Inspired by true events, Engkwentro follows the last 24 hours of Richard and Raymond, two teenage brothers on opposite sides of a gang war. Richard is the leader of his gang, “Bagong Buwan” (“New Moon”) while Raymond is just being inducted into “Batang Dilim” (“Children of the Night”), a rival gang led by charming solvent boy, Tomas. Complications arise at a deadly midnight “engkwentro” (clash), when Tomas gives Raymond the task of killing his older brother.
All this happens while the City Death Squad lurks the streets. This real-life vigilante group is allegedly backed by the city’s omnipresent mayor, and is responsible for many unsolved murders. Today, they are hunting down Richard. Will they take the younger brother, too?
Engkwentro is the compelling debut by filmmaker Pepe Diokno. In 2009, it won every award it was eligible for at Venice Film Festival, including the Lion of the Future - “Luigi de Laurentiis” Award for a Debut Film and Orizzonti Prize.
In the last decade, over 814 people have been killed by "death squads" allegedly sponsored by local governments in the Philippines. Many of the victims are minors -- supposed gang members, petty criminals, drug dealers, and street children. The Philippine government denies the existence of these vigilantes, and given the continuing inadequacy of our justice system, many Filipinos seem to accept the need for such brutality in approaching the nation's crime problem. The issue is rarely talked about in the Philippines. Engkwentro is one of the few films to do so.
I found the story while I was doing research for a documentary in 2007. While visiting jails around the country, I met two brothers at detention facility in southern Philippines. They were gang members, aged 15 and 17, and they told me they were on the local death squad’s hit list. They were only waiting for death. I was 19 at the time and it struck me to meet kids my age, who had no hopes for their future. This experience woke me to the harsh realities we face in my country. The tale of these brothers is a tale of many, many others. It is a story that I feel must be told.
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