The Family That Eats Soil
Medium: film
Year: 2005
Writer/director: Khavn
Country: Philippines
Keywords: animation [snippets only]
Language: Filipino, English, Spanish, Visayan
Actor: Carlo Catap, Hamid Eton, Elizabeth Marin, Gil Mendoza, Hazel Magno, Edward Vitto, Gigi Duque, Christian Guzman, Jocelyn Sibayan
Format: 75 minutes
Website category: Asian
Review date: 27 June 2013
It's from the Philippines and it calls itself "Not a movie by Khavn". I won't disagree.
Firstly, Khavn. His real name's Khavn De La Cruz and he's a poet, singer, songwriter, pianist and filmmaker. He's been called "the father of digital filmmaking in the Philippines" and he's known for guerilla-style shoots at lightning speed with a tiny crew. He's made more than thirty feature films and a hundred shorts in the last twenty years. To quote the man himself...
"The longer it takes to make a film, the more expensive it is so I keep my shoots short and sweet. It has to do with energy, too. Like improvisational music played on the piano: you have this moment to create something right then and there, you just follow the beat. It's the idea of 'best thought, first thought.' The best take is the first take. All the 'mistakes' ultimately become part of the piece, the set design. You allow the world into your films."
He reminds me of Takashi Miike. Both are famously fast workers, explosively inventive as directors and more than willing to violate taboos. The difference between them is that a Miike film feels like a film. This doesn't, really. It feels like the work of some friends who know very little about filmmaking but have found a video camera and decided to try to outdo Miike anyway.
You see, Miike doesn't write his own movies. He has scriptwriters. Khavn on the other hand is a writer/director, so you can imagine what the results are like if he's shooting at that kind of pace in that spirit. It's exhilarating, in its way, but there's no narrative. Its scenes could be arranged in any order. The end credits tell us "And now for something completely the same", which I'm going to speculate is a nod to Monty Python. That makes sense. I can see a possible influence. You could imagine this as a dark, even more transgressive descendant of Python and/or The League of Gentlemen, with what's practically a sketch show structure and a tone that I think is intended as comedy.
It's about a family that eats soil. You'll have guessed that from the title, but it's being done more literally than you're thinking. They're all sitting around the table, eating it for dinner. Mummy cooks soil. Daddy hits his family and eats soil. The son will soon be torturing a Chinaman to death as part of a racist gang for lack of anything better to do, but right now he too is eating soil. The daughter has internal monologues about why she's not eating her soil, of which one of the many possible reasons is "is it because I'm still full of cum?" I can't remember offhand, but I suspect that even the baby's eating soil too, although we'll also see later that he's a gore baby who breastfeeds from his mother in a non-traditional manner. He's played by a dwarf in a nappy.
The performances range from bad (Dad) to passable (Mum), with the opening scene having line deliveries that'll turn your hair white. I don't think these are professional actors.
The purpose of the film is to be transgressive. That's it, mostly. There's no storyline and nothing means anything. However it's full of energy, it's never boring and in time it manages to accrete something akin to a point. It has its own kind of surrealism and there's what might be savage commentary in scenes like, for instance, the ones where Dad's having sex with his whore on the stairs while Mum tries to do the cleaning around the two of them.
Some of the more noteworthy scenes include:
(a) Claymation that starts with a wedding and includes murder and gang rape from authority figures (priest, soldier). The Philippines is the country with the world's third highest number of Roman Catholics and has been ruled by military dictatorships. The rape is anatomically correct.
(b) Dad's hobbies include injecting poison into the drips of children in hospital.
(c) Flash animations. One reminded me of Krynoid infection, while the other is a fight between a Blood Superhero (red) and a Water Superhero (blue).
(d) Hot Mama San's Sex Drugs and Rocky Road Show. (She pronounces it "rock and roll", which makes more sense.) The first episode of this takes us to a whorehouse and a drug den. The second has her talking Spanish, which makes the subtitles do things I'd never seen before. Was that just the copy I happened to be watching? Is it officially part of Khavn's movie? I don't know, but it's bonkers. You see, the subtitler doesn't speak Spanish and he takes offence at Mum for using it, so spends the rest of the sequence abusing her. "I am a cow in a dress. Moo." "Call 1-800-STUPID." "This is really bad subtitles. I should know, I'm writing it."
(e) The naked daughter fantasising about sex and acting it out, but she starts re-enacting traumatic rape. (Later we see her being gang raped for real, interspersed with shots of her saying grace at dinner.)
(f) Dad on the toilet passing a live chicken.
(g) Cock fights. (That's not a sexual reference. I'm talking about more chickens.)
(h) "NO MAIDS" followed by a bit where intertitles explain that the universally ignored "maid" (i.e. mum) has PhDs in economics and computer science, etc.
(j) Blurry home movie footage with no soundtrack that goes on for quite a long time and has no apparent point, except surrealism. You can't see anything except colours and vague shapes.
(k) A cast list including Shitman, Jesus Rapist Crusade and The Mother Who Gave Her Daughter Away.
I wouldn't really recommend this, to be honest. I don't mind the extreme content, although be warned that even I found some of it a bit gross. It's just that it's not even pretending to tell a story or reach a conclusion. It feels amateurish. However at the same time, you can't argue with Khavn's energy or accuse him of bottling out. I think it would be possible to distil some caustic messages from this, if you can fight past the way in which one's being pelted with all the most disgusting things Khavn can think of. Besides, I presume he's not always like that. One of his short films, Ruined Heart! Another Love Story Between a Criminal and a Whore, was nominated for a Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival last year.
It's not dull, at least.
"There is no truth except the burned rice in the pot."