Film Review: Revolution Selfie (2017): Stories of peasant warriors under conditions of poverty

Community News & Features Jun 14, 2019 at 2:48 pm

Revolution-Selfie-posterBy Ysh Cabana
The Philippine Reporter

“This is what keeps the revolution alive: it comes down to the moment of decision for each individual to join a movement and fight for a better world.”

Some things never get out of style, and Revolution Selfie: The Red Battalion’s central premise—go on a mission to meet face to face with the armed revolutionaries of the New People’s Army (NPA) — using off-kilter portable action camera is as deeply engrossing to watch in 2019 as it might have been when it was released two years ago.

Filmmaker Steven De Castro has a trick at play in his GoPro documentary. Shot from a first-person perspective, it unlocks not just the means of making a compelling narrative but also broadens understanding of the people in the frontlines in the so-called “enemies of America” in a genuine paradigm-shifting method.

Revolution-Selfie-(2)The most potent feature is by showing the faces of the elusive Maoist guerrilla fighters themselves and building up the characters “in light-hearted, almost comedic movie.”
Revolution Selfie is done in exacting precision, the director favoring spliced and creative rendering of mock game-design elements of augmented reality, and composite interviews, the totality of which makes the film feel more like an adventure than an ascendancy. Speaking mostly in voiceover, de Castro maintains a kind of philosopher presence that constantly inquires on commonly-held beliefs about engaging political acts, and the stories of peasants who prefer to become warriors given the prevalence of poverty.

The film applies that familiar model of the escapist field trip to real, modern battles. So on visiting places, de Castro waxes poetic. “As travelers we always picture ourselves as the stars of our own movie….in search of new and exotic backgrounds. What’s the point of exploring the world at all?” he quips. “Is it to just polish your self image? Is it even possible to bridge the gap with people whose lives are entirely different from our own? To see what’s in front of the camera, instead of filtering what we see…?”

Revolution-Selfie-(3)One cannot avoid the actual events that Revolution Selfie draws on from happening, and does not automatically condone violence. It promulgates fear as it recognizes the danger halfway through. But there’s also something unreal here in that losing one’s life does not mean failing a critical objective. Instead the viewer is allowed to continue their progress in watching the mock video game film. It is less of a propaganda up for debate and more about a moral justification of taking up arms as an undertaking built on hope for survival.

It’s a mission so great, he looks to no less the trailblazers than the generation of sixty-eighters to put it into words. Interviews from distinguished intellectuals and seasoned activists appear at various points, serving as interstitial title cards between footage of protest actions. They include Jose Maria Sison, Luis Jalandoni, Coni Ledesma, Concha Araneta and Julie de Lima among others, suggesting not only the enduring legacy of the founders of the re-established Communist Party of the Philippines which was a formidable force that launched an armed resistance that helped topple the Marcos dictatorship in an urban mass
uprising in 1986. Their collective leadership guided generations on the necessity of armed revolution in an archipelagic country for a protracted period of time.
“We have to find a way to end oppression, and we cannot expect that from other forces. The force must come from ourselves. We must build the power of the people,” says Julie de Lima near the end of the documentary.

Revolution-Selfie-(1)“The people themselves must realize their own power and gain their freedom. That’s the only way that they can deserve freedom.”
It seems there is no giving up as Philippine communist rebels mark fifty years of guerrilla warfare in the countryside.

Revolution Selfie

Director/cinematographer: Steven de Castro; music: Danny Fabella and Nejma Nefertiti, Pitoy San Jose, Potri Ranka Manis, Ras Badjao; associate producer: Rose Yapching. Not rated. In Filipino, English. Running time: 115 mins.

Featuring: Patrimuno family, soldiers of the Pulang Bagani battalion, Jose Maria Sison, Julie de Lima, Concha Araneta, Luis Jalandoni, Coni Ledesma.