Mikhail Red (Birdshot, Rekorder)’s third feature, Neomanila, takes us into the world of Philippines capital’s death squads amid the violently repressive war on drugs.

Toto is a street orphan taken under the wing of Irma. She is the lead of a ring of state killers wiping out drug addicts from poverty stricken areas of the city for the benefit of officials and rich people. Trapped between their assignment and its mirroring effect, reflecting their own lives, their loyalty is tested through a chain of events.

Neomanila was shot over the course of a mere 11 days with a self awareness toward its own urgency as president Rodriguo Duterte’s deadly war, condemn by human rights associations, is still going on.  The director did  Nightcrawler style homework, using his I-phone, on real events sites before writing the script (with Zig Madamba Dulay and Rae Red) and ran into production thinking a usual two years schedule for the whole planning of the film would just kill it.

From the neon lights to the shadows of dark alleys, often photographed in a Cinema vérité, hand held camera style by Mycko David (Birdshot), Neomanila unfolds, behind the premises of a thriller,  a tragedy charged with inherent violence, succeeding in creating an unease feel around settings but mostly characters confronted to what is left of their conscience.  Although the ensemble cast is a bit uneven, actress Eula Valdez, as the deadly mother figure taking young Toto under her ‘care’, boosts strong performance with her overall posture and strong presence.

Neomanila is a ferocious tale of a merciless city in a difficult time.

Fantasia Screening : Monday July 16, 5PM, Concordia University’s J.A. DeSève Cinema

Official Fantasia Website