The first wave of reviews for Lav Diaz's newest movie "Ang Hupa" ("The Halt") has described it as the director's most "politically charged" film yet.
The dystopian movie, which debuted at the Directors' Fortnight sidebar at the Cannes Film Festival in France, features a near-future Philippines when "millions have died to a flu epidemic and volcanic eruptions have cast the nation into permanent darkness."
The above synopsis is from a review written by Screen Daily critic Jonathan Romney, who also shared that it stars Joel Lamangan as a "paranoid, posturing dictator who claims to rule by divine right."
He declared that while "Ang Hupa" may not be an "absolute high point in Lav Diaz's prolific output, it certainly stands out in its ambition and, indeed, its political rage."
Hollywood Reporter critic Clarence Tsui, meanwhile, had a similar take, writing: "The Halt ranks as Diaz's most straightforward and politically charged film to date, with his script spelling out everything he wanted to say in the clearest of terms."
Tsui pointed out that in the movie, "the president spews polished but delusional nonsense about his entitlement to power, officials dismiss 'the discourse in truth,' while intellectuals lament the Philippines' transformation into a 'nation of forgetting.'"
He did criticize "Ang Hupa" for lacking the "wonderful subtlety," "the emotional power," and the "strangeness" of Diaz's previous works, including last year's "Panahon ng Halimaw."
Still, he praised Diaz for his latest attempt to bring change to the Philippines: "The fire still burns brightly within him, it seems."
"Ang Hupa" stars Piolo Pascual, Shaina Magdayao, Hazel Orencio, Pinky Amador, and Mara Lopez.