In the teeming slums of Manila, a killer preys on young boys and leaves them in the garbage. On the other side of the city, in the hallowed halls of the old Jesuit University, two priests, Father Gus Saenz and Father Jerome, teach philosophy and theology to idealistic students who are driven to school in air-conditioned cars. From the busy newsrooms at the Port Area, to the high level offices of the National Bureau of Investigation on Taft Avenue, where street children roam at all hours, this cramped urban landscape becomes a trap where there is no way out for a killer and his victims. Somewhere in the thirteen-hectare dumpsite where people scavenge for tin cans, food scraps, and plastic bags, an eviscerated body of a young boy is found. But nobody really cares to notice in a sprawling city of millions of people, crowded with rats, choking on fumes, flooded in dirty rainwaters. A news report might pick up the story, but when the victim is a nameless, faceless kid from a poor community, is anybody really watching?
Father Gus Saenz (Nonie Buencamino), a scientist and Jesuit, finds himself caught up in the case, as an alarming number of dead preteen boys turn up in the trash. He and his colleague Father Jerome (Sid Lucero), with the help of journalist Joanna Bonifacio (Carla Humphries), investigate the murders through the cramped urban landscape. Father Gus, with his expertise in forensic anthropology, and Father Jerome, a practicing clinical psychologist, succeed in drawing a profile of the killer: a man familiar with the dumpsite and the surrounding community. Battling red tape, politics, and the constant power struggle between Church and State, the two “detective priests” carefully navigate the course to the heart of this mystery, until they can find real hints and proofs.
This adaptation from the award-winning bestseller by Filipino author F.H. Batacan is a socially relevant thriller that takes a look at how violence is inflicted and corruption is propagated on all levels: whether in the influential Catholic Church or in the government, whether by public school teachers or by well-coiffed matrons. The cold abuse of power and position by other priests and politicians is strikingly different from the warm camaraderie between Gus and Jerome – men of faith working in a seemingly faithless world.
Directed by Raya Martin, Smaller and Smaller Circles is told in a rigorous and precise manner, to which his previous films did not prepare us. It illustrates the best and worst of human nature: the antiseptic and dirty, the sublime and rotten, the hellish and divine. Almost all the contradictions of the Filipino society, divided in casts and ruled by everlasting hypocrisy…
Raya Martin (b. 1984) has currently directed several features and short films. His previous works Independencia and Manila were shown at the Cannes Film Festival 2009, becoming the first Filipino to screen two films in the festival’s main selection in the same year. Martin’s film, Buenas Noches, España, was screened at the Locarno Film Festival 2011, where he also served as a jury for the international competition. In 2013, La ultima pelicula was given the Special Jury Award at the Lisbon & Estoril Film Festival. A retrospective of his works have been featured in Paris, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Canary Islands, and Jeonju. Martin is also a recipient of the Thirteen Artists Award of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
2005 – Short Film about the Indio Nacional (or The Prolonged Sorrow of the Filipinos)
2007 – Autohystoria
2008 – Now Showing
2009 – Independencia
2009 – Manila
2011 – Buenas Noches, España
2012 – The Great Cinema Party
2013 – How to Disappear Completely
2013 – La ultima pelicula
2017 – Smaller and Smaller Circles