The Animals (Philippines, 2012) [NYAFF 2013]

The AnimalsThe teenagers in Gino M. Santos’ The Animals belong to the 1% of the Philippine social stratosphere, living an American dream that most Americans would envy. They drink, smoke, pop pills, erupt into violent rages, and like all teenagers are driven by their raging hormones. Chauffeured from place to place and coddled by their rich parents, these kids embody the very definition of “spoiled brat”.  However, nothing about their behavior would startle a normal First World audience. The cinema is filled to capacity with rich jerks and stuck-up snobs, but Santos’s film takes place in the Philippines, a third world country where government corruption is public knowledge and free speech is oftentimes curbed.

With a national cinema that has often been labeled and accused of perpetuating poverty porn to film festivalgoers it’s rare that those living outside the Philippines get to see another reality. Luckily, as far more adventurous cinephiles dive into the country’s film scene, both past and present, we get a chance to see how “the other half” live.  Instead of a cliché focus on slackers, geeky nerds that are beautiful on the inside, or hipsters with an encyclopedic knowledge of every obscure band that ever existed, Santos depicts teenagers who are just dead to anything that is outside their own purview. Whereas many teenage dramas and comedies spend a great deal of energy charting their pubescent characters loss of innocence, The Animals shows kids corrupted long before we ever met them. Instead, what Santos does is have us, the audience, witness one day in their lives. Of course, as the rules of drama dictate, this is no ordinary day for any of the characters involved.The Animals3

Jake (Albie Casino) is the epitome of the upper class male. His parents cater to his whims, doling out cash even before he gets a chance to ask, and supporting his extracurricular activities that include drinking, smoking, and popping pills. When we first meet Jake, he seems to embody everything middle class audiences hate about the rich, though Casino does allow for Jake to have some sympathetic qualities. He seems to love his girlfriend, has a very amiable personality, and one can’t help but notice that, aside from a breakfast scene at the start of the film, Jake is devoid of any sort of parental figure in his life. In fact, when Jake’s father brings up the party that his son is putting together, he thinks it’s a school event and even jokes about the entrance fee Jake is charging to his The live dealer games are also a popular choice, particularly for players who are looking for a live Casino online experience from home. guests. You feel sympathetic for this young man who may just be bored and in need of a little parental guidance.

Of course, Jake’s issues pale in comparison to those of Alex (Patrick Sugui), who’s a sheep lost in the woods. Toking up before school and having hooked up with a gang of older high school kids who dangle membership to their fraternity in front of wayward teens, Alex is painful to watch as a scared casino online boy who struggles to fit in as he is viciously hazed by his upper classmen. In Santos’ film friendships are, at best, superficial connections that are based on supply and demand; meaning loyalties shift when one can’t get what they want.The Animals2

The third character we follow, Trina (Dawn Balagot), is not only Alex’s older sister, but also Jake’s girlfriend. Of these three, her fate is the most tragic. Though she suffers from kleptomania, a character trait introduced in the beginning and left to wither on the dramatic vine, she is the most levelheaded character out of the three.

When the action moves to Jake’s party the strobe lights, loud music, and jump cut action can get very tiring. It’s all very rote. These kids may talk the talk, but they are still kids and Santos makes sure to linger on shots of puke, be it staining bathroom floors, dribbling onto chic dresses, or erupting from pubescent mouths. It’s also interesting to note that it’s mainly women who were blowing chunks while the men are silent observers laughing or enjoying the feeling of female flesh rubbing up against them.

Although The Animals has gotten a lot of attention as being critical and damning of the rich, the film is actually far from that. Yes, the film does portray these privileged teenagers in a very negative light, but in the end Jake and Alex aren’t really admonished for their “bad behavior”. In fact, both characters in the end are allowed to return to the comforts of their warm beds, a far cry to the fates of the film”s female characters. The Animals in the film”s title are not the idle rich but men, young and old who rule through aggression.

The Animals is screening at the Walter Reade Theater twice, July 2nd at 2:45p and July 10th at 10:25p, as part of this year”s New York Asian Film Festival”s Manila Chronicles: The New Filipino Cinema sidebar.  For more information and tickets, go here.