Tribeca Film Festival 2011: “Give Up Tomorrow”

Paco Larranaga, the subject of "Give Up Tomorrow."

In my experience the best parts of any film festival are the documentaries.  Since film festivals are all about untested commodities, it is hard to know what to see.  The narratives generally tend to be uneven.  Some will be good (a few even great), some will be only “OK” and some will make you wonder how they ever got into the festival.  I submit that if a festival-goer sees, for example,  ten documentaries, he, or she, will see a much higher percentage of good films than if they had selected ten narratives.

At the Tribeca Film Festival 2011 I chose to see mostly documentaries.  There was one “not so good” one, which shall remain nameless.  The rest were between “very good” and “great.”  The best documentary I saw at the festival turned out to also win the festival’s “Heinekin Audience Award,” “Give Up Tonorrow.”  The film is a harrowing and infuriating tale of corruption, incompetence and injustice on an incredible scale.

In 1997 Paco Larranaga, a culinary student living in the Philippines, was arrested and charged as being part of a gang that raped and killed two sisters, Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong.  The murders took place on the island of Cebu.  Cebu is 350 miles away from where Paco lived and went to school, in Manilla.  School records place Paco in school on the day of the murders.  In addition, 40 witnesses claimed that Paco was in Manilla on the day of the murders.  There was no physical evidence linking Paco to the killings.  Despite this, Paco and six other young men were rounded up and charged with the crime.

What followed was a trial in a “kangaroo” court featuring a questionable eye-witness and a sunglass wearing judge who made up his own rules.  The judge blatantly discriminated against the defendants and even fell asleep during testimony.   The trial ended with a death sentence for Paco and the other men.  There is much more to the story, but it has to be experienced to be believed.  We get glimpses into what really might have happened, a twisted trail that goes from drug trafficking to the highest levels of political corruption, plus tabloid sensationalism, that have put these men in this predicament.

“Give Up Tomorrow” is, first and foremost, a great story, expertly told.  While I hesitate to use the word “entertaining,” “Give Up Tomorrow” is a compelling and intriguing real life mystery that tells its story in a manner that is efficient and gripping.  The film utilizes news and trial footage plus photographs, as well as interviews with  journalists, police and Paco’s family members, to clearly make its case.

Paco has now been in jail for 12 years.  His family works tirelessly toward proclaiming his innocence and hopes for his exoneration.  After the screening I spoke with Paco’s brother-in-law, featured in the film along with Paco’s parents and sister.  He told me the hope is that this film will keep Paco’s case from being forgotten and will be a call to action.  As a journalist interviewed in the film describes Paco’s case, “It is a shame for the Philippines and a shame for law enforcement.”

For more information visit http://www.giveuptomorrow.com.

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on April 29, 2011, in Documentary, Tribeca Film Festival 2011. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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