Adolfo Alix Jr.’s Madilim Ang Gabi, the second Pista Ng Pelikulang Pilipino movie I got to watch this year, comes at a most opportune time in Philippine cinema. Fantasy, action, comedy, and romance are just fine, but we also need the mirror that reflects the conditions of our reality. It stars Gina Alajar and Philip Salvador—both showing stellar, understated performances—as the couple Sara and Lando. They live not far from the PNR railway tracks and, for the sake of their only son and a dream of good life, try really hard disconnecting their ties to drugs by selling the last of their supplies. They believe in change, not purely out of fear but also of necessity. It shows in the recognizable baller ID that Sara proudly wears wherever she goes. And then one day their son goes missing. Many non-mainstream movies that tackle on the lives of slum dwellers often showcase a kind of hardship and poverty that could be indulgent and leave some viewers distanced or disconcerted. Not with Alix Jr. In his hands Madilim Ang Gabi takes an even more urgent tone when it accompanies several scenes with actual audio recordings of speeches of our current administration. The words are terrifying, outlandish, but you know it is familiar because it is real. There is no distancing from the truth. The movie also features a dizzying array of cameos from veteran stars, slipping in and out of the moment, some lasting for only a few seconds, which could be distracting to those easily swept by celebrity. The “night” that the title speaks of arrives very late in the movie, and yet every scene might as well be the titular evening. We see lives eternally enshrouded in darkness, whether in daylight or moonlight, because of a violence that is bureaucratic and of a system that only favors the powerful and the influential. This movie is a dismantling of everything that led us to believe that this vast network of oppression is all right and ordinary. Our reality is never just a case of good and bad, one that can easily be summarized with a message on cardboard like “Wag Tularan” to know which is which, especially when the bad knows the good rhetoric that people love to hear. It has never been. Madilim Ang Gabi has its faults though—the meandering plot, the unhurried pace, and the growing fatalism that pulsates throughout the film—but at the rate our collective moral decline is going, all this is easy to dismiss. We are all dead, we can all be dead, either in the streets or on the inside. But like Sara in the middle of the film, it is never too late to start living with the right choices, to genuinely change, to remove from her wrist the false promises that come with the baller ID.
[ photo borrowed from this site ]