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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jan 16, 2014

Chito Rono's 'Badil' Review: One Of The Year's Best Films

SO IT TURNS out Chito Rono has directed two excellent films this year: “Boy Golden”, an entry in the Metro filmfest foolishly ignored by the jurors, and “Badil” which we missed when it was first shown at Sineng Pambansa All Master Edition. We finally caught “Badil” at its UP Film Center screening and we were simply blown away by its very compelling narrative (thanks to the excellent script by Rody Vera). It focuses on the corruption spawned by patronage politics that goes on during elections. “Badil” means “dynamite fishing”, a term used in stealing paid voters of rival candidates by making sleazy counter offers and using the indelible ink as their weapon.

We can remind the public not to sell their vote and to vote wisely but, obviously, it will just fall on deaf ears, especially in the rural areas where very poor people are willing to sell their votes to the highest bidder. This is democracy at its best (or worst), giving the people the right to choose who they want to vote, or not vote for, all at the right price.

The story is set in a small coastal town from the point of view of Lando (Jhong Hilario), the son of Ponso (Dick Israel), a political henchman of the current mayor (Tonton Gutierrez, who we see only in posters.) Ponso is partly paralyzed because of a stroke. Dick Israel really suffered a stroke in real life and we’re glad Chito has cast him not only here but also in ‘Boy Golden’. He’s good in both films.

As they go around their community talking to prospective voters, you can see that Dick still wields some power over them as they’re some beholden to him and the current mayor. He gives money freely and so we know why winning candidates need to get their investment back. No wonder people in the countryside remain so poor. It’s the voters who screw themselves by selling their right to vote.
“Badil” is an indictment of our nefarious election system and it’s powerfully told without making it look like a lecture or a discourse against the evils of corruption. It features great performances from Jhong and Dick, and all the supporting players like Yayo Aguila, Levi Ignacio, Joe Gruta, Mercedes Cabral, Lui Manansala, Archie Adamos and Nikki Gil as Jhong’s school teacher girlfriend who has her own personal problems. “Badil” is local filmmaking at its best.