SAPI: Fear In All Levels
By Jude Bautista
Neither of them anticipated the horror they were about to witness. Broadcast journalist Dennis Marquez (Dennis Trillo) and Producer Meryll Flores (Meryll Soriano) try to calm down public school teachers Ruby (Ruby Ruiz) and Flor (Flor Salangga). Ruby had been possessed earlier in the week and both Dennis and Meryll promised to blur out her face in the video footage they took. In spite of the promise Ruby’s face was never blurred out and students in school where she teaches find out that she was possessed. Meryll suggests they review the episode together so they can talk about their complaints. Instead, the violent images trigger a reaction from Ruby.
The voices from the screen seemed to grow louder in Ruby’s head, whispering yet deafening. When her face is shown screaming, her whole body writhing, mouth frothing, the albularyo hits her with a broom UMALIS KA! UMALIS KA! Watching it Ruby is hanging on by a thread. But she still manages to speak. Ruby: Yan diba mukha ko yan? (Cries)
She slowly gets up from the conference table turning away not looking at the TV screen. She hides behind a shelf at the end of the conference room. Now Flor, Dennis and Meryll try to convince her to calm down and come out. After a few moments she emerges, eyes burning, she comes out screaming “Niloko niyo ko! Niloko niyo ko!”. In spite of being small and frail, she overturns the conference table. Meryll: “Kelangan natin ng pari tumawag kayo ng pari! (grabs her i-phone) Hello? Tita? Yes si Meryll ‘to. Do you know a priest? Merong sinasapian ngayon! Ngayon na!
In Brillante Mendoza’s SAPI, a spiritual possession becomes the focal point of a network war, where all forms of evil come out and almost everyone becomes a victim. Opening November 6, 2013 in a theater near you, the spine tingling film is a first in the horror genre for the internationally acclaimed director.
Before 2013 ends, Dante will be receiving the Order of Arts & Letters Rank of Chevalier from French Ambassador Gilles Garachon. Mendoza joins an exclusive list of previous awardees which include: Napoleon Abueva, Arturo Luz, F Sionil Jose, Juvenal Sanso, Lucrecia Kasilag, Tikoy Aguiluz, Fides Asencio-Cuyugan and Lulu Tan Gan.
Mendoza is known for tackling complex issues in his films, SAPI is no exception. What seems to be coverage of spiritual possession turns into a tug of war between the top (fictional) TV networks: SARIMANOK BROADCAST NETWORK (SBN) and Phil Broadcasting Channel (PBC).
The film provides an insight into that unspoken world of network execs who control what a huge portion of the Filipino population gets to see on their TV sets. In one scene Racquel Villavicencio and Jon Achaval of SBN reach out to their rival Richard Manabat to negotiate the terms of their conflict. They enter the posh Lobby Lounge of Makati Shang Rila Hotel but the details of the settlement were excluded. Visually, the environs and the circumstances were more important than the contents of the meeting itself.
Corruption reaches all levels. It’s never just an individual or even a group of individuals but a whole system, a commentary on society as a whole. It was the same with KINATAY, which dealt with corruption in the police force or military. When a cop receives a bribe for a small traffic violation he is only the tip of the iceberg. Corruption in media isn’t just about paying off cameramen or a few reporters. Mendoza is able to show that the whole system breeds corruption. TV networks need audiences/ratings and the desperation to build that audience leads them to achieve it with whatever means necessary.
Baron Geisler is cast as Baron Valdez a treacherous cameraman working both sides of the network war. He is reunited with Flor Salangga, the faithful friend of the possession victim. Salangga and Geiseler had worked in the Cinemalaya film JAY (2008) by Francis Xavier Pasion. JAY has a similar theme of media people manipulating the depiction of stories for their own ends.
Horror in SAPI comes in different forms. Scenes shot in the middle of typhoons give Manileños a chilling reminder of Ondoy and floods ravaging the metro. Nature can be just as terrifying as demons who take possession of human bodies. For a great number of Filipinos SAPI or possession is a part of everyday reality and yet is a subject not dealt with often in the horror genre. It seems too close to home, too real for most of us.
Jim Libiran is also cast as a broadcast Journalist who touches on environmental issues of irresponsible waste management. Libiran is the multi awarded director of another Cinemalaya film TRIBU. Libiran in real life worked as a network news producer before delving into film. Roeder Camañag is memorable as Abdalap in action musical Dulaang UP’s Orosman at Zafira. Even though he is not able to show his incredible vocals or dance moves as he did in that musical, he easily inhabits a detail oriented Producer of Jim Libiran.
The seductive Mercedes Cabral can truly claim to be Mednoza’s favorite actress having appeared in his most applauded work: THY WOMB, KINATAY, SERBIS and now SAPI. Cabral is also currently cast in GMA Network’s KATIPUNAN with Sid Lucero as Andres Bonifacio.
Dante Mendoza’s achievement in SAPI is that he redefines what it is that scares us. He knows the most recent and deepest fears of Filipinos. He combines them all, the wrath of nature putting Dennis Trillo in Manila Bay during the height of a typhoon. Animals like boa constrictors become a metaphor for evil. Most of all, he shows us that we are blind from the darkness that resides in each individual. The worst most horrendous of them all is our failure to recognize and admit the potential for evil in each of us.
This entry was posted on November 4, 2013 by jude bautista. It was filed under Cinemalaya, Film, People, TV and was tagged with Abdalap, action musical, Andres Bonifacio, Arturo Luz, Baron Geisler, Baron Valdez, boa constrictors, Brillante Mendoza, Broadcast journalist, cameraman, Cinemalaya, commentary, Corruption, Dennis Marquez, Dennis Trillo, director, Dulaang UP’s, environmental issues, evil, F. Sionil Jose, Fides Asencio-Cuyugan, Filipinos, floods, Flor Salangga, Francis Xavier Pasion, French Ambassador, Gilles Garachon, GMA Network, horror, i-phone, internationally acclaimed, Jay, Jim Libiran, Jon Achaval, Juvenal Sanso, KATIPUNAN, KINATAY, Lobby Lounge, Lucrecia Kasilag, Lulu Tan Gan, Makati Shang Rila Hotel, Manila Bay, Mercedes Cabral, Meryll Flores, Meryll Soriano, Napoleon Abueva, network war, Ondoy, Order of Arts & Letters, Orosman at Zafira, possessed, possession, Producer, public school teacher, Racquel Villavicencio, Rank of Chevalier, ratings, Richard Manabat, Roeder Camañag, Ruby Ruiz, SAPI, SERBIS, Sid Lucero, Thy Womb, Tikoy Aguiluz, treacherous, TRIBU, typhoons, waste management.