By Peter Hempstead

Directed, written, and edited by Ian Gamazon and Neill dela Llan
Starring Ian Gamazon

"Cavite" is one of those low-budget (practically no-budget) films that wins you over not with great acting or cinematic pyrotechnics, but with sheer grit. It's guerilla filmmaking at its best.

Ian Gamazon plays Adam, a young man who travels home to the Philippines for his father's funeral and receives a phone call from a Muslim terrorist group who has kidnapped his mother and sister. If he wants to see them alive again, he better do as he's told.

Gamazon and his co-director buddy, Neill dela Llana, manage to give a haunting Big Brother quality to the Tagalog-speaking caller, who sees and hears everything that Adam does during his labyrinthine journey through the squalid streets of the town of Cavite (kah-VEE-tee).

The limits of verisimilitude here are stretched to the breaking point with the all-seeing, all-knowing caller. But if you're willing to cut the writers some slack, the suspenseful narrative proves captivating.

"Cavite", which is practically a one-man show, was shot on a shoestring budget and filmed entirely on handheld camera. The film's settings are places you're not likely to see again except in a documentary about the devastating poverty of the Philippines.

The impromptu feel of the filming gives one the impression that "Cavite" could, in fact, also be a documentary. And in part it is. There's the fetid dump, the depressed marketplace, the authentic cock fight-- scenes that the best set crews could never duplicate. It's a side of the Philippines outsiders rarely witness.

(As Part of New Directors/New Films, it played at MoMA, March 24 2006, Walter Reade, March 26 2006 and will be released theatrically in the Fall.)

[courtesy Hargrove Entertainment Syndicate/Lucky Girl Media]