Shaina Magdayao in "Ang Hupa" ("The Halt") / Photo via Spring Films, Illustration: Unreel
Shaina Magdayao in "Ang Hupa" ("The Halt") / Photo via Spring Films, Illustration: Unreel

“Ang Hupa” Early Reviews: Darkness shrouds a nation stumped

The first rounds of reviews for Lav Diaz’s new film have dropped.

Film(s) featured:
"Ang Hupa"
Lav Diaz
Piolo Pascual, Joel Lamangan, Shaina Magdayao, Mara Lopez, Hazel Orencio, Joel Saracho, and Pinky Amador
Release Date (Philippines):

Lav Diaz’s “Ang Hupa” (Eng. Title: “The Halt”) premiered as part of the Directors’ Fortnight slate at the 2019 Cannes International Film Festival.

The film—which succeeds his uniquely immersive musical, “Season of the Devil”, and his loftily ambitious short-short film in the journey-themed omnibus, “Lakbayan”—marks his third collaboration with Piolo Pascual, who appears in the film as Hook Torollo, alongside Joel Lamangan, Shaina Magdayao, Mara Lopez, Hazel Orencio, Joel Saracho, and Pinky Amador among others.

Check out the full synopsis of “Ang Hupa” below.

It is the year 2034 AD and Southeast Asia has been in the dark for the last three years, literally, because the sun hasn’t shone as a result of massive volcanic eruptions at the Celebes Sea in 2031. Madmen control countries, communities, enclaves and bubble cities. Cataclysmic epidemics razed over the continent. Millions have died and millions have left.

“Ang Hupa” screened just last week at Cannes, and the reaction has been mostly positive. The film’s Letterboxd page is your typical mix of reviews from people who are either unbothered by the movie’s running time (clocking in at 4 hours and 36 minutes) or those who are completely astounded by it.

“Lav Diaz’s most nightmarish and apocalyptic vision of the future of humanity,” Letterboxd user Sean Fahey writes in his review. “A world of fascists, military police squads, and near total darkness. However, if you stay through its runtime, there is hope and promise for the future.”

Shaina Magdayao in "Ang Hupa" ("The Halt") / Photo via Spring Films
Shaina Magdayao in “Ang Hupa” (“The Halt”) / Photo via Spring Films

As for published critics, Jonathan Romney of Screen Daily has much love for the film, however, he offers it with some reservation. “[The Halt] may not be an absolute high point in his prolific output, but it certainly stands out in its ambition and, indeed, its political rage.”

Desistfilm’s Monica Delgado talks about the political nature of the film, describing “The Halt” as “a completely political film, in its way of making a caricature of the dictatorships and dormant societies, but also because it poses a way out, in the opportunity of recovering lost time by the new generations.”

Which is something Clarence Tsui (from The Hollywood Reporter) has taken quite a shine on. “Diaz has yet to swap art for arms in order to bring change to his society. But the fire still burns brightly within him, it seems,” he writes.

"Ang Hupa" ("The Halt") film poster
“Ang Hupa” (“The Halt”) film poster

However, the film, as he points out, gets a bit rough with its “protracted monologues”. Tsui shares: “As the film proceeds, Navarra [played by Joel Lamangan] spirals increasingly towards a convenient caricature: in his own room, the dictator wanders around in a dress and engages in conversations with a mama who’s not there, before headbanging to heavy metal in a desperate attempt to annihilate the voices in his head.”

There’s no word yet about a Philippine premiere, but we’re hopeful that we’ll get to see “Ang Hupa” sometime this year after it makes its rounds in the international festival circuit.

Looking forward to watching Lav Diaz’s new film? Chime in the comments below. Let’s discuss.