Background of the film
THIS FILM PROJECT is based on the 2006 Palanca Award winning screenplay, “Tribu,” about the violent lives of street gang members, young urban hiphop poets in Tondo, as seen from the eyes of a 10 year old boy. The proponent, a broadcast journalist, poet, writer and sociologist, produced a short documentary on this hiphop/gangsta phenomenon which aired on national television in 2001. But sensing that the TV feature is not enough, he went back to his Tondo roots and spent more time with various gangs (also called “tribes;” hence, the title.) -further documenting their experiences and street poetry/hiphop culture. The author/proponent believes that complexities and subtleties of the story of these poor, yet highly talented urban youth can only truly be told using the more sophisticated language of cinema. Recently, the screenplay was chosen as one of the finalist in the Cinemalaya film competition. Of the ten Cinemalaya finalists, “Tribu” employs a neo-realist view of contemporary urban life of marginalized teenagers. It will cast, as actors, real-life teenage gang members who live in Tondo. This film project also documents original street-level urban poetry (expressed in the form of rap – both memorized and extemporaneous) composed by the tribe members themselves. Of the 100 or so “tribes” existing in Tondo alone, most, if not all, have their own resident poetrapper and street dancer. What seems to be an unorganized mass of poor, young deviant types is actually a growing movement of small organizations with their own distinct subculture. This expanding movement has existed for more than a decade and has become more culturally vibrant that it has absorbed and transformed American hiphop culture into an indigenous form of expression of transgressive (gangsta/ghetto) poetry, which I will call “Tondo rap.”


MORE THAN A HUNDRED “TRIBES” exists in Tondo today, each with their own set of code of morality and honor, as expressed by their own rappers through original urban street poetry compositions. Most of them are out-of-school youths whose poverty and lack of education almost assures most of them with a not-so bright future. The screenplay “Tribu” is based on the stories of real “tribes” or street gangs in Tondo. The digital film “Tribu” hopes to serve as a mirror to these youths, a basis for reflection and transformation. Performed by genuine tribe members themselves, even the whole production process serves as a venue for meaningful artistic interaction of various (and often, warring) tribes, hopefully serving as impetus for ending the nightly street violence in Tondo many parts of Tondo. This narrative film tackling the lives of adolescent street gangs or “tribes” of Tondo not only exposes the extent of social decay that has affected our youth, it also documents an indigenized form of contemporary urban street poetry influenced by global hiphop culture. It also mobilizes these street gangs as actors in the film. In a meeting with the leaders and founders of more than a dozen tribes from different barangays, most have pledge support to the project, if not as actors and on-screen rappers, then as volunteers during the production phase. Many have signed up as “security volunteers” while others will lend a hand in various production-related tasks. Most of these “tribes” are rival, warring gangs. During the first few days of our acting workshops, many of these adolescent participants carried concealed weapons – as a security precaution since they were “entering another gang’s territory.” Trust-building among participant gang members became a crucial factor in designing the weekend acting workshops. With the help of veteran educators from film, TV and theatre, the study of basic film acting became an instrument for reflection, self-discovery and trust-building for each participant. The film Tribu, at the community-level, proves that antagonisms between juvinile street gangs could be healed through a creative project. More significantly, Tribu highlights original urban poetry compositions in the area and uses it in the film. This is the first major effort to document original gangsta (or ghetto) poetry compositions (expressed in the form of rap), and even extemporaneous “freestyle” sessions of these young street poets. While others may exploit these street artists for commercial purposes, the film treats these original, previously-unrecorded “freestyle” poetry sessions as an emerging street art, spoken word movement. On a larger scale, Tribu is the first realist narrative film that exposes the presence of these deadly, yet highly artistic subculture presently found in almost all marginalized, slum villages in Metro Manila.