Tuesday, September 27, 2011

An Important Film: Give Up Tomorrow

It's easy for cinephiles to say that a film is "important" and a great many of them are, but that importance just needs to be put into perspective. Films can drive philosophical and artistic discussions and trends into new territories, but how often is one imperative viewing? I have an addition to that rare category, a documentary called Give Up Tomorrow. It's not a "must-see" in the oft-used sense, but literally a film that you must see if given the chance.

Set amidst old world vestiges of colonialism, classism and backdoor politics in the Philippines, Give Up Tomorrow rivetingly exposes a Kafkaesque contemporary world of corruption and injustice. In a murder case that ends a nation’s use of capital punishment, but fails to free an innocent man, two grieving mothers personify the chasms – both nightmarish in scope – that divide two families and, by extension, a nation.

The documentary tells the story of Paco LarraƱaga, an innocent man who has been in prison for 14 years. Much of the first half of the film provides overwhelming evidence of Paco's innocence in regards to the heinous charges of kidnapping, rape and murder, but that evidence also goes far to expose unbridled corruption, conspiracy and indifference to human rights that is present in the case. This culminates in a circus of a trial and a bogus conviction followed by a vindictive appeal on behalf of the victims' mother to upgrade Paco and his co-accused's life-sentences to death (which she wins due to connections in the country's supreme court).

The latter portion of the film presents Paco's struggle for life and liberation and the unbelievable complications in freeing the man despite his widely-believed innocence. The efforts of his family, friends and the international human rights community have brought him to much better conditions in a Spanish prison, but no conditions behind bars are acceptable for a man, who, by rights, should be allowed to walk free.

Give up Tomorrow is a massive achievement in investigative journalism - of which seven years went into the making of the film. It is also a continuing cause to be fought. You'll find the filmmakers, Michael Collins and Mary Syjuco, actively pursuing Paco's cause outside screenings - giving audience members the chance to sign petitions and send well-wishes. For them, this is more than a film, it is a rallying cry for human rights and a plea for the life of an innocent man. Seeing this documentary is important because corruption and injustice thrive on shadows and casting light upon such things makes their existence that much harder.

See Give Up Tomorrow wherever and whenever you can. Visit their site,"like" their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter. For my money, it's the best and most affecting documentary you'll see this year.  

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