Directed by Khavn De La Cruz
Written by Khavn De La Cruz and Norman Wilwayco
Based on the Novel by Norman Wilwayco
It had me with the thalidomide anti-drug hip-hop number and there was no doubling back after that. Nearly every Khavn (not a) film draws a non-negotiable line in the sand, either you’re in or you’re out and half-assed gets you nowhere. And this is the one with the outsize myth. The one that gestated anxiously for five years, which, for someone like Khavn, counts as a lifetime, given how the unifying mean of his diverse, divisive ouevre is its velocity and volume and how they tend to exhaust both the word and paradigm of prolific. Mondomanila is the one, really, that almost got away.
Blame the vagaries of fate, as these things happen. But who knows if fate was pulling a few strings in its favor, given how the sense that Khavn's deceptively brash and reckless filmography was building up precisely to this point becomes tougher and tougher to ignore, not so much in the way that it feels like everything he’s done before while also feeling nothing like it, but more in its sense of culmination, in its vibrant throwing down of favorite tropes: the sociopolitical rebuke, the blackly-comic ultraviolence, the freaks on parade, the unabashed sentimentality, the deviant sex, that would be the dwarf orgy and goose porn, the bubbly pop sing-a-longs, particularly its climactic production number. Even the magisterial last bow of Palito feels serendipitous if not orchestrated.
This is not the first time Khavn has staked out Everyslum, of course, except that in severely condensing the dense sprawl of its source code, Norman Wilwayco’s prize-winning cult novel, everything gets heightened even more than Squatterpunk, heightened into polemic, into poetry, into opera, into shock-pop, coming on like some exploded depression musical slash dysfunctional family comedy, obnoxious and color-mad and surreal. And the more it reaches its own boiling points of surrealism, the more it one-ups the earnest social realism of the poverty porn you can mistake it for at first blush, uncannily nailing, too, the genuine throb of its milieu, which has nothing to do with the exoticized despair that has become a haggard trope but this lust for life anyone who’s been to Anyslum can parse off the bat, and will recognize through the cartoon sheen. It's a joyful defiance almost, or a defiant joy if you will, the sort that comes from living a life with nothing to lose.