In this caustic cultural satire, Philippine master and Festival veteran Brillante Mendoza (Thy Womb) sets his sights on the moral failings of the contemporary news media.
Brillante Ma Mendoza
One of the masters of contemporary Philippine cinema, Brillante Ma Mendoza embarks on a very different course with his most recent film, the alternately hilarious and terrifying Sapi, a caustic media satire and horror film about the lengths news services will go to capture and capitalize on a story.
The film follows two competing television news teams as they chase a variety of leads, gradually zeroing in on an impending and possibly apocalyptic storm, and a middle-aged teacher who may or may not be possessed by a demon. Writer and actress Raquel Villavicencio plays the ruthless head of the top-rated network, coming off as a Tagalog variation on Faye Dunaway's fabled character in Network. Her team has eschewed covering politics in favour of triedand- true tabloid fodder: demonic possession.
Struggling to compete is a rival station hampered by a manager who's been resting on his laurels, and who is saddled with his new boy toy as the on-air correspondent. (The station's efforts are also derailed when the entire newsroom is disrupted by the unexpected appearance of a very large snake.) Desperate, they buy some footage from a shady cameraman — and Sapi suddenly morphs into a terrifying and graphic horror film as well as a chilling study on how superstition, mass media, and mass hysteria can converge.
Sapi is a furious critique of the way
media can shape public opinion and play,
inevitably, to the lowest common denominator.
(Be forewarned, this movie is not for
the squeamish; it ploughs forward, from
one disturbing image to the next, much of it
sexual in nature.) The result is a troubling,
unforgettable assault on twenty-first century
media and the culture that nurtures
and allows it.