Verdict is the first feature film written and directed by 27-year-old Raymund Ribay Gutierrez. It is an expanded version of a short Gutierrez made called Judgement, using the same actors playing the same characters. Judgement won awards at festivals in Sweden, Belgium, Australia and Egypt.
Gutierrez was inspired by an incident from his own life. He and his mother were at home when they heard neighbors talking loudly. Then the neighbor family appeared at their door asking for help. The husband was carrying his daughter, her face covered in blood, and behind them was his wife, who had clearly been brutally beaten. What most shocked Gutierrez was learning that two days later the couple was back together. The battered wife explained to him that pursuing a case against her husband for domestic abuse felt like a waste of time and money. According to Gutierrez, “I came up into a certain [understanding] that the physical battery is less [painful] compared to the bureaucratic abuse that you’re going to get into.”
In Verdict, Joy (Max Eigenmann) lives in a Manila apartment with her abusive husband Dante (played by the late Kristoffer King) and their six-year-old daughter, Angel. One night, Dante, a petty criminal, comes home very drunk and beats Joy. But this time, he also injures his daughter. Joy slashes Dante with a kitchen knife and, with Angel in her arms, escapes and runs to the local police station in order to finally file a report against her husband. We know that this is a clear-cut case of a man brutally beating his wife because we watched it happen. But then the Filipino justice system takes over. Joy is forced to describe the beating to the police while Dante is in the same room. Dante’s mother hires a lawyer. The overworked prosecutor does her best to present Joy’s case. The overworked judge, almost buried in paperwork, tries to listen to both sides. Angel is forced to testify. This is not a pretty portrayal of the criminal justice system in the Philippines, but it is an effective one.
One of Raymund Ribay Gutierrez’s main mentors has been Brillante Mendoza, who directed Ma’ Rosa, another painfully believable exposé of the police system in Manila.