Vancouver is the last stop in the cross-Canada tour by the makers of Dukot (Desaparecidos), a full-length movie about the grim fate of many political dissenters in the Philippines.
According to a 2007 report by the London-based Amnesty International, some 1,600 people have disappeared since the 1970s. They are feared to have been tortured and eventually executed after their abduction by police or military agents. Their bodies have never been found. (The Tagalog word dukot means snatch or kidnap.)
The phenomenon of these disappearances has accompanied campaigns by successive governments to suppress a communist-led insurgency in most parts of the southeast Asian nation, and a Muslim separatist rebellion in some of the southern provinces.
“We must admit that there is a civil war that has been raging for decades,” the film’s Manila-based screenwriter Bonifacio Ilagan told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview from Montreal. “Abductions and executions are at the heart of the internal security program of the government.”
As one of the highly regarded screenwriters in his native country, Ilagan, 59, knows all too well the uncertainty that has gripped families who have lost their loved ones. He had been twice abducted and tortured by government security forces but was lucky to have been released. His younger sister Rizalina was snatched in 1977, and she has never been seen again.
Watch the trailer for Dukot.
According to Ilagan, the contemporary setting of Dukot (Desaparecidos) is a grim reminder that disappearances continue to happen in the Philippines. The film tells the story of a young activist who disappeared along with his girlfriend, and the frantic search by their families to locate them.
In its World Report 2010 released in January this year, the New York City–based Human Rights Watch noted that “hundreds of leftist politicians, political activists, journalists, and outspoken clergy have been killed or abducted since 2001” in the Philippines.
The Tagalog-language film with English subtitles screens on Thursday and Friday (June 3 and 4) at 6:30 p.m. at UBC Robson Square (800 Robson Street, Vancouver). A third date is set on Saturday (June 5) at 6:30 p.m. at the Vancouver Public Library central branch (350 West Georgia Street).
Public discussions will follow the film screenings. Ilagan, with the movie’s producer Dennis Evangelista and lead actor Allen Dizon will take questions.
Joining the panel is Melissa Roxas, an American citizen of Filipino ancestry who was arrested and tortured in the Philippines in May 2009 while she was visiting the country to gather materials for a writing project. Roxas was apparently mistaken for Maita Santiago, a former activist in the Philippines and currently constituency assistant of NDP Vancouver-Kensington MLA Mable Elmore.