On the face of it, The Philippines is a surprisingly progressive country when it comes to women’s rights. Indeed, in the Global Gender Gap Index for the World Economic Forum the county currently places impressively at sixteenth in the world. In reality though, whilst there has been significant progress, there are worryingly high levels of domestic violence, sexual abuse, exploitation and basic inequalities on a fundamental level. A point highlighted in Verdict.
Joy (Max Eigenmann) lives in Manilla with her husband Dante (Kristoffer King), who is a petty criminal, and their six-year-old daughter. Their relationship is often fractious, to say the least, but when a particularly bad beating leads to the girl getting hurt, she is spurred into action; fleeing the home to the nearest police station. Although arrested, his spell in jail is brief, and she must navigate layers of bureaucracy, indifference and malice to try and get justice.
Verdict is a powerful film which exposes the almost Kafkaesque maze of obstacles which need to be navigated within Philippines’s criminal justice system. What makes Raymund Ribay Gutierrez debut film so impressive is the sheer relentlessness. It never lets up. We’re transported into the heart of the action, often constrained by the stifling heat. Eigenmann is fantastic. A mix of dogged determination and partial resignation. Verdict is a tangled drama which highlights the inequalities at the heart of an oppressed society.
Verdict is released in virtual cinemas and on VOD on 12 March.