‘Balangiga: Howling Wilderness’ is a morbid and surreal take on PHL-US war Featured

‘Balangiga: Howling Wilderness’ is a morbid and surreal take on PHL-US war

Controversy crept on "Balangiga: Howling Wilderness" following its premiere at the 2017 Quezon City International Film Festival (QCinema).
To Director Khavn De La Cruz's consternation, QCinema changed the film's rating from general patronage to R13 "without due process." The Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) also condemned the slaughter of animals in the film, and said it was a violation of the Animal Welfare Act.
Despite this, "Balangiga: Howling Wilderness" won the Best Picture award in the film fest. This begs the question: Do the good things outweigh the bad?
First, it has to be said that the story contains more lows than highs. Having been set in 1901 Samar during the war and occupation of the United States in the Philippines, this should not come as a surprise.
The story revolved specifically around the aftermath of one of the darker periods in Philippine history: the Balangiga Massacre.
It follows the journey of 8-year-old Kulas, his grandfather, and a child they discovered in the carnage, as they fled Balangiga following US General Jacob Smith's order to kill everyone over 10 years old. American forces were retaliating due to the killing of nearly 50 soldiers by the hands of the townspeople.
The piece of history it's based on is no doubt violent, but the film did a good job of expressing the horrors of that time period in a unique and beautiful way.
The film was a daring experiment in contrast. It began and ended with a dream-like tone, and kept up a quietly haunting mood throughout. The dialogue was minimal, the sound effects unobtrusive, which had the effect of making the carnage unsettling in effect. Scenes were a mix of beautiful shots of the countryside, and gruesome portrayals of the massacre that occurred.
Actual scenes of violence were limited, most of them revolving on livestock, as mentioned by PAWS. Maybe they violated the law, maybe not, but the scenes were definitely sickening.
The slaughter of animals, the display of corpses, the brutality of deaths — all of these served to jerk back viewers from the surreal quality the film takes on. The movie managed to keep the audience at the edge of their seats, anticipating the next horrors, the next struggles the characters will face. At some point, it felt as if their painfully slow journey will never end.
Eventually, you realize there is no end — their struggle began long before the film started, and ended long after the credits rolled. You were just privy to those moments that showed what it was like to be caught in the crossfire.
For all its issues, "Balangiga: Howling Wilderness" deserves applause for at least capturing that. — AT, GMA News

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