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Reviews edited by Mark Adams


The true story of the kidnapping of 20 hotel guests from the island of Palawan in the Philippines in 2001 gets the verité treatment from Brillante Men- doza in the often powerful Captive. But this lengthy bullet-strewn saga is relentless in its action and starved of the deeper characterisation and human interaction that could have lent insight into the controversial issues of religion and humanity it raises. French star Isabelle Huppert — who first met

Mendoza when his Kinatay played in Cannes when she was president of the jury — is employed as the central character around whom the twists and turns of the captivity are anchored. The intriguing arthouse combo of Huppert and Men- doza will pique buyers as will the story, which could get the media excited, but its hard-hitting reportage style, uneven pacing and unemotional tone will be a tough sell for audiences. The film is a literal recreation of the 2001

events. On May 27 of that year, the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), an Islamic separatist organisation fighting for independence on the island of Mind- anao, attacked the Dos Palmas resort on the neigh- bouring island of Palawan and seized 20 guests and staff. Among them are French Christian social worker Therese Bourgoine (Huppert) and her Filipina colleague, an old woman called Soledad (Carpio). The hostages are transported by boat over sev-

eral days to the island of Basilan and during the voyage, the kidnappers determine the worth of each of the hostages and what kind of ransom their families will be able to pay.

n 14 Screen International at the Berlinale February 13, 2012 COMPETITION

Fr-Phil-UK-Ger. 120mins Director Brillante Mendoza Production companies Swift Productions, Arte France Cinéma, Centerstage, BA Produktion, Studio Eight Productions International sales Films Distribution, www. Producer Didier Costet Screenplay Brillante Ma Mendoza, Patrick Bancarel, Boots Agbayani Pastor, Arlyn de la Cruz Cinematography Odyssey Flores Editors Yves Deschamps, Kats Serraon Production design Simon Legre, Benjamin Padero Music Teresa Barrozo Main cast Isabelle Huppert, Kathy Mulville, Marc Zanetta, Rustica Carpio, Maria Isabel Lopez, Timothy Mabalot

Once on Basilan, they are driven by military

attacks to the city of Lamitan where they take ref- uge in a hospital. They kill some of the hostages along the way and pick up three nurses and an orderly on their way out. About an hour in, the film heads into the jungle

— teeming with leeches, snakes, spiders and scor- pions — where it stays for the remainder of the story. Deep in the mountains, the ASG and their hostages seek a safe hiding place, but the Filipino military is constantly on their trail and the military attacks are so arbitrary the hostages are as much at risk as their captors. One by one, the hostages are allowed to go free

when their ransoms are paid, while two of the nurses are forced into marriage with ASG mem- bers so they can have sex with them. Therese and the remaining hostages wait out

their ordeal, as hope dwindles that they will be rescued. The problem with an extended period of captivity

is how to portray it in an hour of film. Mendoza skips through the months in the jungle without managing to describe the boredom or weave together the tentative friendships and attraction that emerge between captives and ASG. The ASG themselves are more interesting than

the captives, and Mendoza portrays them with a bal- ance and humanity in a story that Hollywood would have told as simple good versus bad. Huppert is always beguiling, though too little is revealed about her character and her religious beliefs to make her more than a mere figurehead for the hostages.


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