Philippines / France, 1984 (MIFF 1985)
Director: Lino Brocka
"Bayan Ko" was a popular protest song of the 1930's used against US domination of the Philippines, but now converted to an anthem of the anti-Marcos movement. Although Brocka's international reputation rests on socially engaged docu-dramas such as lnsiang and Manila: In the Claws of Neon, he is also a prolific producer of exploitation pictures with titles like Hello Young Lovers, Hot Property and Your Body is Mine.
Bayan Ko (originally titled Kapit Sa Patalim "Hanging on a Knife Edge") was made by virtue of Brocka's exploitation track record, and because the director used a script, based on a criminal case, which had been authorised by thepre-censorship board three years earlier. The ruse worked, and the negative was aired to the French co-producer, and a print struck in time for premiering at the Cannes Festival. In the Philippines, Brocka was subsequently jailed, the authorities demanding among other things the return and destruction of the negative.
The film is based loosely on two separate, real-life incidents well known to Filipino audiences: a general strike, and a hostage case in Manila that climaxed in a shootout between police and "criminals". These two incidents are combined in the story of Turing, a labourer in a printing factory. His wife is pregnant and they are steeped in debts. For the promise of more money Turing signs an agreement by which he cannot join a labour union being organised by his fellow workers. At the onset of a strike, coinciding with his wife's hospitalisation (thus increasing his debts), Turing finds himself without the support of management or workmates. A victim, like the entire class he represents, he is drawn into the corruption that permeates the city and joins a band of smalltime gangsters in an attempted robbery of the firm where he works.
Bayan Ko is unashamedly a melodrama, but with something of the urgency and social-conscience of the Warners' melodramas of the '30s. "My wish," says Brocka, "is that this modest but hopefully clear film - as contained as it may be in its ambitions and the facilities of production - will help the audience to feel the pulse of the boiling blood of politically unprepared characters such as Turing".