Ria Limjap on Raymond Red's Himpapawid: Take to the Sky

Himpapawid is the new film by Raymond Red, the first Filipino director to win the Palme D'Or at Cannes. (Spoiler alert!)

Raul, the Anarchist Hero in Raymond Red's latest feature film Himpapawid, is a man in dire straights. A poor worker who wants to go home and help his sick father, Raul finds himself embroiled in a heist with a gang of amateurs. Crispin (John Arcilla), Tatang (Soliman Cruz), Karlo (Karlo Altomonte), and Morit (Raul Morit) are a bunch of bitter drinking buddies, kanto boys–kanto men really–who plan to rob an overseas placement agency owned by the man who cheated them. When the heist goes wrong, Raul alone survives. He takes the gun, the grenade, his homemade parachute, and hijacks a plane. He robs the passengers and jumps out the door, like a modern day Icarus with nowhere to go but down. A poor farmer (Ronnie Lazaro) finds Raul's body on the side of the road and the blood spattered stash. He takes the booty and uses it to pay for his son's future.

Superbly acted by an ensemble cast and beautifully shot by Raymond Red on ultra high definition video (with the RED camera), Himpapawid is a perfect example of story, structure, and style coming together in this well-crafted and lucid film. Raymond Red, of course, is one of Philippine cinema's most important filmmakers–he was the first one to win the Palme D'Or at Cannes in 2000 for his short film Anino–and it's really gratifying to see him doing vigorous and compelling work. He's not resting on his golden palm.

The film reflects the relevant issues of life in the Philippines: the grinding poverty, the rampant corruption, the cheapness of life (to paraphrase Lino Brocka.) But it also shows glimpses of our humor (the heist planning session is a hilarious scene) and the poetry of our soul. The Anarchist Hero, no matter how downtrodden, will always run with his dream–in Raul's case, flight. Freedom from this life.

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I guess, in a way, that's what we all want.

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