The film starts with call center agent Maricel Villacruz (Iza Calzado) meeting up with activist boyfriend, Junix Etrata (Allen Dizon) on October 24, 2006. A group of alleged communist guerrillas abducts the two lovers. The abduction of the pair thrusts their parents into the world of activists and desaparecidos. It is a world of paranoia, treachery, love, political awakening, and sacrifice.
Dukot is a courageous film dealing with the then worsening human rights situation in the Philippines under the administration of President Gloria Arroyo. The film also highlights the work and advocacies of militant youth group Anakbayan and human rights alliance group Karapatan. The latter group noted an increase in the number of involuntary disappearances in 2006. 93 people became desaparecidos in the first eleven months of that year. A total of 185 political killings were also recorded.
Director Joel Lamangan and scriptwriter Bonifacio Ilagan carved the film based on their experiences as activists and political detainees. Lamangan was tortured during his incarceration. A sibling of Ilagan is a desaparecido. The rally and torture scenes are realistic because of the filmmakers’ inputs and the participation of actual activists.
The script captures what it is to be an activist in a martial law-like atmosphere. Ilagan situates the film in Central Luzon and Metro Manila during the year 2006. He alludes to the reign of terror by an official whose surname sounds like the Tagalog word for airport. During this grim period, leaders and members of party-list groups and militant people’s organizations are killed or abducted almost every month. Human rights defenders and social workers in rebel-infested places are branded as communists.
Dukot easily becomes one of my favorite Lamangan films. It boasts of fine performances by Iza Calzado and Allen Dizon. The pair portrays the star-crossed lovers. The film’s love angle is a well-thought out element. Several activists have to sacrifice their personal romance in favor of love for country. The film is marred somewhat by a confusing, crisscrossing type of editing but the film’s gritty message of the need to stop involuntary disappearances and political killings is more than enough to forgive that lapse.
Dukot belongs to this year’s trio of powerful movies about extra-judicial killings and desaparecidos. The two other films are Engkwentro and Bente. These are the films that should be seen by our countrymen in order to understand the growing culture of violence in our country.