“KontrAdiksyon”: Are we really letting propaganda become a popular genre?
The film famously received P-Duts' endorsement. What gives?
Njel De Mesa
Jake Cuenca, Kris Bernal, Katrina Halili, Paolo Paraiso...
It doesn’t take much to distinguish what Njel De Mesa’s “KontrAdiksyon” is meant to be. Its title—an obnoxious little portmanteau that blends the words “kontra” (meaning “to oppose”) and “adiksyon” (meaning “addiction”)—eschews any lick of subtlety with the message it’s trying to sell.
In light of President Rodrigo Duterte’s infamous War on Drugs, movies of all kinds, from trashy action-flicks like Dinky Doo Jr.’s “Durugin ang Droga” to prestige festival films like Brillante Mendoza’s “Alpha: The Right To Kill” have propped up to the surface. The latter of these examples feel particularly exploitative, in that it chooses to selectively address points about Duterte’s administration and the current zeitgeist without ever taking its own stand.
And now, here’s “KontrAdiksyon”, a movie whose plot crams just about every argument bid on red-eyed Facebook rhetoric. There’s a vigilante, a druggie, an inescapably corrupt system, and based on the trailer, an exorcism warranted by—you guessed it!—drug abuse.
To be clear, I have deliberately refused to buy into the film, which to me feels like propagandist porn. Therefore, I can’t and won’t speak to the quality of the work that De Mesa has produced here, but you can take to other critics and reviewers who actually sat through the film.
Philbert Dy, for example, took the effort to break down what happens in the film. Here’s the thread.
In no less eloquent terms, Rappler’s Oggs Cruz has this to offer: “Virtues like compassion, nationalism, and solidarity are twisted to fit only within the unbendable tenets of the current administration. They are used to make being critical of the government look like empty rabblerousing, vicious disloyalty, or worse, dangerous criminality.”
As for me, the decision to skip this movie entirely is twofold: 1.) I didn’t want to contribute to whatever reach the film would have made, and 2.) there’s absolutely no reason to watch a movie so politically misaligned with my own virtues as a human being.
I spoke about this at length in an episode of my podcast, Pervision. Listen to the episode:
That brings us, finally, here, as I type these last words to this article, contemplating if I should even hit publish. The movie has made its run in theaters. Though not that many, a good number of people, whose personal politics might be in line with that of the movie, flocked to the theaters.
What alarms me is the President’s endorsement of the movie, which tells other filmmakers that movies that glorify the current administration get a stamp of approval, among many other incentives.
Propaganda should not be a popular genre, but with powers-that-be fueling marketing and press for such movies, who knows? A future with a sequel to “Durugin Ang Droga” is an unimaginably dreadful one, and it’s becoming more and more likely.