Scary Slumming in the Philippines
If you’d like to get a load of what life is like in the slums of the Philippines, then you ought to check out Slingshot, as raw and realistic an offering as you’re apt to find onscreen this year. This relentlessly-grim cinematic mosaic was painted by the brilliant Brillante Mendoza whose previous release, Service, was a just as graphic adventure but about the kinky goings-on inside a gay porn theater. Mendoza actually made Slingshot first, but for some reason it is only now being released in the U*.S.*
The reason could be that the picture doesn’t have much of a plot. It sort of looks like the intrepid filmmaker merely followed a bunch of impoverished ghetto dwellers around with a handheld camera and let them behave, or maybe misbehave, in the dysfunctional and often criminal ways you’d expect to find among unfortunate folks trapped in the ‘hood. Among other things, we see a shoplifter plying his trade, a petty thief snatching a necklace off an unsuspecting pedestrian, a blacktop basketball game that turns into an all-out brawl.
Mendoza He even follows the police as they stage an early morning raid of a Filipino gang’s subterranean hideout where they don’t bother to give a gun moll the chance to get decent before breaking into her bedroom. On another occasion, we meet a woman who gives a new meaning t the term “desperate housewives” when she rushes down to the street to try to retrieve her dentures from the sewer after she accidentally drops them down the drain of her sink.
The only phony moment in this otherwise authentic production arrives when we see a local politician or religious figure delivering an obviously empty speech or sermon promising his constituents deliverance from their nightmarish existence. What a priceless contrast which needed no explanation!
Hats off to Mendoza for delivering this intimate peek at the intractable state of Third World poverty. My only worry is that a similar fate might be right around the corner for the American Dream as the middle-class disappears, leaving behind only a nation of haves and have-nots.
Very Good (3 stars)
In Filipino and Tagalog with subtitles.
Running time: 86 Minutes
Distributor: Centerstage Productions
To see a trailer for Slingshot, visit: