Cavite is a nerve–jangling assault that burrows its way into your brain. It begins as Adam, a Filipino–American security guard stares blankly into space on the eve of his return to his ancestral country. His girlfriend gives him the news of her abortion through the receiver of an airport’s public telephone and from there his anxiety escalates from domestic pang to global dilemma. Upon arrival, he finds in his knapsack an envelope containing photographs of his bound and gagged relatives, a cell phone, and a headset through which his nightmare will be broadcast.
Led by the mocking voice in his head, he staggers towards the village of Cavite, learning that his sister and mother have been kidnapped and that any deviation from precise instructions will imperil their lives. A severed finger in a pack of cigarettes helps drive the point home. Adam, already suffering from severe cultural vertigo is led on a task of errands, which serve as a crash course in global awareness. Squatter camps filled with trash and unclothed children appear along an urban landscape dotted with 7–Elevens and McDonald’s. As Adam negotiates streets clotted with his vacant-eyed countrymen the soundtrack rattles around like nails in a metal bucket. One’s instinct is to turn away and run. Adam, bound to his clear–voiced Muslim captor, is shoved into a position of empathy for others captive to larger forces.
Earlier that day I had been reading The New York Observer’s resident vacuity Rex Reed’s typically overblown review of United ’93. Reacting to a movie about 9/11, a comparative hiccup of suffering in America’s otherwise blissfull domestic existence, he despairs, “How much more…can everyone take?” As Tariq, the voice inside Adam’s head says to him bitterly at one point, “Don’t make me laugh.” In places like Cavite every day is a 9/11.