Director: Lav Diaz
Cast: Side Lucero, Angeli Bayani, Archie Alemania, Angelina Kanapi, Soliman Cruz, Mae Paner, Hazel Orencio
This was the Philippine entry to this year’s Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Language Film category. Despite not getting shortlisted, I still believe that this was the best choice for said category. Initially, I would’ve thought that the Barber’s Tales would have a bigger impact but watching one after the other – Norte clearly outshoned the Eugene Domingo-lead film in every aspect.
Set in the Northern region of the Philippines, the film introduced us to Joaquin (Archie Alemania) whose existence is mainly strengthened by his loving wife Eliza (Angeli Bayani). But even love could easily be tested by poverty. When Joaquin’s money-lender gets murdered, pointing fingers led him into prison that transformed his belief altogether into another persona. His wife however struggles to provide for their children as the years of his incarceration goes by.
Meanwhile, the real perpetrator Fabian (Sid Lucero) spiraled down into madness as guilt eats him up even if he thinks he’s already doing penance in his own way.
I was almost certain that I won’t be able to finish this film midway into it but it kept me glued up to the final frame for some reason. The story was compact yet the sequences were a bit longer than I would’ve liked. Archie Alemania’s indelible portrayal was a picture of hopelessness that it breaks you to the core. Sullen and cringe-worthy, Sid Lucero gave me the creeps but I was also rendered breathless by his sudden shift from normal into shifty nature as Fabian. Angeli Bayani’s performance fits the role perfectly and it was a given that she’d do well.
Director Lav Diaz’s vision may have been too ambitious for stretching this film well over four hours but his story-telling acumen of this prose of a film is what made Norte a tolerable watch [running-time wise – you should be ready to seat your ass out]. The story was gripping, yes. It gave me that feeling when I was watching The Tree Of Life where I’d just like to bolt out of my seat but kept watching because I cannot resist having a glimpse into the next scene. Norte delivers a semblance of the Philippine society that’s still very much happening until now – what with all the politics, the power-abuse and even the inequality was so transparent that I may very well see this film in real life by merely watching the 7 o’clock news.
Norte was first released via Cannes Film Festival in 2013 with a Philippine wide release September of 2014.