Verdict is a film by Raymund Ribay Gutierrez recorded in the Philippines. It has received more than 10 awards for 21 nominations in different festivals around the world. He won the “Special Jury Prize” in the Orizzonti section of the prestigious Venice Film Festival in 2019.
The film opens with the assault of Joy Santos (played by Max Eigenmann) by her husband Dante Santos (played by Kristoffer King), this assault will be the focus of the film. The aggression is very violent, Dante, who is drunk, seems out of control, Joy tries to defend herself with a knife, while their daughter Angel (played by Jordhen Suan) is injured during the confrontation. Joy will be able to find refuge with the VAWC (Office for Violence Against Women and Children), a unit specializing in violence against women and children.
What follows is a woman’s struggle to be heard and to seek justice in a society hampered by an inefficient bureaucracy. She will have to go through different stages, facing this chaotic administration that does not encourage her to file a complaint, then the refusal of her neighbors to testify in her favor by fear of generating conflict.
Her only real help will come from her lawyer, who is very invested in her work and gives the best of herself. But Dante, for his part, has been in contact with a lawyer who seems to know this kind of case and who is obviously more experienced than Joy’s lawyer.
The film plays with the viewer’s frustration to make him react, we have the impression that despite the terrible events Joy was victim of, she doesn’t win this case, we even fear that the situation will turn against her because of the stab she gave to Dante during the confrontation and the various threatening message she sent to him.
The performance of the actors is unbelievable, Kristoffer King (Dante) perfectly interprets the role of the violent, deceitful and deeply evil-looking husband, devoid of any conscience. Max Eigenmann manages to create in the spectator a real compassion for her and her story, her interpretation is of a rare accuracy. We really want her to obtain justice, whatever the cost.
The film is very well paced, there’s no time to get bored, the events follow one another with accuracy. Throughout the film we will therefore follow this court case, as there are unfortunately thousands of them throughout the world, domestic assaults being widespread.
With his film, Raymund Ribay Gutierrez tries to alert us to the hardships that a woman must endure in order to make her voice heard in the Philippines, in a society where the justice system seems to be very inefficient and where sexism is still omnipresent.
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