Following the Netflix premiere of “Birdshot,” the first Filipino-language film on the platform, I’ve decided to repost this spot I previously published via Typist Philippines. Some parts of the feature have been edited for flow and time-accuracy.
The film, directed by Mikhail Red, is already available on Netflix.
[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]n Mikhail Red’s new film, “Birdshot”, a pair of police officers investigate the curious case of Maya, a young woman who unknowingly kills a Philippine Eagle, a species that’s long been gravely endangered. Caught in a shroud of crime, violence, and sheer devilry, Maya, her father Diego, and the two police officers will be caught in a standoff that will test their humanity.
Thus begins one of the best films of 2017. It played as part of the in-competition films at last year’s Pista Ng Pelikulang Pilipino, and is now available on Netflix for the whole world to see. Here are five reasons why you should watch it.
(Lest I forget, a fair warning: there are potential spoilers ahead.)
The film is a rare kind of beast.
Birdshot is of many genres. It’s a supernatural thriller, a recontextualized western, and a coming-of-age drama. As one of or all the three, “Birdshot” is a finely crafted film. The characteristics distinct to its genre mesh beautifully to the film’s final form—a uniquely thrilling, affecting masterwork. Like the beast at its center, “Birdshot” is also one of the rarest kind.
It speaks to relevant issues that ring true from our past and our present.
In more ways than one, the Philippine Eagle is crucial to the film. The number of living ones dwindle by the day, which raises the stakes of an innocent young girl mistakenly shooting one in an off-limits sanctuary. But beyond this, in the film, the Philippine Eagle serves as a force that literally ushers us to what we’re too desensitized to see: the violence we make our countrymen we endure, the ignorance we choose to embrace, and everything in between. In this sense, “Birdshot” can be seen as a bird’s-eye view of things we can’t and choose not see.
Its ensemble brings to the table brilliant performances.
At the center of “Birdshot” is father-and-daughter Diego and Maya. Manuel “Ku” Aquino and Mary Joy Apostol play the two characters, each with individual obstacles that both must overcome. The latter is pivotal to the film; she is, like the eagle she kills, is as rare as they come. Among the key characters in “Birdshot”—her father, and the two policemen played by John Arcilla and Arnold Reyes, one beaming with idealism and another disillusioned and helpless by the dimming of said idealism—Maya’s humanity is the most precious and must be preserved, come hell or high water.
Its score is incredible.
Birdshot’s music is by Teresa Barrozo, composer of such films as the 2009 Brillante Mendoza film, “Kinatay”, and the 2013 Eduardo Roy Jr. film, “Quick Change”. If you felt an uneasy, jittery sense of dread, it is most likely due to the pulsating beats and screeches in Barrozo’s score.
It has accolades, and I imagine it will continue to do so; you’ll be hard-pressed to see anything in the film that might suggest that said accolades weren’t rightfully earned.
On the unlikely chance that you’re unaware, “Birdshot” has racked up awards from premier film institutions abroad. It took home the “Asian Future Best Film Award” at the 2016 Tokyo International Film Festival; it’s also been selected for the “Ingmar Bergman International Debut Award” at the 2016 Goteborg Film Festival. The above points I mentioned should, in no uncertain terms, make “Birdshot”, in itself a beast of the rarest kind, worthy of the accolades it earned.