'Give Up Tomorrow' at the Doc Yard 27 August

by Cynthia Fuchs

27 August 2012

The documentary exposes a Kafkaesque saga populated by flamboyantly corrupt public officials, cops on the take, and a frenzied legal and media circus.

“I’m not scared to face my creator,” says Paco Larrañaga. “I have a big space there, I’m sure.” Here on earth, though, he’s less certain. Interviewed in the New Bilibid Prison in the Philippines, Larrañaga wears an orange jumpsuit and peers awkwardly into the video camera’s wide lens. “It’s just so unfair, getting that lethal injection without me giving a fight,” he says. “I was not given a fair fight. I was not given a chance to defend myself.”

Give Up Tomorrow—which screens 27 August at the Doc Yard, followed by a Q&A with director Michael Collins and producer Marty Syjuco—begins partway through Larrañaga’s ordeal, then cuts back in time, as the filmmakers interview not only him and his family members, but also police officers and other officials who brought the case. When plainclothes policemen came to his door at school, he was afraid they were criminals come to kidnap him, his sister Mimi remembers: the scene is illustrated by a set of ominous animated silhouettes, setting up the surreal events to follow. Recalling this moment, when her brother called her and they told each other the mix-ups would be sorted out, Mimi blanches: “That is how clueless we were about what was going on.” She and her family were clueless, it turns out, because they believed that if they had proof—photos, testimonies from 42 witnesses, and school records—that Paco was away at school at the time of the murders, that the police would realize their error and release him, soon. This never happened. The film’s own investigation reveals that first missteps by police investigators were only that: first missteps. Other officials made other mistakes, deliberately or not, once the case went into the Filipino legal system.
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