The custom of circumcision is scrutinized in this Filipino drama


on January 19, 2007 by Sara Schieron
Tuli (circumcision) is the central metaphor for Auraeus Solito's newest film about rural Filipino life and tradition. Less a cultural critique than a heroic journey, Tuli looks at the hardship of rural customs through the struggles of a group of self-determining teenagers. As with Solito's last film, The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros , Tuli revolves around characters who choose a life of social and sexual exile from the torment of tradition.

The iconic Filipino village featured in the story is perpetually embroiled in a traditionalism that appears to be nothing short of destructive. Daisy (Desiree Del Valle) is the prettiest girl in the village and the daughter of the elder mangtutuli Malteng, Callous to his daughter; Malteng forces her to help him with the traditional circumcision ritual. This is a particularly compromising position for Daisy, since sex is the single most dangerous activity in her village and her frontline view of the town's boys is unfair to say the least. Malteng's patriarchal stature allows him to get away with ritual domestic abuse and alcoholism. In fact, the proud families of the boys he circumcises pay him in wine. One boy, Nandeng, refuses to be cut by Malteng, and for that reason, Daisy seeks him out to fulfill her wishes.

Shot on digital video, Tuli is aesthetically homespun but technically far from primitive. The sense that we're involved in a home production is a much-needed pleasantry in this story about the losses we suffer to be part of a community. Solito is intelligent about how he wields this intimacy-inducing technique. Scenes of sensuality are carefully rendered and moments of legend are mysterious. In fact, the moments most validated by the community are precisely those rendered with the least reverence. Ultimately, Tuli 's conclusion reaffirms the value of customs by proving they can be meaningful—if they are performed with the reverence they deserve.
Distributor: No distributor set
Cast: Desiree Del Valle, Vanna Garcia, Carlo Aquino and Bembol Roco
Director: Auraeus Solito
Screenwriter: Jim Flores
Genre: Drama; Tagalog-lanaguage, subtitled
Rating: Not yet rated
Running time: 110 min.
Release date: TBD
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