The 15th Station (2009)
English, Filipino, Tagalog
On Good Friday in the Philippines every year, penitents are nailed to the cross in a bloody re-enactment of the passion of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years earlier. Who are these men? Why do they indulge in such extreme behaviour? 'The 15th Station" goes behind the clichés and, for the first time, allows the men to speak for themselves and to explain their "panatas"; the pledges to God they make to atone for past sins, to give thanks for favours, or to pray for help. Ruben Enage, the "first Christ" in the Holy Week pageant held in San Fernando Cutud was first nailed in 1985 after he fell from a three-storey building. Over 20 years later, he is a local celebrity. Victor Caparas, a reformed crack addict, has a burning ambition to succeed Enage as "first Christ". Of the three, Roland Ocampo goes to the most extremes lengths to atone for past sins. After his penance is completed, he walks tall; clearly at peace. Ocampo is the moral centre of a film that draws no easy conclusions. Explaining the rituals are a trio of priests: Bishop Pablo David, Eddie Panlilio, who became governor of Pampanga in 2007 and Fr Lyndon Valenton. While the Catholic Church does not approve of the bloody rituals, it acknowledges the hold they have on the people. For the tourism authority, religion has nothing to do with it - the Holy Week Crucifixions bring in much-needed tourist dollars as a filmed press conference makes abundantly clear. Rumours abound that the "Kristos" are paid; greed and opportunism have taken over. For the people of Pampanga, Holy Week is above all a time or hope and renewal, just as Easter is for Christians all over the world. This is the central message of Wurth's thought-provoking film.