Prometheus Brown Reviews “Bakal Boys”
The “bakal boys” are Filipino kids as young as five years old who dive into the dangerous, polluted sea to salvage scrap metal that they trade at junk shops at a rate of 20 pesos (about 50 US cents) a kilo. Currently, 1-2 of these kids a week are found dead or disappeared. The film opens with Bungal (Tagalog for “toothless”) and Utoy and their barkada going on various diving missions. They joke, laugh, and occasionally fight until one day they find an anchor, and Bungal goes missing. Utoy then becomes the focus of the film, as he earnestly wanders in search of his friend.
Walking out of the theater, I overheard gripes about how depressing the story was (newsflash: not all slumdogs become millionaires) and how some uninterrupted shots felt “too long” (a complaint I wholeheartedly disagree with – a truly realist film will expose you to the beauty and banality of life). If you’re looking to be entertained from a distance rather than integrated into an environment, this film is not for you. While Bakal Boys doesn’t end with a sentimental resolution, it isn’t entirely hopeless. The open-ended climax is a perfect statement on these kids’ resilience despite their conditions. Those looking for a grander statement than that fail to see that that is the grandest statement of all.