Lav Diaz (Philippinen 2019)
Lav Diaz has long been the cinematic poet and prophet of the Philippines, and his new feature, THE HALT, upholds this title. Set in a vaguely futuristic world, in 2034, it gives us Manila that is also eerily, familiarly decrepit. And it presents one of the most scathing, sadistic, psychotic portraits of a political leader in recent cinema, in the figure of President Nirvano Navarro (on par with Sokurov's portrait of Hirohito in THE SUN). THE HALT features a large cast and a myriad parallel stories: a revolutionary fighter, Hook Torollo, forced into hiding; a traumatized and solace seeking sex worker, Hammy; and two lesbian military soldiers and lovers, who slavishly fulfill the President's repressive orders. As always in Diaz, discussions on ideology and political exigencies abound, particularly with the hesitant Hook, who finally rejects direct political action to work serving the poor. This time, there is also forward driving action, as Hook joins a plot to assassinate Navarro. THE HALT, like most Diaz's films of late, is somberly black-and-white, and steeped in the dark shadows that suggest a world devoid of pleasure and justice.