CINEMALAYA 2011: CUCHERA REVIEW
Joseph Israel Laban’s Cuchera, a rightfully shocking exposé of the lives of low-rent drug mules, one of the drug mules, opens with the obligatory and totally unnecessary factoid on how there are so many Filipino drug mules who are still rotting in jail in various countries.
From the seemingly lofty implications of his advocacy-heavy introduction, Laban jumps into the middle of one of Manila’s slums. His camera is attentive to the most damning of details, like a torn and discolored Philippine flag, the grime, the mud, the heaps and heaps of garbage and the shanties that dot the dump’s perimeter.
From the film’s first few images, it becomes clear that Laban is not interested in subtlety, and probably rightly so. The intentions of the film seem better communicated through shock and noise than lyricism and nuance.
Laban continues by following Rosa (Isadora), a matronly woman we later find out is in charge of making the falsified passports for the drug mules, and Isabel (Maria Isabel Lopez), a retired prostitute who now masterminds the recruitment of drug mules, as they spend the day preparing for the night’s operation.