Batch '81

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Alpha Kappa Omega Batch '81 (also known as Batch '81 or ΑΚΩ 81) is a 1982 Philippine dramatic film starring Mark Gil. Directed by Mike de Leon from a script by Clodualdo del Mundo Jr. The film is about the titular fraternity's harsh initiation of a new batch of members in 1981 as seen from the eyes of Gil's character, Sid Lucero. It was screened at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival's Directors Fortnight. Although it is a joint production of LVN Pictures, MVP Pictures, and Sampaguita Pictures, the movie was also Sampaguita's last before it closed down.[1]

Plot

Sid Lucero (Mark Gil), a student at an unnamed university in the Philippines, is attracted by the prospects of joining the Alpha Kappa Omega, one of the school's most prominent Greek-letter organizations. He is considering a new direction in his life, as his mother was pushing him to take up zoology and later on to medical school.

Lucero is one of the fraternity's 15 initial applicants, but only eight make it into the group's six-month initiation program with the seniors overseeing it. One neophyte is kicked out on the first day for defying the masters' orders to strip after noticing a prerecorded tape of women giggling and talking about men stripping in front of them. The fraternity leader, Vince (Jimmy Javier), orients the batch in the ways of the group before submitting them to their first hazing, which lasts all night.

Over the next several months, the fraternity masters submit the neophytes to a series of tests. Pacoy Ledesma (Ward Luarca) has sex with a teacher whom a senior, Gonzalez (Vic de Leon Lima), asked him to send a bouquet to, and is made to eat his lunch food mixed with soft drinks and ketchup when Vince chances upon him at the school cafeteria. For falling behind during a test where the neophytes ran in public in their underwear and sneakers, Ding Quintos (Edwin Reyes) is forced to hold a mosquito net over Gonzalez as he sleeps all night. Ronnie Roxas Jr. (Ricky Sandico) is made to drink beer laced with his batchmates' spittle at a birthday party (and everybody else was in on it). A doctor who is an AKO member attaches surgical equipment as a pain-tolerance experiment to Lucero, whose girlfriend is concerned for his safety after losing her only brother in the frat's initiation rites two years before.

The psychological pressure takes its toll on Ronnie and Arni Enriquez (Rod Leido) and both decide to leave. When Vince discovers this, he has Ronnie tied to an electric chair as part of a quiz for all the neophytes to see. Ronnie's own father (Chito Ponce Enrile) - one of the fraternity's founding members - oversees the session, where the younger Roxas will be shocked for the wrong answers. When the voltage is set higher and Ronnie Sr orders the session to continue, the neophytes are made to shock their friend even if he has to die in the process. When Pacoy sees that Ronnie is not responding to the questions, he refuses to do so and is made to replace Roxas, who suddenly wakes up. Ronnie Sr explains that everything was a set-up to help the neophytes trust their masters. Later, Arni gets angry at Sid being callous over everything and it takes the entire group to placate them; Roxas decides to stay.

The neophytes are elated at Ronnie's decision and push on with their presentation for the university's annual Upakan inter-fraternity talent show, a rendition of the classic play Cabaret. Later after the show, Sid, Arni, and Arni's girlfriend, Tina (Sandy Andolong), are waylaid by members of the Sigma Omicron Sigma fraternity. Its leader – Tina's brother Abet (Mike Arvisu) – makes good on his earlier threats to stop Arni dating his sister by drowning him in front of Lucero's eyes. Eager to avenge Arni's death, Sid asks Vince to retaliate. Both fraternities break up a truce and settle everything in a street fight. Ronnie is killed on the AKO side by a Sigma Omicron fratman, who falls to a cleaver strike by Gonzalez; he then works with Sid to kill Abet but at the cost of his own life. Saddened at what AKO had become, Ronnie Sr. forgives the group. After one last hazing at a beach, the remaining neophytes – Lucero, Ledesma, Magtibay (Dodo Cabasal), Santi Santillan (Noel Trinidad), and Ding Quintos - are officially welcomed into the fraternity.

A closing voice-over by Lucero reveals that he eventually becomes one of the masters overseeing another batch of neophytes.

Cast

  • Mark Gil as Sid Lucero
  • Sandy Andolong as Tina
  • Ward Luarca as Pacoy Ledesma
  • Noel Trinidad as Santi Santillan
  • Ricky Sandico as Ronnie Roxas, Jr.
  • Jimmy Javier as Vince
  • Rod Leido as Arnulfo "Arni" Enriquez
  • Bing Pimentel as Mariel
  • Criselda "Dang" Cecilio as Pearl
  • Mike Arvisu as Abet
  • Vic de Leon Lima as Gonzales
  • Dodo Cabasal as Pete Magtibay
  • Edwin Reyes as Ding Quintos
  • Chito Ponce Enrile as Ronnie Roxas Sr.

Production

The movie was produced by MVP Pictures, and distributed by LVN Pictures and Sampaguita Pictures in 1982 and by Viva Films in 2002.

Development

Clodualdo del Mundo Jr., Raquel Villavicencio, and director Mike de Leon created the screenplay. Producer Marichu Maceda claimed her experiences on the film were based on what she felt when her own son was beaten up by his own "brods" (Filipino slang for frat members). It is often seen as an allegory on the Marcos regime's tyrannical rule.[2]

Legacy

The movie left an impact as a study on the psyche of fraternities in the Philippines.[3][4][5] The realism of the movie's initiation scenes are also referred to by Philippine media on stories of fraternity hazings.

The film eventually became one of Gil's most known works. His son Tim, who was a year old at the time of the film's release, would eventually assume his character's name Sid Lucero as a stage name upon joining show business years later.[6]

Themes and Symbolisms

The movie revolved around Sid’s character and his tumultuous journey as he tries to get in the Alpha Kappa Omega, a fraternity. The movie exposed the realities of hazing, as it was very common in the ‘80s. [7][8]

Hazing

Hazing in the movie symbolizes fascism, as the members are stripped of their individual rights, while going through public humiliation and torture. This also mirrored the political regime during the reign of the Marcoses. [8]

Release

The movie was released on September 12, 1982 in Canada after being nominated at the Toronto International Film Festival and in the USA in October of the same year. On November 18, 1982, the movie was shown nationwide in the Philippines.

Impact

Film producer Marichu Vera-Perez made the "antifraternity" movie after her son, aged 14 was beaten black and blue by his fraternity "brothers". Her friend also had a son who underwent a brain operation after being beaten up badly.

At the same time, the movie resembled the political prisoners that were blindfolded, striped naked and forced to answer by their “master” where they have no choice but to obey.[2]

Awards

The film was accepted for screening at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival's Director's Fortnight. It landed seven nominations at the 1983 Film Association of the Philippines Awards for Best Performance By an Actor in a Leading Role, Best Production Design, Best Editing, Best Original Score, Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Original Screenplay, eventually winning the latter two.[2]