,” which means “children of the dew.” The film offers portraits of four characters: the aforementioned Rashid and Moy, as well as the daring Jinki and the drug-addicted Tisoy. They live in a pipeline by a river.
One of them, Rashid, is invited to his big family’s table. He has several step-mothers. But Rashid’s father,for some reason, hates Rashid’s mother, and repeatedly vents his anger.
Unlike Rashid, Jinki is not allowed even on the threshold of her house, where her crazy mother drives the girl away, though she was brought there by social workers.
The youngest of the friends, Moy, is a romantic, with a poetic perception of the world; every morning he greets the sunrise, recites wassails to the freshness of the morning, and tries to awaken a sense of beauty in his companions. Rashid tries to sharein Moy’s emotional mood, but Jinki and Tisoy are indifferent to his ecstatic reveries.
Lanky Tisoy is permanently under the influence of psychotropic substances and therefore he often sees improbably bright, fabulous, rather lurid images, in which a “super goddess” rules a parallel world.
During another episode, Jinki is caught stealing the money from a cab-driver. The driver takes her to the police station, but law enforcement officers cannot do anything in relation to the girl. According to Jover, Filipino law forbids arresting juvenile delinquents. Children are sent instead to special social centers to be re-educated. Then they are sent home—and inevitably return to the streets. Currently, the new Filipino government is developing a law that will decrease the age of criminal liability to nine years. Jover believes if this law is passed, things will only get worse. He remembers the hopeless times, when five-year-old children were sent to prison.
Jinki finds herself with the cab-driver’s family, who try to re-educate her. Having lived in the cabbie’s house for some time, working as a maid, Jinki realizes that “someone else’s family is darkness indeed.” In the end, Jinki poisons her hosts. Some critics were shocked by the calm of the girl as she murders three people at once. Jover rightly replied, “the criminal plan was formed in the mind of the girl, when she realized that the world she got into was much worse of the one she used to live in before.”
Jinki is played by the young but already well-known Filipino actress Teri (Therese) Malvar, who was awarded by a Silver George for the Best Actress at the Festival.
When asked, “What to do in the situation of a vicious circle in your film?” Jover quoted the famous Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf: “The only way of fighting is to make a movie!”
Edited by José Teodoro
© FIPRESCI 2016