Friday, July 11, 2014

Review of KAMKAM: Slumming in the Slums

July 11, 2014

This film was Rated A by the local Cinema Evaluation Board, and that distinction made me curious to see it. "Kamkam" (with English title of "Greed") turned out to be another social commentary film about the sadly corrupted lives of slum dwellers in the city.

Johnny (Allen Dizon) is the crime lord in Sitio Cam-cam, a neighborhood of illegal settlers. Salud (Jean Garcia) is his first wife for 22 years and they have three daughters. She is a barangay councilor, and the same time, in charge of the illegal gambling collections. Evelyn (Sunshine Dizon) is his second wife for 20 years, and they have a son Lennon and a daughter Yoko. She is in charge of the illegal water and electricity collections. Everyone lived swimmingly well together in the same area, including Johnny's permissive mother Ditas (Elizabeth Oropesa) and his gay right-hand man Arthur (Jaime Pebangco).

That is, until that day when Johnny brought home a much younger third wife, the sexy ex-club waitress Shane (Jackie Rice). When she starts to encroach on the businesses of the other two wives, trouble begins to brew in Johnny's little harem. This domestic squabble takes place just when the City Mayor has ordered the demolition of the entire Sitio Cam- Cam to give way to Korean business investors.

The script of Jerry Gracio tries to include all the current problems that exist within local urban poor communities into his story. The director Joel Lamangan makes sure we hear current events, like the PDAF Scam of Janet Napoles from incidental radio broadcasts we hear in the background. The setting is very authentic as the audience can immerse into the slum community themselves with the green garbage-filled esteros and the narrow alleyways filled with drunkards, drug addicts and derelict kids. We also get exposed to political realities in the scenes involving the barangay officials and the police officers.

Allen Dizon does creditably well in the lead role, though it still lacks some depth.  He can be tough as a notorious criminal, yet he is still respectful and gentle with his ladies.  Jean Garcia does her subdued best as she is known for, though she was the one given the chance to create a scandalous public scene, which seemed rather unlikely for her character. Sunshine Dizon has a little sub-story about her character's involvement in a religious cult that gave her a little more acting moments. Jackie Rice pales in comparison with these two more experienced ladies in the acting department. Elizabeth Oropesa steals her scenes by her mere presence. Jaime Pebangco makes his loyal and blindly supportive character very interesting. The young actors who play the kids (Joyce Ching, Hiro Peralta, Lucho Ayala) were all quite a good-looking bunch, but were still a bit self-conscious when they act.

"Kamkam" does not really show anything we do not already know. As it brings us inside this world of the slums, something about it somehow lacks grit and genuineness.  We still feel we are on the outside looking in, as it does not really draw us into complete immersion as other rawer and more intense indie films have done before. 

That said, I still think this is nonetheless still worth the time to watch it. It is like some sort of Zhang Yimou's "Raise the Red Lantern" set in a Manila slum area, with a bag of ingredients for "bistek Tagalog" replacing the red lantern as the symbol as to with which wife the husband will spend the night. 6/10.

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