This film about a Filipino-American’s deadly encounter with
Islamic terrorism comes to us from the Truly Indie distributor.
And indeed, the film lives up to its studio’s boast, as it’s
quite clear that no money was spent on the making of this film.
This is about as bare-bones a film as you’re likely to see
anywhere outside of a film festival. A camera, a cell phone, and
a plane ticket to the Philippines. That’s about it.
Through some rather clumsy exposition-providing phone conversations
(“What do you mean you’re breaking up with me?”)
we learn that Adam has come back to the Philippines to attend his
father’s funeral. Almost as soon as he steps off the plane,
he’s confronted with the news that terrorists have kidnapped
his mother and sister. Forced to submit to the terrorists’
demands, Adam is led around the city with only a cell phone as a
guide. Though the terrorist commanding him is an Islamic fundamentalist
from Abu Sayef, he’s clearly taken a few classes at the Hollywood
school of villainous taunting (albeit in Tagalog). He tells Adam
that his father betrayed the Muslims of the Philippines and that
he has to pay off his family’s debt. Adam is taken on a whirlwind
tour of Cavite’s slums where he learns that, to save his family,
he must pick up the drop from a ransom and deliver a bomb to a Catholic
Cavite is basically a one man show, and, even though
it only runs 80 minutes, it feels strained. Ian Gamazon,
who plays Adam (and co-directed and wrote film), is not a very strong
actor, and his character lacks definition. The film attempts to
engage with the politics of the region, but, like a Hollywood thriller,
it does so only superficially, through a dull exchange of clichés.
And even its shaky cinema verite feels borrowed from the mainstream
thrillers. Overall it comes off as a very amateurish effort, fine
for the classroom or a student film festival, but ridiculous for
the theater. There has been a lot of talk about a digital revolution
in film that will “democratize” the medium, and while
there maybe is something to this, Cavite is a lesson in
the limits of DIY filmmaking and serves as a reminder that “truly
indie” filmmakers need to avoid aping studio thrillers and
give us truly unique visions instead.