23 Jun The Bet Collector / Kubrador (2006) Film Review
Phillippines, 2006, 35mm, Tagalog (with subtitles)
Jeffrey Jeturian’s film revolves around luck. Amy, a middle-aged woman who endlessly roams the winding streets of her Manila neighborhood relies entirely on it. Searching for people to place bets on jueteng, a popular gambling game in the Philippines, her livelihood is based on chance. From random street encounters, to evading the police (the game is officially outlawed), all the way down to the very luck of the draw in a round of jueteng, the Bet Collector creates a dizzying clash of chaos and coincidence. Nothing is planned in Amy’s traversal of the city streets. She walks around, seemingly bumping into friends or acquaintances at random trying to solicit bets from them. The camera is there merely to capture her journey. No plot is constructed, no conflict is introduced. When something begins to go awry the film simply changes trajectories, or ignores any attempt at a resolution, as in the last scene which completely comes out of nowhere and ends as fleetingly as it came.
In an exemplary scene, Amy is going through her usual navigation of the city streets when she happens upon her goddaughter’s honeymoon send-off with her new white American husband. It’s not made clear if Amy’s incorporation into the scene is premeditated in any way or merely circumstantial. Either way, it becomes clear that little is thoroughly planned in daily life (perhaps except for the upcoming All Saint’s Day which is the talk of the town) and from small moments like bumping into an old friend to bigger moments like a honeymoon send off, it is either out of economic necessity, historical circumstance, cultural particularity or all three that create the dense mesh of urban life.
While all of these elements give the Bet Collector a detached, documentary-like feel, Jeturian repeatedly breaks up the incessant rhythm of Amy’s daily grind with an apparition of her dead son, dressed in military uniform. While this countermeasure to the rest of the film’s rapid pacing may feel a little self-conscious at times, it successfully introduces a spectral element to Amy’s chaotic reality, constantly haunting her as she roams the streets while stripping away the appearance of banality to her daily struggle. Moreover, the recurrence of her son underscores a constant current of melancholia pervading the film and the city more generally, as if through the incessant movement captured by Jeturian there exists a deeper feeling of absence not readily apparent, but always below the surface. In all, the Bet Collector is most effective at capturing this interplay between the dizzying rhythm of daily life in a dense third world metropolis and the creeping uneasiness constantly lurking in the background.
Josabeth V. Alonso
Rogelio I. Rayala