Got to catch a special screening of the film Respeto, the Best Picture recipient of Cinemalaya 2017, over the weekend in my alma mater UST. The event, organized the university’s official student publication, The Varsitarian, also paid tribute to the film’s director, Treb Monteras, who is a UST alumnus and was the Art Editor of the school paper during 2000-2001.
It was something exciting for me, having met Treb during our school paper days. He’s got this creative streak even when he was still in college, and I’ve seen that in his works, from music videos to noontime variety shows. Respeto is his first foray into full-length feature film-making.
To say that the film is a rap-battle/flip-top/hip-hop movie is barely scratching the surface. While a number of scenes, including the opening, shows a flip-top battle and the main protagonist Hendrix (played by Abra) wants to make it big in the flip-top scene, it’s not the end-all and be-all of it. Nor is it simply a meeting of an aspiring rapper and a Martial Law-era poet/survivor. The film actually goes deep in exploring a dark past marred with brutality amid the current social milieu, told through poetry in various forms: rap, Balagtasan, and visual cues. Betchai’s (Chai Fonacier) impromptu song adds some sort of a footnote to it, which goes something like: it’s not the life [we] want, but it’s what [we’re] living in. This, as one tragedy comes full circle and another begins — like a Möbius strip of catastrophic events unfolding.
During the Q&A after the film viewing, the director explained that Respeto is about “isang taong naghahanap ng respeto at isang nawalan ng respeto.” Watching the film, one will find Hendrix seeking the respect of his rapper idol Breezy G (Loonie) and the flip-top community, Doc (Dido dela Paz) seeking respect from the government of his Martial Law experience, and the cost of having the respect you thought you deserved.
A caveat: this is not a feel-good film, not your relax-see-a-movie option. In fact, after watching it, I had almost the same feeling as after I’ve watched Grave of the Fireflies. Those of you who’ve watched it would know how that went. Also, because of the setting, some people may find Respeto, well, controversial. Producer Monster Jimenez shared that they already have their fair share of trolling simply because of this film.
But, I can guarantee you, that this is one of the Filipino films to date that you should watch. I’m not saying this because I know the director (LOL!). If for the imagery alone, it’s already something to look forward to. The message, even more so.
Respeto is showing in Philippine cinemas this September 20, 2017. Please go see it when you can, and watch it with an open mind.