Director Kerwin Go’s full-length feature debut ‘Mina-Anud’ is a triumph not because of how it balances comedy, suspense, or drama in a script that boasts being “based on a true story” about how an Eastern Samar fishing village discovers three tons of cocaine washing up on their shores. What really shines through is Go’s vision in capturing the complex social structures of surfing destinations; the interesting intersections and relationships between the locals and the visitors that go there whether they are homegrown celebrities or foreign tourists.
There is an awareness and a genuine love for the adjacent reality of these spaces. Following the stories of Ding (Dennis Trillo) and his friend Carlo (Jerald Napoles) and their individual dream, their brush with the washed up cocaine in the neighboring fishing village of Mina-Anud turns their life upside down. Interestingly framed, Ding and Carlo are presented as locals with very different ambitions. Ding wants to buy his own van so he can earn more to provide for his family while Carlo just wants to surf all day and become a champion surfer.
These dreams can become a reality when Carlo comes across the blocks of cocaine in Mina-Anud, whom the fishermen think is poison. Carlo takes a pack to get rid of the rat in his home and when he discovers what it really is, it sparks a scheme for Ding and Carlo to make enough money to get what they truly desire.
There is a deftness in Kerwin Go’s ability to capture Ding and Carlo’s naivete and, dare I say, simple-mindedness. This is further amplified by Trillo’s and Napoles’ wonderful performances that truly defines the moral boundary of their character’s choices. The film gives us every reason to understand why these characters would come to selling the cocaine and Trillo and Napoles’ performance creates the texture to show us that they are not bad people.
This situation is just way bigger than they can truly comprehend.
Everything from Matteo Guidicelli’s scene-stealing performance as a celebrity who becomes Ding and Carlo’s steady client for the drugs to Alvin Anson’s frighteningly determined PDEA officer on the hunt for the washed-up cocaine forms a rich world that is affected by the arrival of the drugs. From Lou Veloso’s brilliant turn as the barangay captain of Mina-Anud to Dionne Monsanto’s grounded performance as Ding’s wife -- the film remains wonderfully aware of how important relationships are to a person.
Ding, who has a wife and child, has more to lose than the single and carefree Carlo. These are evident in how the film frames these interactions between characters that makes the film so enjoyable to watch.
I would prefer tighter editing to truly maximize the comedic and suspenseful moments. I would have preferred the film to be snappier and certain scenes to be played up to create truly cinematic moments but for a first feature-film debut, ‘Mina-Anud’ is quite a solid offering. I would have also preferred for less reggae music to create a more dynamic sonicscape.
But if anything, I applaud ‘Mina-Anud’ for whole-heartedly attacking the material and being unafraid to tackle it as both a comedy and a suspense-thriller. Despite its endearing characters, the film neither romanticises them nor demonise them. ‘Mina-Anud’ is a promising debut for Kerwin Go and refreshing addition to the many surfing films and films about drugs that have come about the past few years.