Trap (2015)

Mendoza’s blending of documentary and fictional elements mostly works in this hard-hitting docu-drama about the survivors of the devastating Typhoon Haiyan.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,055

Dir. Brillante Mendoza
2015 | Philippines | Docu-Drama | 97 mins | Filipino & Tagalog
PG13 (passed clean) for some coarse language

Cast: Nora Aunor, Julio Diaz, Aaron Rivera
Plot: The story of the rebuilding of their lives by the survivors of the disaster caused by Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, particularly focusing on the struggles of a mother who lost their children.
Awards: Won Prize of the Ecumenical Jury – Special Mention & Nom. for Un Certain Regard Award (Cannes)
International Sales: Films Distribution

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Human Condition, Natural Disaster, Grief
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: VOD – Asian Film Archive
Spoilers: No

Trap (also known as Taklub) sees one of the Philippines’ most prolific directors tackle the aftermath of the devastating Typhoon Haiyan that caused widespread death and destruction in Southeast Asia back in 2013. 

Shot a year after it struck the city of Tacloban, Trap bears witness to the poor living conditions as survivors reside temporarily in makeshift shelters in ‘Tent City’.  Many families have lost loved ones, while the lucky ones continue to struggle to make ends meet. 

Mendoza begins his film with a harrowing sequence as a family is trapped in their burning shelter with no hope in sight, setting the tone for a work of immense grief and resignation. 

There are certain segments of the film where the unpredictable weather threatens the prospect of another major disaster—these may be some of the most intense moments in all of Mendoza’s work. 

Through his trademark visual style that privileges the authenticity—and immediacy—of the handheld digital image, we see the director’s blending of documentary and fictional elements at work.  

Backed by an indelible performance from Nora Aunor, who fronts one of three main interlocking stories that make up the narrative, Trap’s storytelling is intuitive and spontaneous enough to compel for large stretches. 

On one hand, we see a community slowly regaining their spirit, marked by charity, compassion and religious faith; on the other hand, it seems like progress is still slow with one too many an empty promise made by local leaders. 

Everyone shares a common hope for a better future, though many are conscious of the fact that they are one more natural (or man-made) disaster away from oblivion. 

Grade: B


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