Keep the title in mind when you rent this. What could possibly be more interesting than a erratic B-grade documentation of Asian taboos on a Tuesday night? Throw out the painkillers and watch this with your eyes open. Shocking Asia 2 covers a span of several countries, mainly the Phillipines, Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and briefly a few others.
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Shocking Asia 2: The last of the taboos
How the documentary defines it -
1 : forbidden to profane use or contact because of what are held to be dangerous supernatural powers
2 a : banned on grounds of morality or taste <the subject is taboo> b : banned as constituting a risk
how the documentary defines it in the Western world
1 : Nothing is taboo (Ha! Really?)
Asian culture indeed
Delving deep into long bus trips and simplistic cinematography, far from glossy National Geographic style, is this film which is a compilation of some shocking details of Asia which I didn't even know about. Sure, I've been to Bangkok and had a tour of the red light district, and definitely, I've heard of leprosy camps but never really knew much about it. Poverty, an issue that seems ignored by the wealthy, and the hopeless dreams of some who want to leave the squatter areas but never can. This film said it all. Now to rent Shocking Asia 1...
Do you know how 1/3 of the population live? The fly-infested, mud-filled shacks full of starving children and begging hands, only which many of the young girls of the squatters turn to prostitution as a way of bringing in the income for the growing sex industry. The film follows the life of an 18 year old girl who learns the ropes of tantalizing moves and wears her name on her bikini bottom so she was easier to identify when a customer fancied her. We follow her back to the squatters, where she cannot allow herself to feel demoralized or lose her pride as long as she kept her family fed. It seems that prostitution is a way of getting away from the boredom and monotony of the poor life, and once you're in, you can never aim higher for a life of higher moral. Such is the tragedy of the vicious life cycle...
Our pets live in better conditions compared to how some of the poor live in these places. They literally live in cramped cages which is essentially the size of a narrow bed, and the corridors are less than 0.7 metres wide, which is incredulous! One had to squeeze through the spaces in between the cages, and bare-bodied old men sat crouched in their spaces.
The male testosterone lives on while the women are repressed. We are whisked over to a village specifically for prostitutes to live in and where men took their "holidays" at. A client is monitored by a bouncer, and he chose women by walking past houses with fences where women would coyly entice him. (Fully-clothed though) The rooms inside are brightly colored and cosy chambers, and this is where all integrity stops and is veiled. Apparently, the camera crew had no license to film this mysterious village, and the footage was from a carefuly concealed video camera.
Another inherently odd village exists, which is a "death city" and here the rich die rich, with rows and rows of grandoise, ostentatious houses are built for the dead in the belief of a good life even in the underworld. (Well, hey my grandparents have a relatively large plot of land, but this is crazy!) Families of the dead come on weekends and have picnics in the house next to the tomb, amid marble glazed housing structures complete with parking lots.
The narrator tells us of the Asian passion for gambling and bloodsports (Something which I don't completely agree with). Bull fights, cockfights, thai boxing are the kinds of local entertainment available. With cockfights, the male chicken has a blade strapped to its claw, and it was a fight to the death in true gladiator-style. (Being a loyal member of the SPCA, my mind could not fathom the injustice and pitifulness of these fights when animals are involved, but if two humans are pitted against each other, it's out of free will and I could really care less.)
A famous monastry keeps its namesake as a drug-curing environment. Minors, as young as 15, voluntarily surrender themselves to the harsh treatment and cleansing rituals to free themselves from their drug addictions. This place has such a high success rate (60%) that it attracts people all over the world to try and cure themselves and return to a normal life. On entrance to the monastry, you are not allowed to leave for a period of several weeks, and if you tried to leave, they would stop you by all physical means. I witnessed some shocking ways they tried to "purify" the addicts, from drinking a medicine so they puked continuously (hence "cleansing") and being chained to a pole so as to prevent escape. Nevertheless, this methods seem to work, and upon graduation most of them revert back to a clean lifestyle, and weirder still, a few of them stay on having found inner peace.
What's important about this film is that it's dispelled my beliefs about the disease of leprosy. It's true, it's not as easily transmitted as we all would think. The documentary gives us graphic examples of men and women who are dying from leprosy, the bodies receding into themselves and their body functions ceasing to work like they used to. I tried hard not to gulp at the amount of people who live in this isolated place, away from people who abandon them or refuse to acknowledge them. There are brave doctors and nurses from all over the world who venture out here to help these people, and some who devote their lives to leprosy patients. You really have to respect and admire such selfless people (and yes, it's slightly stirred me to do the same but I'm not brave enough).
I have cited just a few examples, but there are much much more, and even more warped in visual description. The directors have a broad number of case studies ranging from sexual deviations to the ways people deal with death and the types of poverty conditions in Asia which may be hard to digest. You cannot imagine how some of these traditions and faith deducted procedures exist! Even as an Asian, I feel completely ignorant of many of the scenes shown and slightly repulsed and cynical about whether the more bizarre cultural practices continue even in present day. You have to remember, when watching this show, that not all of these still happen, nor is Asia in totality a chockful of horrors like this. In many ways, this has been a real eye-opener and a sympathy overload. You veer off to a different tangent from the usual happy-wappy action packed Jackie Chan or Jet Li movie foreign film addicts from the U.S might watch, but the pictures painted in this documentation might change your perception of Asia forever.
All I can say is, I feel really normal now. Perhaps, just a little bit too normal.
P/S: Strictly for 18 and over.
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