"One of underground digital cinema’s best-kept secrets: a prankster punk, an ass-kicking rebel priest." — Olaf Moeller, Film Comment


“Filipino filmmaker Khavn goes against the politically correct, pre-conceived notions of what it means to live in a garbage strewn slum with this vibrant, punk-infused look at youth living and playing in squalor. For many American television viewers, images of crying children suffering from malnutrition and playing in garbage are often accompanied by a telephone number asking for donations. Khavn is determined to break that cliche by painting a compelling, monochromatic portrait of an impoverished
slum district near Manila. With black & white images set to the anarchic punk, this bleak but remarkable vision presents a world viewers only thought they knew in a way they could have never imagined.” (Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide, The New York Times)

“Hyper-productive star of the new Philippine digital cinema Khavn and his band The Brockas come to Arc Canberra for a live performance (or sonic reaction?) to his new film, winner of the Jury Prize at Cinemanila Film Festival. A punk cinema city symphony, a 21st century Los Olvidados, SQUATTERPUNK charts the lives of the ‘Mohawk’ kids of Manila’s Isla Puting Bato slum district, captivated by their tearaway

energy, despairing at their condition.” (Quentin Turnour, National Film & Sound Archive, Australia)

“It’s a rollercoaster ride down the literal rectum of the metropolis. Its only punctuations are title cards with oft-used proverbs; then it swings back into a hyperactive video collage of scenes from the slums. It’s oddly beautiful. You find poetry in these children’s escapes from their poverty — a used can of soda is kicked endlessly through the puddle-riddled
footpaths of the slums before being booted to a makeshift goal (complete with a goalie and a scorekeeper); the floor of the house bears the wear and tear of the dozen kids breakdancing; the dirty waters also serve as communal pool to the kids.
“Khavn’s frenzied pace is the film’s incongruent heartbeat. It is the metaphorical punk in the film’s title. Accompanying the frenetic rhythm of the video collage is the live music played by a band called The Brockas (aptly named, this band includes filmmakers
Khavn, Roxlee, John Torres, and Lav Diaz). SQUATTERPUNK is a concert film — a never ending, energetic road to places we dare not tread. “This is not a film by Khavn,” it’s an experience. “There are little stories in the rapid succession of moving black and white images. We get to witness how an old lady selling popsicles become the savior to the maddening summer heat; this is segued by a dive to the detritus-filled water (you’re glad Khavn shot the film in black and white; turns the garbage and feces components of the dead body of water into verses of a poem rather than what they really are).
“Most amazing is the story that wraps up the film. A family treads the streets of Manila at night, the few pesos they have they spend on their baby’s milk which they buy from a convenience store. They then forage for food in a stash of garbage in the street corner;
Styrofoam boxes still contain scraps of food (mostly half-eaten fried chicken). The twist of the story is that instead of munching the remainders of what was once a worthy meal, they spend time to cook their find. Even in the face of extreme poverty, they find means to enjoy a well-earned dinner.
“The thesis of SQUATTERPUNK is exactly that: that in the midst of the squalor they were born in, these impoverished Filipinos still find a will to live above the preconceived notions of suffering that accompany their state of life. That is their rebellion; their
statement in life — something very similar to missons the filmmaker-musicians strumming their guitars, and playing music alongside the frenetic images projected have.” (Oggs Cruz, Movie Thoughts)

The best social realist documentary in the Philippines, SQUATTERPUNK is a daring and adventurous film shot in the kind of slum neighbourhood where police protection is rare. The film, energetic and funny in a place that is supposed to be depressing, does not exactly fit into the social awareness approach of a direct cinema documentary. The score of the film is loud if not deafening. And not in vogue. Director Khavn, the enfant terrible of Filipino cinema, brings us back to the ‘no future’ eighties of authentic anarchic punk. But it is consistent in its style of black-and-white images and its rhythmic montage that is clearly driven by the music-based sound track. Compared to the ironic collage way of working in most of Khavn’s other films, this one is crystal clear if not neat. Well, only in comparison with his other sometimes exuberant experiments. By any other standard, it is a wild and pulsating film. SQUATTERPUNK shows something of life in the slums in a quite special way. It shows how poor, forgotten and ignored children can have a good time. Playing and swimming in rotting garbage can apparently be fun. So it is not the cliché image of tears in a child’s eyes that makes us aware of this disgraceful situation but the vitality and pleasure of the protagonists. In addition, maybe even stronger than pity, this pleasure enforces the inevitable message: no future. (Gertjan Zuilhof, Rotterdam International Film Festival)

“Squatter” is the N-word of the Phippines, suggesting the poorest of its Third World inhabitants only one rung up from living in Manila’s garbage citadel of Tondo. Hardly a cause for Squatter Pride, but Filmless Films’ Khavn, the bleached enfant terrible of the new Philippines digital scene, may convince you otherwise.
Filmed in just one day, SQUATTERPUNK follows an eight year old Slum King, a cocky would-be gangster with a Travis Bickle haircut, and his ratbag minions through one of the thousands of shanty towns that spring up between the cracks in the Manila pavements. The manic collage of stunning hand-held black and white images capture kids being kids as they frolick amidst the cardboard and corrugated walls of home-sweet-home and the surrounding debris, human and otherwise.
Like watching infants at play at a car crash, it’s a mesmerizing, almost seamless collision of social realism and visual poetry. It’s a rush to the heart, too, fuelled by the mostly improvised punk score by Khavn’s outfit The Brockas. Performed live in Brisbane by Khavn and his motley crew of local misfits, the relentless clang-bang drowns the need for dialogue or background noise, leaving a stark impression without comment and, more significantly, without judgement.
A vivid and jarring collection of postcards of innocence at the brink of a short and possibly non-existent adolescence, of simple pleasures amidst appalling squalor, of human junk that society ignores in a country the rest of the world prefers to forget.
(Andrew Leavold, Brisbane International Film Festival)

