By Chelsea Tan
A Filipino film screened at this year’s Calgary Film Festival thanks to its international appeal with a young audience.
Alberto Monteras II’s Respeto is a hip-hop, politically charged take on the issue of violence, poverty and corruption that underlies Philippine history.
Calgary Film Festival’s lead programmer, Brenda Lieberman, says the film was chosen to be in the festival by teenage screeners.
“Respeto is part of our Generation Next series, where we choose 10 high school kids from the Calgary Board of Education to be our previewers and make the decisions on the films,” Lieberman says. “We’re just looking for content that interests or targets those age groups. It can be any genre or any subject matter.”
The story follows a life-changing relationship between Filipino rapper Abra, who plays Hendrix, a poor aspiring rapper with a criminal history and Doc, played by Dido de la Paz, an old-school poet still traumatized by his experience during martial law.
Although never mentioning Rodrigo Duterte’s name, the film alludes to the repetition of history between Marcos’ tyrannical reign in the 70’s and the current president’s militaristic approach to fighting corruption. The film connects the experience of violence between two different times and across generations while showcasing the underground world of hip-hop in the Philippines.
Moviegoers had strong reactions to the film as well.
“I can’t even begin to describe how I feel about this movie,” says Jill. “It was impactful, emotional, stressful and unpredictable.”
Another viewer says it made her reflect on, Karla, stated that “I think about the immense privilege we have to sit here and watch it and to have the decision to get up and walk out, but that’s not the reality of what they’re trying to depict.”
Respeto won Best Film at the 13th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival and has been featured at the New York Asian Film Festival.