The Family That Eats Soil:
Not up on your Philippine cultural and political history? Khavn's incendiary film probably won't bring you up to speed, but it will wake you up like a slap to the face with a huge hand made from frigid salt water. Filipino activists, scholars and others should feel that same stinging slap, even if they get the joke more than casual viewers. Khavn's agit-prop surrealist mélange might flirt with various levels of incomprehensibility, but if you've sat through anything by David Lynch, you're primed for the nightmare logic dispensed by this fierce filmmaker.
Drawing inspiration seemingly equally from the canons of Lynch, Harmony Korine, Takashi Miike and Alejandro Jodorowsky, Khavn throws down the gantlet early in his fractured narrative, constructing a credits-sequence around clay animation scenes of brutal, violent and graphic rape. Jan Svankmajer has nothing to worry about, but we do, as we're then introduced to the bizarre titular family, a tight clan that really eats soil - albeit cleverly prepared soil - for every meal. Various family meal scenes are jaggedly cut in throughout the movie, which otherwise bounces haphazardly from one family member's thing to another's.
All sorts of crazy stuff goes on within and without this family, including prostitution, aggressive drug dealing and murder. Somehow, though much of it makes little sense, it all seems quite plausible. From the put-upon, simmering father figure to the more unusual family members - a full-grown infant midget and a bleeding zombie poet, for instance - Khavn's family creation is all about obtuse transgression, pushing boundaries in a way that's at once familiar, intelligent, casual, hilarious, bizarre and enraged. Put lightly, graphic violence, taboo subject matter and extended sequences of real cock fighting are there to inflame and offend you; it's stuff that's not for everyone.
Even if you don't pick up on the message or understand the symbolism, (the weird cadaverous gentlemen staggering around the streets with cotton balls shoved in his nostrils is so far beyond my ken it's not even funny) you sense systematic, purposeful design behind the madness.
Notably, Khavn's rhythmic placement of family meals throughout the movie acts as a type of ironic glue holding the whole thing together. While Khavn bludgeons you with a psychedelic frenzy of aggressive weirdness, anger and disenfranchisement, he mockingly reminds you of the importance of family. As his semi-functioning dysfunctional family repeatedly meets around the table, inwardly cursing their lives (and their diet) a lasting connection is implied. Though these 'kids' may hate everything, themselves, and especially their horrible parents - they somehow seem unhappily wedded to the idea that whatever they're stuck with, their family is the stickiest.
Talent on an extremely low budget results in a full-frame 1.33:1 ratio presentation of this shot-on-video picture. The results are actually fairly decent, but no more than you'd expect. Robust colors are a plus, but the image is understandably 'video-esque', just crisp enough, and also pretty darn murky when we're treated to street-side nightlife scenes. No real compression artifacts are to be found, which is always a good thing.
Digital Stereo Audio is acceptable, but also expectedly not fantastic. No problems with distortion, and within the mix are, to present, but room audio can only go so far. Not that many viewers will care, since dialog switches frequently between English, Filipino, Spanish, and Visayan. English subtitles are available.
How To Eat Soil In 3 & ½ Days (20min) features raw BTS without narration, only un-subtitled on-set chatter. It's a good look at Khavn's super-low-budget working conditions and should be interesting mostly to viewers with the itch to make their own movies. A Q & A Interview "Talk to Khavn" (8min) covers the usual ground with the pleasant, forthright and shape-shifting Khavn (he looks very different here than he did in the previous extra). Notably, he mentions not knowing most of the directors - like Miike - to whom this film earned him comparisons, but admits that they are in the same 'universe'. The Short Film "Can & Slippers" (2min) is a rhythmic take on urban Filipino soccer, with an uplifting message. Making of Claymation (5min) mostly breaks down the credits-sequence piece by showing live footage of the clay models as they are shot. Also included are the original Trailer and more Also Available stuff from Pathfinder Pictures.
Khavn's furious, low-budget examination of hypocritical family values, Filipino-style, is shocking, amusing, distressing and hypnotic. There seems to be a good heart beating beneath all the anger, but Khavn pretty much lets you find it, if you want, on your own. Fans of avant-garde world cinema should certainly check out this Recommended feature, to catch a new, original voice.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com