A young man fuelled by an internalised class conflict struggles to come to terms with his guilt after running over a man and his daughter in Brilliante Mendoza’s social drama, Feast (Apag). With a strong religious sentiment, each of the four acts is preceded by a title card with a Biblical quotation, Mendoza seems to suggest that we are all one big family and that all divisions are healed when the feast is shared equally, except that equal it is not even when brokered by mutual compassion. 

The opening scenes also have their irony. Wealthy businessman Alfredo (Lito Lapid) and his diffident son Rafael (Coco Martin) shop for expensive fresh crabs at the market, while Matias and his young daughter haggled for much less extravagant fare before making their way home by scooter and sidecar. Distracted by a phone call, Rafael ends up colliding with Matias in his 4×4. Acting quickly, Alfredo jumps in the driving seat and speeds away insisting that he will take the responsibility for the accident, whatever that might mean. After a talk with their lawyer who tells them they’ve not a leg to stand on, Rafael goes to the hospital and pays the family’s bills but Matias dies soon afterwards. Alfredo insists on taking the blame, agreeing to go prison in his stead, but Rafael can’t get over his guilt and enters a depressive spell that prevents him from getting on with the rest of his life.

As we later discover, Rafael occupies a difficult position in terms of his social class. His mother Elisa is Alfredo’s second wife, once a waitress in the family home and disliked by the children of his previous spouse. He is separated from his daughter as his wife seems to have left him for unclear reasons and gone abroad where she has met another man. He wants to unburden himself by accepting the punishment for Matias’ death but is prevented by his father’s heroic act of sacrifice and must carry the guilt alone. The family determine to make amends by “supporting” Matias’ widow Nita (Jaclyn Jose) and their children, but are in essence wielding their privilege over her in assuming they can settle all of this with money and need accept no other responsibility. 

Nita is rightly insulted when Elisa turns up to offer her money to compensate for her husband’s death, but it’s also clear that the family is already poor and now presumably without their main breadwinner. In any case what she wants is justice, and both gets it and doesn’t when Alfredo is sent to prison in place of Rafael. In the final acts of the film, the family has taken in Nita and her children but ostensibly as servants even if ones treated like friends while she is forced to feel grateful to the family that killed her husband for gifting her financial security. The feast with which the film ends was cooked by Nita, but she is not invited to partake in it only stand by and watch while the rest of the family eat. Yet the scene is presented to suggest that a divide has been healed, that inviting them to attend the feast was enough in itself even if a class distinction is still clearly felt between those who serve and those who eat. 

Though Nita seems to have some latent resentment, it is largely washed away on learning the truth allowing her to forgive and symbolically releasing Rafael from his torment. While forgiveness maybe worthy, it also lets the privileged off the hook for their oppressive behaviour in suggesting that the wealthy need only show magnanimity while the poor are expected to simply accept it in good faith. Had this not happened, there is no way they would share their feast with a woman like Nita nor will they ever do so again. If they really meant to dissolve class barriers, they could open the doors to all but they do not. In any case, through coming to terms with his responsibility for Matias’ death, Rafael appears to quell his own inner class conflict to occupy his rightful place but perhaps still fails to fully consider that Matias’ death wasn’t really just an “accident” but a natural consequence of the way in which men like himself move through the world.

Feast screened as part of the 2022 Busan International Film Festival.

Original trailer (no subtitles)

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