11,103: Bite-sized bitter narratives


FORGETFULNESS IS a sickness to which storytelling is the only known cure. But some stories are so heavy that they tie tongues, silencing the narrators. It is the problem of those who were witnesses and victims of the human rights violations under Martial Law. Yet, in the documentary 11,103, they choose again to be heroes, bravely recounting history for those who cannot—but must—remember.

More than 75,000 Filipinos claimed to be victims of the violations under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. 11,103 is the number of those recognized by the state, compensated by the government under Republic Act No. 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013. 

In the film directed by Jeannette Ifurung and Miguel Alcazaren, Martial Law survivors, alongside their narratives, are placed in the limelight.

In recent years, other films about Martial Law have been released, such as Benedict Mique’s ML and Vince Tañada’s Katips. Both boldly demonstrate the brutality of torture that some viewers would avert their eyes in discomfort, or avoid viewing them altogether. 

photo grabbed from 11,103 official website

11,103 weakens the barrier that uneasiness would serve in communicating the truth, without omitting facts of cruelty. It makes the narratives more ingestible that even younger audiences may watch. The Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) rated it as PG-13.

While the stories are told explicitly, it is visually portrayed through a flat animation of black and white sketches. The combination of the animation style and graphic description bears the authenticity of events that are made easier to grasp. 

Cris Palabay is among those who survived to tell their history. He narrates how his family fell victim to violence under Martial Law. Palabay himself was arrested twice without any charges against him. He recounts how he was placed in solitary confinement and tortured in different ways. Oftentimes, it is the fate of the activists then, even those who are students like him. 

It is not only activists who were targeted. Mariam, Mohammad, and Madaki Kanda recounts the Malisbong Massacre in Mindanao, which they survived as children. Due to assumptions that there were rebels in the area, naval ships bombed the barangays along the coast of Palimbang, Mariam says. Some residents hid up the mountains, and those who were left were told to gather inside the mosque of Malisbong. Despite promises from the military that they would not be harmed, many were not able to leave the mosque alive.

photo grabbed from 11,103 official website

The close-up shots of the narrators offer the stories in a more personal manner, setting it apart from other films about Martial Law. Other films would tell that, indeed, there have been abuse and torture sponsored by the government and stop there. 11,103 ties these atrocities to faces—living people who experienced it first-hand. It introduces the audience to the people who have seen and experienced a portion of history that they may only have heard about. 

The film also shows snippets of the ongoing preparations and making of a state-sponsored museum about Martial Law. Though there are doubts on whether it will be supported by  the current Marcos administration, it voices the hope that the true events would be recognized not only by the people but the government as well.

As the documentary reaches its conclusion, however, the audience may feel a sense of lack in the amount of narratives told. It could have added more stories from the survivors—more evidence of abuse—seeing how it has effectively piqued the attention of its viewers. 

11,103, in its authenticity and strategic storytelling, becomes the embodiment of what a forgetful nation needs. It is the bitter pill for remembrance, divided into fragments to ease its consumption. In the end, the documentary evidently does justice to the people it is made for, all 11,103 and more. F

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