Mikhail Red On His ‘Love Letter’ That Is Dead Kids
Once a Dead Kid, always a Dead Kid
By this time, you’ve heard the news: Dead Kids is the first Filipino Netflix Film and will premiere on December 1. Add that to the fact that the film is directed by Mikhail Red and produced by Globe Studios (the team behind the internationally-awarded film, Birdshot) and it’s safe to say that we had a lot of expectations for this one.
On paper, the synopsis of Dead Kids reads as follows: “A socially awkward teen bonds with a group of misfits who plot to abduct the school’s arrogant rich [kid]—until their kidnapping scheme turns deadly.” With some creative freedom, however, we say it’s really this: “A financially-troubled student connects with his contemporaries when they scheme a kidnapping to get rid of the school’s arrogant rich kid (AKA the bane of their existence) for some money. But then shit hits the fan.”
Before the early screening began on November 17th, Red took the stage with his cast (Sue Ramirez, Khalil Ramos, Markus Paterson, Vance Larena, Kelvin Miranda, Gabby Padilla and Jan Silverio) and described Dead Kids as a “love letter to [his] generation.” Having seen the film, it’s putting it lightly to say that it’s heavy-handed on the tough love—the characters, their actions and how each one affects the goal and outcome of the film are proof of this. And Red admits as much, anyway.
“Yes, it is tough love,” he tells us. “It is a cautionary tale…It is me unveiling the realities, insecurities and privileges of a complicated and often misunderstood generation.”
Indeed, there are seven kids in the film, each one mirroring a segment or two of society. There’s the underprivileged, angry and frustrated and willing to take matters into his own hands. There are the misunderstood and there are those that claim being woke but are really just dying to be part of the conversation. There are victims, there are those that play the victim and those whose exteriors never quite match their insides. And then there are those that don’t want any part of it.
The chemistry of the cast and the characters they play make for an interesting take on present society. Is it truthful and is it accurate? Yes—and yes.
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But going back to the theme of taking matters into one’s own hands. We told Red this was a rather risky topic to approach—and while the director’s made a name for himself by dabbling in the precarious—releasing a film like Dead Kids on a platform such as Netflix starts a conversation that should elicit some fear. But as Red explains, getting scared and being scared are all part of the process.
“When an audience reflects [on what’s presented to them], that’s how minds and hearts are changed,” he says. “I take inspiration from events that disturb me and I hope [the film] disturbs my audience as well, because that’s how you get people to move and act: when they’re uncomfortable with [the] status quo.”
Well. Congrats, direk Mik, because “uncomfortable” and “disturbing” were two words my head kept repeating when those last scenes wrapped.
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Come December 1, everyone else will have their own opinion and their own queries and their own answers about the latest film from one Mikhail Red. You’ll even have your own take on that scene that he meant to illustrate a few key questions:
“Are we okay with this new norm?
As the youth and builders of the future, are we going to change things?
Or just keep things [as they are] and play along?”
You’ll be able to decide if his medium and body of work were effective some hours after the credits roll. My own experience of the film, however, had me asking something of another nature—and it was a question I asked Red, too—Is anyone still innocent? Well…
“We all have our sins.”
You can now catch Dead Kids on Netflix. Keep things easy and subscribe to Netflix with Globe Postpaid; just click on over here to learn more.
Art Alexandra Lara