"Babae sa Breakwater" (Woman of Breakwater, 2003) & other Filipino films available on Netflix /

Mario O'Hara's Babae sa Breakwater (Woman of the Breakwater, 2003) now available on Netflix / DVD

With English subtitles, mind you!

I write about the film here:

Manila at the Edge of Realism



O'Hara's latest film, "Babae sa Breakwater" (Woman of the Breakwater, 2003) isn't so much a culmination of everything he has attempted in his previous films as it is an extension of them. Again, O'Hara starts from factual basis--from the little community of homeless people actually living in shanties built before the Manila Bay breakwater, eking out a living from the debris washed ashore. To this wretched spot arrive Basilio (Kristofer King) and his brother, victims of political violence in the province of Leyte; they meet Paquita (Katherine Luna), a girl who has worked as a prostitute for so long that even at her young age her body is covered with scabs and sores. Basilio and Paquita's life together is hard--when Paquita suggests that they 'eat out,' she means visiting the garbage bin behind a restaurant and dining on what they find. The struggle is made even more difficult by the presence of 'Bosing' David (Gardo Verzosa), a former cop who now considers the breakwater area his territory.


The story of the provincial innocent who comes to the big city, ultimately to be destroyed, is a familiar one; is, in fact, the story of Brocka's "Maynila sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag." With "Breakwater," O'Hara seems to take Brocka's famous film and rework it into his own distinct vision--paying tribute to Brocka, in effect, the same time he's developing themes beyond what Brocka had intended.

Other films also worth renting from Netflix:

Relasyon (An Affair, 1982) Ishmael Bernal

One of Bernal's best, a stripped-down kitchen-sink drama about a woman having an affair with a married man.

Macho Dancer (1988), Lino Brocka

Not one of Lino Brocka's best (though second-best Brocka stands head and shoulders above most other films), about the lurid world of male erotic dancers.

Biyaheng Langit (Paradise Express, 2000), Tikoy Aguiluz

Aguiluz's erotic noir thriller, about the 'heaven' of gambling casinos and the 'hell' of railroad shanties.

Wrote about Biyaheng Langit here:

Bet your life on it


The film was twice given an "X" rating by the Movie Television and Classification Board (MTRCB) for its frank sex scenes and intense violence, both of which have been described as "gratuitous." I don't know very much about what makes sex and violence in a movie "gratuitous," but I do feel that if Aguiluz is to portray the heaven and hell of modern Philippine society with any sense of reality, he has to be free to show what he feels needs to be shown. Anyway, I don't believe in giving an "X" rating to any film, especially when this prevents said film's commercial screening; it suggests the rather insulting idea that there are some images or subject matter the adult Filipino can't handle.

Gambling--the act of putting what you have at stake, in the hope of winning more--is the underlying theme of "Biyaheng Langit;" as Bea's grandmother puts it "I gamble to console myself, to keep from feeling lonely." Bea feels the same; that's why she...persuades Danny to join her in her less-than-brilliant plan, to pour their life's savings into a one-night run at the tables, in the hope of winning big.

Instead, they lose big, and have to run for their lives. Danny takes Bea home, to a squalid collection of shanties propped up besides the city's railways; here Bea learns of another kind of gambling, the gamble of the urban poor. Of people whose entire lives are put at stake without their ever asking for it, who either take years to die of malnutrition or are killed in a careless instant by an oncoming train.

Update (9/13/06):

Mario O'Hara's The Fatima Buen Story now available on Netflix

Lino Brocka's Ina, Kapatid, Anak (Mother, Sister, Daughter) now available on Netflix

Ishmael Bernal's Manila By Night now available on Netflix

(Warning: have not seen this DVD, but from what I hear, it's not very clear, and it seems to be censored. It's the only one out there, unfortunately.)

(What I wrote about Ishmael Bernal (and Manila by Night) for the Hong Kong Film Festival)

Jeffrey Jeturian's Tuhog now available on Netflix

For those who don't have Netflix (or aren't in the United States), these DVDs can be ordered online at Kabayan Central

Gerardo de Leon films on Netflix:

Terror is a Man

The Blood Drinkers

Blood of the Vampires

Brides of Blood

Mad Doctor of Blood Island

Walls of Hell

I recommend Terror is a Man and Blood of the Vampires. But if you can't take my word for it, read Mark Holcomb of The Village Voice and his take on Gerardo de Leon.

And for those to which all this is new and unfamilliar, a short introduction to Philippine Cinema


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