This December, “Smaller and Smaller Circles” dares the Filipino viewers to look closer. A crime thriller directed by award-winning filmmaker Raya Martin, “Smaller and Smaller Circles” is the much-awaited film adaptation of the best-selling novel by Filipina author F.H. Batacan.
Hailed as one of the most anticipated films of 2017, Filipino audiences will finally see “Smaller and Smaller Circles” on the big screen more than 15 years after the book was first published.
“Smaller and Smaller Circles” tells the story of Father Gus Saenz and Father Jerome Lucero, two Jesuit priests tasked to solve the murder of young boys who were eviscerated and thrown in the teeming slums of Payatas. To solve the murders, they have to explore the cramped urban landscape of 1990s Manila — a trap where there is no way out for a killer and his victims.
“Smaller and Smaller Circles” is considered as the first Filipino crime novel. It won the Grand Prize for the Novel in English at the 1999 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. The University of the Philippines Press first published it as a novella in 2002. New York-based publisher Soho Press published an expanded edition internationally in 2015.
With its intriguing characters, thrilling plot, and cinematic feel, producer and writer Ria Limjap felt that “Smaller and Smaller Circles” deserves to be made into film. Even more so now that the themes and images presented in the film remain familiar.
“‘Smaller and Smaller Circles’ was written in 1997, but the themes and images from the book are eerily relevant today,” Limjap shares, alluding to recent events that involved the series of deaths of young boys around Metro Manila.
For Martin, the film invites the viewers to delve deeper and find out why “we [always] end up with the same issues almost two decades later”.
“The American journalist James Fallows calls it ‘a damaged culture’. We’ve never really confronted our issues, we just simply repeat a cycle of violence and denial,” says Martin.
Limjap and Martin hope that “Smaller and Smaller Circles” will spark a conversation among viewers on how the problems that plagued the country during the 1990s are still the same problems the country is dealing with today.
“Filipino audiences deserve to see all kinds of cinema. While certain forms will always be more popular, films that provoke critical thinking and raise awareness — at the same providing entertainment — should also be enjoyed by the audience. ‘Smaller and Smaller Circles’ is that kind of movie, a movie which tells a unique story that they might find entirely familiar,” says Limjap.
“Smaller and Smaller Circles” is led by acclaimed actors Nonie Buencamino as the forensic scientist Father Gus Saenz and Sid Lucero as Saenz’ protégé, Father Jerome Lucero.
Assisting them to solve the case are investigative journalist Joanna Bonifacio, in a breakthrough performance by Carla Humphries, and Francisco Lastimosa, the director of the National Bureau of Investigation, played by award-winning actor Bembol Roco.
Completing the film’s stellar cast are some of the biggest and most celebrated names in the industry: Christopher de Leon, Ricky Davao, TJ Trinidad, Raffy Tejada, Jess Mendoza, Gladys Reyes, Junjun Quintana, Alex Medina, Cholo Barretto, Ross Pesigan, Tessie Tomas, and the late Joy Viado.
The film recently made its world premiere at the 22nd Busan International Film Festival, where it was nominated for the inaugural Kim Ji-seok Award. Despite international attention, Martin believes that nothing beats the excitement of bringing “a great story to the Filipino people”.
He adds: “Watching the audience with so much excitement and having an active conversation about the story and what they’ve just seen is an experience I’m looking forward to because ‘Smaller and Smaller Circles’ is a story that has an important dialogue that needs to happen in crucial times like today”.
“Smaller and Smaller Circles” is produced by TBA Studios, the indie outfit behind acclaimed films such as “Heneral Luna,” “Sunday Beauty Queen,” “Bliss,” and “Birdshot”. It is distributed by Columbia Pictures.
“Smaller and Smaller Circles” is Graded A by the Cinema Evaluation Board. It opens in cinemas nationwide on December 6, 2017.