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Movie Review: Slingshot (Tirador) at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2008

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I tend to automatically take to any film which depicts things in a very gritty and realistic way and subsequently I tend to forgive any flaws it might have. That’s exactly what’s happened with Slingshot; I haven’t experienced realism like this in cinema in quite a while.

Slingshot, or Tirador to use its original language title, from director Brillante Mendoza, puts us into the heart of a section of Manila, in the Philippines, where daytime robbery and violence is a regular occurrence. The film shows us some specific everyday occurrences within a certain part of the city using a style that feels like you are in amongst the people.

A pivotal element to making a film which depicts the everyday life of a city is for it to feel real and not manufactured. Through its “in the thick of it” camera techniques and general direction, that’s exactly what it does. The conversations feel like we are eavesdropping on them rather than listening to a written screenplay and the events we see make us feel like we’re among the crowd that’s standing close and we just happen to catch a glimpse of what’s going on. There isn’t a main narrative plot that the film follows but rather it’s a series of incidents involving a few of the same sets of people. I think this adds to the idea that we are just getting a small taste of what it’s like for people every day in this city rather than following a carefully plotted story.

In a very City of God way, the film’s editing is very frantic and cut very quickly together a lot of the time to get the desired effect. For instance, a fight might break out between two people and the camera will quickly cut between being right in between the two and then from the perspective of people all around, on balconies and the like. The various filmmaking techniques employed amount to you often not being able to tell whether it’s a fictional film (although probably based on the true events in generality) or a documentary. It certainly gives off a vibe that it was filmed during the city’s everyday life, perhaps using hidden cameras.

The film opens with a very frantic and heart-pounding police raid. This is probably the section of the film where the quick-fire editing and the ‘up-close and personal’ mentality is clearest. You could easily be one of the people being raided, one of the policemen, or just a bystander from the viewpoint(s) we get during the raid. It doesn’t quite match that scene in the rest of the film but it acts as a highlight, one of major moments to discuss with people afterwards.

What I admired most about Slingshot, though, was just how honestly and plainly everything is presented. As I said, it doesn’t feel manufactured or fake but rather feels as honest as a factual video account of what might happen in this particular city every day. And it’s always interesting to experience and witness a different culture to your own, to enjoy the contrast it provides.

Slingshot just goes to reinforce that there is high quality cinema available from all over the world and that not only the US and the UK make movies. The perfect description of it is “gritty and realistic”, to say the very least. Why, oh why, can’t more movies be like this?

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About Ross Miller