In Njel de Mesa’s film KontrAdiksyon, Jake Cuenca plays a human rights activist whose beliefs are radically altered when a gang of drug addicted thugs who trespass into his home, torture and rape his pregnant wife, and eventually slaughter his entire family while framing him for the murder. These events are the catalysts of a story that takes the viewers through the inner workings of the current drug menace, showing what it might truly be like for PDEA officers, small time drug pushers, the vocal religious sector, and drug lords alike.
KontrAdiksyon provides a much needed perspective to the prevalent and overblown media discussion of the anti-drug campaign – a perspective that sees this as a nuanced and complex societal issue instead of the immature black and white moral philosophy many seem to uphold. Basically, the movie posits that it truly is a disservice to all those who are affected by the drug menace to boil it down into just a simple war. Treating the current situation as an archetypal “good versus evil” is a way of dismissing the widespread deeper issue. It simply isn’t just the ruthless radical tyrant and his cronies preying on the helpless drug addicted victims like some “media sources” would like to describe it.
Njel de Mesa’s film focuses on the stakeholders on these issues and not just on individual sob stories of buy-busts where innocent people get framed in a bad light. The way these stakeholders interact with each other and with the ideologies they hold is the real story and it is definitely a more faithful telling of the drug issue than some cheap, simplified narrative.
Another point Kontradiksyon speculates is how fragile these ideologies really are and how easy it is for them to be bent, broken, or even bartered. Jake Cuenca’s character, Alexis Borlaza, has a story arc which focuses on his principles proving to be flawed, and his family suffering the consequences for it. Borlaza goes on a rampage, tries in vain to punish those who have wronged him, all the while blaming himself for the tragedies that have befallen them.
De Mesa also draws up a good parallel, showcasing how Duterte’s detractors like to frame him to be the bad guy. In the film, the drug cartel refers to their main guy as “Pangulo” mirroring how the opposition likes to hint at The President being the head honcho of the illegal trade in the Philippines. The audience is at first taken aback, left wondering whether or not it is the movie’s actual Philippine president who is the actual criminal mastermind; but it is ultimately revealed that it is the drug wars’ harshest critic who is responsible for actually peddling the paraphernalia in the first place.
It’s no wonder then that President Duterte endorses this film. KontrAdiksyon, for whatever flaws critics may point out, is an honest and earnest attempt at portraying one of the biggest issues facing Philippine society. It gives a voice to the concerns of all stakeholders, but understands the biggest picture of all – the intention behind the campaign. Much like President Duterte’s efforts to curb the illegal drug trade, KontrAdiksyon does what needs to be done and doesn’t care what complaints the snowflakes might have.
KontrAdiksyon is first movie from film outfit Bell Films in 20 years. It is also a first writer and director credit for Carlos Palanca Memorial Awardee Njel De Mesa, since multi award winning Respeto which he co-wrote.