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Captive by Brillante Mendoza

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‘CAPTIVE’ BY BRILLANTE MMENDOZA

The story begins at nighttime when the tourists in Dos Palmas resort were peacefully resting in their respective rooms. When Therese and Soledad reach the shore, armed men in fatigues approach them; fire their guns in the air and gathering everyone in sight. The victims were dragged into a small motorboat which takes them to the mother ship. They were asked by the leader of the rebel of their names looking for rich people able to conjure up a good ransom. The kidnap victims were taken on a long sea voyage to Basilan and then marched deep into the jungle as the Philippine army followed them. Many hostages actually lose their lives during cross-fires between the army and the rebels. And there were also exclusive killings by the Abu Sayyaf because of the thought that some hostages would give them no value. With this horror, the hostages still try to believe that one day, they will be saved.

‘Captive’ is a French-Filipino-German-British co-production directed by Brillante Ma. Mendoza. It is freely drawn from Gracia Burnham’s 2003 book, “In the Presence of My Enemies,” which details her and her husband Martin’s 377-day ordeal at the hands of the Abu Sayyaf. Mendoza weaves a fictional account of the infamous abduction that has actually, the tug and horror of the real thing. And as a result, it was considered as the most realistic cinematic treatment yet of Muslim terrorism.

‘Captive’ is every bit a cinema vérité. Brillante Mendoza shot this film on the natural setting, mixing his actors with everyday people, and with little artificial lighting. It is effective in such a way that it conveys candid realism. The scenes in the movie are not over-dramatized and every moment on the screen, whether it reflects cruelty or compassion, it feels unnervingly real. The fact that it is a literal recreation of the 2001 hostage incident gives its vérité treatment. Also, the depiction of the Abu Sayyaf members by Mendoza is very interesting. He portrays them with balance and humanity that is unusual in a story which Hollywood would have told as simple good versus bad. Mendoza showed that despite the wrongdoings of the Abu Sayyaf, there is still good present deep inside their very hearts. And they just follow what they are told and what they believe in. The movie also comes with a lot of shock imagery like the encounter moments of the Abu Sayyaf and the military. Also, despite the many killings and brutality, Mendoza managed to put a live birth scene to give us a potent irony of life.

The film ‘Captive’ is told in the conventional narrative wherein the story is structured how the story is told, not the story itself which helps the viewer understand the story. The story is also structured in chronological stages that progress from one plot to another. It started on how the tourists and missionaries were captured by the Abu Sayyaf, and then they showed how they travel from Dos Palmas Resort in Palawan to the mountains of Basilan. They also depicted the struggles that the captives had to overcome along the way as they have to travel from one place to another because the military is after the Abu Sayyaf. Also, they showed that the captives are being freed one by one as they get the ransom money from the authorities. On the other hand, the captives like Therese (Isabelle Huppert) were also starting to doubt that the Philippine government will help them as the days and months passed by. There were also encounters with the military as they go deep into the jungle. There was also a scene wherein they heard from the radio that the World Trade Center in New York was attacked by the Islamist militant group Al-Qaeda, and it seems to them that the Islam countries were starting to win over. And after all the struggles and encounters, the resolution came as the Philippine troops attack the Abu Sayyaf by surprise and eventually save the hostages that were left in the hands of the Islam group. The plot of the story is presented with a beginning, middle and end. At the beginning of the story, there was a state of equilibrium or a state of balance as the tourists in Dos Palmas are resting in the resort without any interference, then a disruption came when the Abu Sayyaf approach the resort and caught them. Afterwards, a new equilibrium was reinstated when the military finally win over the Islam group. The story also makes the viewer impatient because of the encounters and the delay of the rescue operation.

Brillante Mendoza also used a neo-realist style in his film, ‘Captive.’ He shot the film on the natural setting and some of the characters are non-professional, meaning everyday people. The story is also set with the difficult political and moral conditions of the Philippine government and the Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao. It also reflects the conditions of the everyday life of the hostages with the Abu Sayyaf depicting hunger, exhaustion, fear, doubt and desperation. There was a scene in the movie wherein one male nurse was talking to Therese because they have noticed that he is being converted to Islam. He defended himself and said that he doesn’t have a choice as a sign of desperation because he knew that the Abu Sayyaf would not kill him if he converted to be a Muslim.

There are as well montage scenes in the movie. One of them is the scene wherein, Mendoza showed dolphins swimming freely beside the boat of the rebels with the hostages. It emphasizes the hopelessness of the hostages’ situation by comparing them to the dolphins in the waters of Basilan. Another montage scene is when one of the Abu Sayyaf was about to kill one of the hostage because the foreigner hostage was shot in the leg and they felt like he was a burden to them. When the rebel was about to hit the hostage with a bolo, the shot was shifted to a jungle lizard being decapitated instead of the man. Another montage is when they showed deadly scorpions crawling at the feet of the captives which actually representing danger that awaits the hostages in the jungle. There was also a scene wherein a snake captures and swallowed a chicken in the jungle after the rebels ambush the platoon of army soldiers. That scene actually mirrors the events happening in the movie, the rebels being the snake, and the chicken represents the hostages being engulfed by the Abu Sayyaf.

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