What if the men in uniform sworn “to serve and protect” us are the very people we need protection from?
That is the premise behind Lawrence Fajardo’s “Posas (Shackled),” an entry in Cinemalaya’s Directors Showcase category.
But while the provocative film depicts cops in a very unflattering light, producer Atty. Joji Alonso, a legal luminary who has hosted public affairs programs devoted to legal and police matters, insists that “Posas” is not a sweeping indictment of the country’s entire police force.
“I hosted the TV show ‘Police Hour’ on RPN-9 for 10 years, and there are many positive stories about cops that I featured, to show that there are cops who really do good,” she pointed out. “Marami naman matitinong pulis. But let’s face it, now, you read the papers and you see cops being involved in crimes themselves. It’s not our fault na ganyan ang perception ngayon sa mga pulis. Kasalanan nila ‘yan.”
Alonso stresses that “Posas” is also based on actual research. “There’s an actual case with the Supreme Court similar to it. I consulted a police general about the story and there’s nothing fake in the movie. It actually happened.”
Penned by Zig Dulay (“Huling Halik”), “Posas” centers on the character of Jess Biag (Nico Antonio), a notorious snatcher in his early 20s who prey on passersby in the bustling streets surrounding the Quiapo Church. When he finally gets caught by three corrupt cops, he goes through a literally torturous ordeal before they ultimately decide that his criminal “talents” can actually be used to further their own crooked interests.
Originally slated to be directed by Jeffrey Jeturian, “Posas” ended up in the hands of Lawrence “Law” Fajardo after the former could not take a break from directing a popular teleserye.
“I loved what Direk Law did in ‘Amok’ and both Jeffrey and I agreed that he’s the right man for the film,” Alonso said. She and co-producers John Victor Tence and screenwriter Armando Lao got more than what they bargained for with Fajardo, who also did the editing and production design for “Posas”
“Being a frequent collaborator of Direk Jeffrey, I would’ve been still involved in ‘Posas’ as his assistant director and editor had he decided to do it,” Direk Law said.
While Fajardo admitted that his approach for this film is quite unlike what he did to “Amok” which won Best Editing and Best Sound in Cinemalaya’s New Breed category last year, his depiction of Quiapo in “Posas” (at least based on the trailer) is strikingly similar to the way he shot Pasay Rotonda in “Amok”—crowded, claustrophobic and full of unexplained tension.
Based on the finished product that she has seen, Alonso believes she made the right call in tapping the director for the film. In fact, “Posas” pleasantly exceeded her expectations when it turned out to be even good enough to be considered for inclusion in the prestigious Cannes International Film Festival.
“It was one of the 25 films they shortlisted for the Un Certain Regarde section,” she proudly revealed. “It was e-mailed to me by no less than the programmer himself. Unfortunately, hindi siya pumasok sa Top 17 films. But then again, hindi pa naman talaga kami tapos that time!”
As a producer, Atty. Joji believes that she has become seasoned enough to know what would and would not work. After losing around P20 million when her initial venture, Jeturian’s “Minsan Pa”, starring Jomari Yllana and Ara Mina, bombed at the box office, the undaunted film buff went on to produce films that are both critically acclaimed and commercially appealing.
These films include Jeturian’s “Kubrador” and “Here Comes The Bride,” Pepe Diokno’s “Engkwentro” and the toast of Cinemalaya last year, Marlon Rivera’s “Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank,” which ran for four weeks in its subsequent theatrical run and grossed P38 million—not bad for a low budget indie that was set in motion by Cinemalaya’s P500,000 seed grant.
“I think my years of producing films have allowed me to develop a pulse for these things,” she said. “I was not at all surprised that ‘Ang Babae sa Septic Tank’ did so well in the box office because I knew we had something there.”
But even as her instincts continue to bare her choices out in her recent film ventures, the casting of her son Nico for the lead role of Jess in “Posas” has been met with some skepticism and raised eyebrows.
“The role of ‘Jess’ was not written specifically for Nico,” she maintained. “But when I read the script, I felt na really bagay sa kanya, and it was about time I gave him a chance. True enough, he was really good in the film. Ako mismo, nagulat sa performance niya dito.”
Atty. Joji noted that Nico is not exactly a newcomer in the business and not too many people in the industry even knew him as her son.
“Since his days as a theater actor in Ateneo where he won best actor, it’s been my son’s dream to act and I think he has paid his dues dahil eight years na siyang umaarte since starting out as an extra in ‘Panday.’ I told him hindi madali ang pinasok niya and I’m so proud that he did justice to his role in ‘Posas.’”
The producer said the intensive training Nico underwent in preparing for the role is reflective of his dedication to constantly improve his craft. With the help of a trainer, the stocky young actor lost 30 lbs of mostly muscle as he does have much fat in his system. He also learned how to snatch a cellphone from a real-life snatcher.
One of the film’s highlights is the scene where Jess is subjected to waterboarding torture by the menacing cops played by Nor Domingo, Jake Macapagal and Art Acuña. “He was tortured nang walang daya at akala niya, mamamatay na siya,” Alonso exclaimed.
“May busal sa bibig ko, then may panyo sa mukha ko, then binuhusan ako ng tabo ng tubig,” the actor recalled. “Nung binubuhusan na ako, hindi ako makahinga! Pakiramdam ko, nasa dagat ako. Nakaposas ako nun at si Jake Macapagal, nakadagan sa dibdib ko. Naka-four takes kami. Tinanong ko si Direk, isa pang take? Huwag na, ayoko na, Direk!”
But while Nico delivered what might be considered as this filmfest’s breakout performance, Alonso concedes that “Posas” is up against some very tough competition in Cinemalaya’s Director’s Showcase category.
She is nonetheless optimistic that the film, its director, members of its crew and its strong cast that includes Bangs Garcia, Wendy Valdez, and John Lapus will be given their due recognition.
Also worth noting is the film’s gripping score composed by Joseph Lansang, a former member of the Rainmakers, a popular vocal group during the ’70s.
Atty Joji said producing films has been a fulfilling endeavor for her not only in the sense that most of her projects actually made money and found the audience they deserve.
It’s also because most of her film’s actors like Gina Pareno in ‘Kubrador’, Angelica Panganiban and John Lapus in ‘Here Comes the Bride’ and of course, Eugene Domingo in ‘Septic Tank’ have also been honored for their work.
But more than the accolades, the feisty lawyer hopes that “Posas” would pave the way for some much needed reforms in our police system.
“The PNP is asking for support from the media for them to have a better image. If the PNP would complain about our movie, then I’d tell them to clean up their ranks first before we can support them.”
“Posas” will have its Cinemalaya Gala Premiere Night on July 22, Sunday, 9PM at the CCP Main Theater.