Friday ∗ 19 Nov 2010

war and wonder in Tsardyer

it might be easy to dismiss Tsardyer a reenactment of the Ces Drilon hostage taking, except that you’d have to be stupid, and half-blind, to see only that in this movie. because if its connection to the Drilon hostage taking is to even be discussed, it must be seen only as a spoiler here, i.e., so now you know that there will be that in this wonderful movie by Sigfreid Barros-Sanchez.

but it isn’t what all of it is about. there is a journalist, Leslie, and her two companions. they are kidnapped in the middle of Maguindanao because the journalist was careless about getting a story, thinking that all they had to worry about was whether or not their cameras’ batteries were charged enough. the layers of this story though happen extraneous to these media people, and within the lives of people within the war torn land that is Sulu. here we are shown how families aren’t just torn apart by death and violence and disorder, but also by the fact of two extreme poles that exist within it: the Muslim who wants peace Ahmad (brilliantly played by Neil Ryan Sese) is up against his brother-in-law Karim (hauntingly played by Pipo Alfad) who heads an Abu Sayyaf splinter group that holds their area of Sulu captive. a little boy Shihab is what links these two, son to Ahmad and nephew to Karim, who finds that he is tied down by his father in a way that his uncle would free him: let him run through the jungles of Sulu, give him a role in the fight against government soldiers.

the soldiers that Shihab had seen kill his mother, the one soldier whose face he remembers is the face of the military officer who enters their house without permission or warrant. it is clear why Shihab would rather be on the side of his uncle Karim.

but he arrives there and finds himself in the face of a kindness that is unknown to him, that he lost when his mother was killed by the evil face of the military that has remained in his head. all that Shirab is required to do in the terrorist camp is to go down the mountain, run to the nearest home with electricity, and charge the cellphones — the lifeline of the hostages, the line to money of the hostage takers.

and then Tsardyer becomes the story of life and death, the dynamic between family and childhood, the familiar and the strange, making the possibility of death even more stark, the loss of life even more possible. the hostages are forced to reckon with their own carelessness, their lives at real risk, their need for freedom. Ahmad goes on a journey to recover his son, get him back as a matter of being father, as a matter of life. Karim is static, but remains the main reason for action, his demands make the world of the hostages’ families move, his phone calls the reason for hope. Shihab goes up and down the mountain for the task of charging the phones, thinking it crucial to his role on Karim’s camp, but later and slowly seeing it as reason for keeping Leslie alive. all these happen with music that changes and shifts depending on whose perspective we are seeing; all these are given life through music, one of the many reasons to watch this movie, one of the many reasons its storytelling succeeds. it has imagined the way it would sound if these characters had a soundtrack in their heads, the songs that would make for their particular journeys to be only their own, separate from everybody else.

but maybe the most wonderful song here is one that speaks of the change in Shihab’s relationship with Leslie. this is unspoken and silent throughout the movie, and just might be the most beautiful thing to come out of it. because elsewhere in it, we are shown how war gives space, if not creates, the crazies, be they from the terrorist group or the military. because elsewhere in it, we are given a sense of how women are necessarily on the losing end, in the face of two other men taken as hostages. because elsewhere in it, we begin to know of the tragedies in war that we rarely see, given the truth of violence and how it affects the psyche of the people within it. in the midst of these, Shihab’s actions allow for a fact of love and compassion for a woman who could be his mother, and who spoke to him as if he deserved the conversation, as if he was the most important person in that terrorist camp.

in the final scenes where the one who was happy with the existing notion(s) of peace, the violent terrorist, the crazy military all kill and are killed literally and/or figuratively, the realization is painfully clear: in wars like this one, where the money transfers hands between the two sides, there is no one who is free.

Tsardyer in fact tells us that everyone, including us who are farthest away from it, is held captive in a war. that war knows no age, no position in society, no space: when it happens elsewhere in this country, it is ours to stop. when it happens in our faces, it is ours to demand peace, right now. otherwise, Tsardyer reminds us, war just continues to senselessly kill. as it has all this time.

Posted in: bayan, kultura, media, pelikula, review, tugtugan

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8 Comments/Pingbacks

  1. Oggs Cruz
    November 19, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    I’m not buying both the excesses and the shortcomings of Tsardyer, but there’s no denying this is one beautifully written tribute to the film.

  2. ina
    November 19, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    hi oggs! :) i think my shortcoming AND excess might be that i view films like Tsardyer and relate it to the commercial films done on the war in Mindanao. i would love to have a sense of its excesses and shortcomings from you though. :)

  3. Oggs Cruz
    November 19, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    My perception on Tsardyer, and this is probably the biggest source of my gripe with it, is that it oversimplifies what is happening in Mindanao to what we already know because this is what media preferred to sensationalize. Basically, it is an outsider’s take on what happened there, bacon-wrapped in the story of a child within the bigger fictionalized story that was based on a true story, so it’s easier to get into. Tsardyer man-handles you to get involved, albeit emotionally and momentarily, without understanding; and that’s dangerous, in my opinion.

