Cast: Mark Gil, Noel Trinidad, Sandy Andolong, Ward Luarca
Official Selection, 1982 Director’s Fortnight, Cannes Film Festival
Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, 1983 Film Association of the Philippines Awards
2017 restoration by the Asian Film Archive
The 1981 pledge class of Alpha Kappa Omega rushes through the same ritual hazing as countless batches before them: calling seniors “masters,” withstanding petty insults, experiencing private and public humiliation, and accepting the physical torture that can spring forth at any time and any place. There’s the promise of light at the end of the dark, testosterone-jacked tunnel, more a dungeon than a frat house, where the incoming class is subjected to blindfolds and surveillance. But the light, once representing friendship, protection, and validation, soon glows a cultish red. And as the 1981 class begins to recognize the sickness of a culture that demands unquestioned loyalty, they assess their options – and the depths of their need for brotherhood.
Mike De Leon’s apocalyptic vision of good boys going bad is no campus nostalgia trip, but one boiled to a simmer by martial law and dictatorship. Referencing contemporaneous political nightmares Cabaret and A Clockwork Orange, BATCH ’81 captures the fascist inevitabilities of a community held together by chants, fraternal lineages, and the acceptance of violence. And the community runs deep, a panopticon of doctors, parents, and school staff ready to whip these recruits into shape. As the pageantry of discipline marches on, the audience stares agape, horrified as the men are, but also morbidly fascinated by the ethnographic detail and the promise of release. –Brian Hu
Sun Apr 14