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Director’s Statement


Background of the film

THIS FILM PROJECT is based on the 2006 Palanca Award winning screenplay,
“Tribu,” about the violent lives of street gang members, young urban hiphop poets
in Tondo, as seen from the eyes of a 10 year old boy. The proponent, a broadcast
journalist, poet, writer and sociologist, produced a short documentary on this
hiphop/gangsta phenomenon which aired on national television in 2001. But
sensing that the TV feature is not enough, he went back to his Tondo roots and
spent more time with various gangs (also called “tribes;” hence, the title.) --
further documenting their experiences and street poetry/hiphop culture. The
author/proponent believes that complexities and subtleties of the story of these
poor, yet highly talented urban youth can only truly be told using the more
sophisticated language of cinema.

Recently, the screenplay was chosen as one of the finalist in the Cinemalaya film

Of the ten Cinemalaya finalists, “Tribu” employs a neo-realist view of

contemporary urban life of marginalized teenagers. It will cast, as actors, real-life
teenage gang members who live in Tondo. This film project also documents
original street-level urban poetry (expressed in the form of rap – both memorized
and extemporaneous) composed by the tribe members themselves. Of the 100 or
so “tribes” existing in Tondo alone, most, if not all, have their own resident poet-
rapper and street dancer. What seems to be an unorganized mass of poor, young
deviant types is actually a growing movement of small organizations with their own
distinct subculture. This expanding movement has existed for more than a decade
and has become more culturally vibrant that it has absorbed and transformed
American hiphop culture into an indigenous form of expression of transgressive
(gangsta/ghetto) poetry, which I will call “Tondo rap.”


MORE THAN A HUNDRED “TRIBES” exists in Tondo today, each with their own set of
code of morality and honor, as expressed by their own rappers through original
urban street poetry compositions. Most of them are out-of-school youths whose
poverty and lack of education almost assures most of them with a not-so bright
future. The screenplay “Tribu” is based on the stories of real “tribes” or street
gangs in Tondo.

The digital film “Tribu” hopes to serve as a mirror to these youths, a basis for
reflection and transformation. Performed by genuine tribe members themselves,
even the whole production process serves as a venue for meaningful artistic
interaction of various (and often, warring) tribes, hopefully serving as impetus for
ending the nightly street violence in Tondo many parts of Tondo.

This narrative film tackling the lives of adolescent street gangs or “tribes” of
Tondo not only exposes the extent of social decay that has affected our youth, it
also documents an indigenized form of contemporary urban street poetry
influenced by global hiphop culture. It also mobilizes these street gangs as actors
in the film.

In a meeting with the leaders and founders of more than a dozen tribes from
different barangays, most have pledge support to the project, if not as actors and
on-screen rappers, then as volunteers during the production phase. Many have
signed up as “security volunteers” while others will lend a hand in various
production-related tasks.

Most of these “tribes” are rival, warring gangs. During the first few days of our
acting workshops, many of these adolescent participants carried concealed
weapons – as a security precaution since they were “entering another gang’s
territory.” Trust-building among participant gang members became a crucial factor
in designing the weekend acting workshops. With the help of veteran educators
from film, TV and theatre, the study of basic film acting became an instrument for
reflection, self-discovery and trust-building for each participant. The film Tribu,
at the community-level, proves that antagonisms between juvinile street gangs
could be healed through a creative project.

More significantly, Tribu highlights original urban poetry compositions in the area
and uses it in the film. This is the first major effort to document original gangsta
(or ghetto) poetry compositions (expressed in the form of rap), and even
extemporaneous “freestyle” sessions of these young street poets.

While others may exploit these street artists for commercial purposes, the film
treats these original, previously-unrecorded “freestyle” poetry sessions as an
emerging street art, spoken word movement.

On a larger scale, Tribu is the first realist narrative film that exposes the presence
of these deadly, yet highly artistic subculture presently found in almost all
marginalized, slum villages in Metro Manila.


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