Jiro Manio, Kristoffer King, Coco Martin, Nathan Lopez, Jaclyn Jose
Kinetic, closeup life on the streets, Manilastyle.
?This film moves fast – appropriately enough, for a director whose dazzling productivity and distinctive style is rapidly winning him a strong international profile. We are also screening Brillante Mendoza’s Foster Child (p 62); his newest film, Serbis, played in competition at Cannes. Slingshot continues Foster Child’s project of weaving a narrative into the frenetic, day-to-day life of the Manila slums, which is captured close-up and candidly using concealed portable cameras. But if the focus of Foster Child is intimate and emotional, Slingshot captures a harder and more dangerous side of street life. From its heart-in-mouth opening, which follows a nocturnal police raid through a labyrinthine slum complex, we go on to witness a wild array of interconnected incidents involving the characters who scatter from the police torches. They lead hand-to-mouth lives, and Mendoza’s roving narrative takes in the breadth of the hustle and flow – from exhilarating stealing sprees and sexual infidelities, to the high-minded speeches of the campaigning politicians to whom poverty is merely an agenda item (and whose distance and irrelevance emphasises the hermetic self-enclosure of slum life). Mendoza’s close-up style commands that the characters’ concerns become our own; so absorbed are we in the detail of these lives that the loss of a prized set of dentures becomes as nailbiting as an armed standoff. Many have attempted to capture life “guerilla-style” since the landmark of John Cassavetes’ Shadows in 1959, and such efforts commonly result in self-consciousness and heightened theatricality. Mendoza, however, displays a rare skill for the seamless integration of planned and spontaneous action, with the result that Slingshot feels almost uncomfortably close to documentary reality. According to the traditions and assumptions of art cinema, films that depict action in “real time” are slow, but Mendoza’s brand of neo-realism is hyper-kinetic, enabled by technology that permits a very active form of observation.
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