  4. ina
    November 21, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    me naman, i thought the repetition of this line about how the war is something that will continue because the distribution and sales of arms is something that the gov’t forces earn from, i thought was still powerful, something that we refuse to talk about in the way that movie does. that is, as if it’s a foregone conclusion, a matter of fact. post the ces drilon hostage what we got in fact was silence, other than that docu abs-cbn earned from.

    re oversimplification, hmmmm, yes, i will agree to that possibility. at the same time, i thought given the crisis among the men in the muslim family and the way the movie resolved it through death, and the changing persona(s) of the terrorist into the uncle, the moderate father into the killer, i would give it credit for complexity. maybe particularly in the context of bagongbuwan, the commercial marilou diaz-abaya film that to me was just … oversimplification. :)

    i wonder tuloy now if that movie would’ve been better with a hostage taking, but without the familiar ces-drilon-as-careless-media angle.

  5. The Notorious S.I.G.
    March 16, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    thanks for the review, ina. just saw this. thanks also, oggs for your perception of our film. really sorry if it fell short of your expectations. maraming salamat sa inyong dalawa. mula sa mga tao sa likod ng Tsardyer…

    • ina
      March 17, 2011 at 9:57 pm

      @thenotoriousSIG: uy salamat rin sa pelikula. marami ring nagulat na nagustuhan ko siya actually, so parang ako rin tuloy nagulat na hindi nila nagustuhan. :)

  6. cac
    March 19, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    Actually, mas matino ang Bagong Buwan. Ayos ang treatment ng isyu dun. Binigyan-puwang ang Moro rebels, at hindi naireduce ang usapan sa tipong ‘war and peace lang, habang naitumbok ang absurdity ng war situation.

    Oo, nandun nga yung linyang ‘Ceasefire’ nung karakter ni Jericho Rosales, ngunit me sipa siya sa sense na mukhang tanga lang ang mga engkwentro paminsan, at laking kunsomisyon lang na dumaraan pa ang bayan sa ganito. Pero kelangan, eh. Sa bandang huli, nagtapos pa rin sa paghahanda nung mga mala-MILF sa susunod nilang pagsabak. Dito’y trinatrato ang mga Moro bilang kapantay. Hindi ineexoticise, at binabalewala bilang nadadala lang ng takbo ng pera ng mundo. At siyempre, ang mundong eto e ang mundo nung mga manlilikha. Me tama rin naman sa ganito, ngunit malinaw din na wala silang masyadong pagkilala sa mundo nung mga Morong karakter, at sa mga lehitimong ‘claims’ nila sa naturang mundong eto.

    Kakatwa sa pelikula kung papaano yung mga ‘good guys’ e yung mga nagco-conform sa itinuturing ng Kanluran bilang ‘sibilisado’ at ‘safe’ ( edukasyon, labi dabi, fun, happy times ).Kakatwa rin kung paano ang mga sinakripisyo ng pelikula e yung mga karakter ( milits o rebelde ) na nagpapahalaga sa soberanya. Alang-alang sa ‘kalayaan’ at ‘kaluwagan’ ng magandang pakiramdam. Mga ‘bayolente’ at/o mga ‘agit’ sila e, therefore ‘masasama’. Na para bagang walang giyera na hindi makatarungan ;)

  7. ina
    March 19, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    @cac: hmmmm. hindi ko kase talaga nagustuhan ang bagong buwan. pero, pagiisipan ko pang ulit dahil sa sinabi mo.

    para naman sa tsardyer, ako naman ay naapektuhan higit dun sa nagbagong relasyon sa pagitan nung mga lalake ng pamilyang Moro, yung adversity within it, yung kawalang hustisya ng paggamit ng bata, at yung halaga rin naman ng batang yon sa pagkilos sa loob ng kampo, at pagkakaapekto nito sa sitwasyon ng hostage na taga-Maynila. siguro sa ganong level ko talaga na-aapreciate ang pelikula, lalo na sa huli nang maging ang tatay ay magagawa ring pumatay, papasukin rin ang karahasang mula umpisa’y pinanindigan niyang hindi tama, isang paninindigan na nangahulugan ng pagkakasira ng pamilya, dahil hindi ito nagawang ipaintindi sa anak at pamilya.

    wala namang refutation nung mga kahinaang nakita mo sa pagturing ko sa kapangyarihan nung pelikula. naisip ko lang ngayon, posible kayang itong personal / emosyonal na antas na binigyang halaga ng pelikula ang mismong dahilan ng kahinaang nakita mo? ineresante kung gayon ang dynamic na ito! :)

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