It attracted the biggest crowd in this year’s Cinemalaya film festival and was given multiple standing ovations after its screening. “You would have thought Cinemalaya was screening a film about rock stars,” wrote Alya Honasan in an article.
Not a few confessed to weeping. “‘Delikado’ was an exceptional documentary that brought many of us to tears,” said broadcast journalist Gretchen Ho. “It exposes a reality many would sweep under the rug. The paradise we enjoy comes at a high price. Many parts of it were very, very painful to watch, but open our eyes we must.”
The film “Delikado” has been called “brave” many times, an “eye-opening and infuriating documentary.” Directed by Karl Malakunas, Deputy Editor In Chief for Asia Pacific of Agence France Presse, the 96-minute environmental thriller zeroes in on critical socio-environmental issues haunting Palawan, dubbed the Philippine’s last frontier. It boldly confronts the issue of illegal logging, but it also touches on illegal fishing, and mining which, as the film uncovers, are largely instituted by big developers and politicians.
Malakunas takes a jab at these issues through the lens of three grassroots champions: Palawan NGO Network Inc. (PNNI) executive director Roberto “Bobby” Chan, former El Nido Mayor Nieves Rosento, and PNNI para-enforcer and land defender Efren “Tata” Balladares. At the Cinemalaya screening, the audience also gave standing ovations to these environmental defenders when they took the stage.
“The power and energy in the room was just incredible. It is beyond my dreams to see how the film resonates with Filipinos and how it connects emotionally,” Malakunas said.
Members of the audience actively participated in the Q&A session, with many openly expressing support for PNNI and Rosento’s endeavors. Among them was British Ambassador to the Philippines and Palau, Laure Beaufils, who praised the film for its courageous take on environmental protection.
The evening ended on an emotional note as Balladares’ daughter took the mic to express her deep appreciation for her father’s work. She shared how she was unaware of the occupational hazards of being a para-enforcer prior to seeing the film. “Before, my father would say not to tell anyone he was my father because it is delikado(dangerous). But I stand before you now to say that even if it’s dangerous, I am proud to call you my father.”
The documentary has also received a very warm reception during a sold-out screening at the Melbourne International Film Festival. Among its early recognitions include the Sustainable Future Award and Audience Award at the Sydney Film Festival 2022, the Special Jury Prize for Best Documentary Feature from the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, and Special Mention for Best International Feature at Doc Edge, New Zealand.
Malakunas hopes to bring the film to a wider audience, particularly among the youth and students through nationwide screenings in the Philippines. The people behind it are encouraging groups to organize a screening of “Delikado” to further spread its message and make more people aware of the logging situation in Palawan.
“This documentary ends with a very depressing outcome,” said broadcast journalist Ces Drilon in an Instagram post. “But it ignited the audience in CCP and hopefully it will become a wake up call for all Filipinos.”
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