I vogue on the juxtapose. Punk’s a beer commercial these days, a T-shirt, an ad campaign trope. The “punk” in SQUATTERPUNK refers to before that. Refers to nihilism, the punk dictum — nothing from nothing, life at less than zero, rebelling against whatever you’ve got, no future. But the “squatter” in SQUATTERPUNK refers to the scabby, depleted , claustrophobic and overfamiliar subculture living off the liposucked fat of the land.The kids swimming in black water , the scavenger family making supper from detritus, the festering sores. Infiltrated and staked out with an unflinching eye, this is social realism without arrogance or agenda , but the immediacy of Bobby Balingit’s incoherent punk rock bristle feeds the oddly upbeat parallels and subtexts — punk was also autonomy, shock value, will to power — turning outrage into a kind of catharsis . (Dodo Dayao, Piling-Piling Pelikula)

Tweaking the poverty documentaries omnipresent in festival circles, SQUATTERPUNK turns its camera on a group of children living in a squalid Manila slum. Unlike most poverty documentaries, the film is less concerned (or not concerned at all, actually) with making any points about the hopelessness of their condition, but instead follows the kids as they play and walk around like little tough guys, complete with Mohawks and a fuck-you attitude. (Jason Sanders, Filmmaker Magazine & Cinemascope Magazine)

SQUATTERPUNK wants it viewers to be prepared for a feature-length music video quite unlike anything MTV is likely to broadcast. Shot in black-and-white to relentless punk rock energy, its “stars” are squatter kids living off the waste of Manila. Diving into dark waters teeming with refuse and scavenging for food, the nameless next generation still make time to shave their heads Mohawk style and bang madly on makeshift drums or strum beaten up guitars. (Philip Cheah, Singapore International Film Festival)

Let’s travel back to the silent era. Make sure you have your beers and two-hour supply of cigarettes with you as you follow the life of a boy in the urban squatter’s area, with The Brockas as the live accompanying music. Yup, it is a silent film and it’s a challenge to bring back the style once again. Imagine yourself watching a two-hour music video. But despite the band’s enigmatic and loud music drowning the film is a very ironic message which will stab your heart. (David Corpuz, Mental Pornography)

“Squatterpunk by Khavn is a rough and tough yet full-of-humor documentary about the kids who live in the slums of Manila – the last screening of the film boasted the live accompaniment of Khavn’s punk band The Brockas (named after Lino Brocka, Filipino pioneer filmmaker): an exciting event that will stay in the memory of the audience.” (Vera Brozzoni, Film Ireland)

A rollicking ride into the depths of poverty-inspired despair, with that distinctly Philippine sense of hope, rising above the regular smell of garbage, swinging and slamming with joyous riot music. This is Khavn returning to the bare, essential, and simply punk. (Joel Toledo, Rambling Soul)

Despite the crude, violent, exploitative connotations of its title, SQUATTERPUNK casts a tenderly poetic eye at the squalor of Philippine society. (Lourd De Veyra,

Pinoy Punk Rock is the music that reflects the lively and chaotic world of the urban poor in an independent masterpiece titled SQUATTERPUNK by the internationally award-winning director Khavn. (Jude Bautista, Manila Times)

Directed, Written, & Produced by Khavn
Cinematography by Albert Banzon
Edited by Lawrence S. Ang
Recorded Music by Bobby Balingit, Delakrus, The Brockas
Stills by Buccino De Ocampo
Assistant Direction by Rayg Generoso
Starring Hapon & the Isla Puting Bato Community
Running Time: 80 minutes

World Premiere: Rotterdam International Film Festival 2007
Grand Jury Prize, Cinemanila International Film Festival, 2006
Opening Film, Sonatrope Film Festival, Hong Kong, 2007
Singapore International Film Festival, Singapore, 2007
IndieLisboa International Film Festival, Portugal, 2007
Brisbane International Film Festival, Australia, 2007
National Film & Sound Archive, Canberra, Australia, 2007
Euganea Movie Movement Film Festival, Italy, 2007
Urban Nomad Film Festival, Taiwan, 2007
Hamburg Documentary Film Festival, Germany, 2007
Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival, Indonesia, 2007
Underdox Film Festival, Munich, Germany, 2007
Viennale International Film Festival, Austria, 2007
Amsterdam Film Experience, The Netherlands, 2007
Leipzig International Festival For Documentary And Animated Film, Germany, 2007
Austin Asian Film Festival, Texas, USA, 2007
Saarbrucken Cinema Days, Germany, 2008
Cinemalaya Film Festival, Philippines
JesCom Media Convention, Ateneo De Manila, Philippines, 2007
Chicago Filipino American Film Festival, 2007
Ljubljana International Film Festival, Slovenia, 2007
Southeast Asian Digital Cinema, Asian Film Archive, Singapore, 2007
Berlin Asian Hotshots Film Festival, 2008
Ficco, Festival Internacional de Cine Contemporáneo de la Ciudad de México, Mexico, 2008
CPH:DOX, Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival, Denmark, 2008
Planet In Focus International Environmental Film & Video Festival, Toronto, Canada, 2008
International Film Festival of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain, 2008
“The View From Elsewhere”, Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Australia, 2009
Visual Praxis Collective, “Picuring The Global Megacity”, University of Washington, USA

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This entry was posted on June 4, 2012 by in Trailers.


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