Sion Sono's film is a vision of coming of age as trial by fire, a thunderous encapsulation of that period of transition in which adolescents try to discover themselves: their passions, their purpose, their sense of morality.
Not even Bernardo Bertolucci's choice of a lead actor with visible facial acne scars, in a welcome gesture toward authenticity, is enough to overcome the gaping hole of psychological nuance at the center of the film.
As informative, revealing, and occasionally poignant as some of the unearthed revelations are, the doc is ultimately hampered by a level of self-congratulation that nearly undoes its effectiveness as an activist polemic.
Less explored in all the ensuing back-patting is the question of whether Cameron is, in fact, sincerely interested in learning more about the world around him or whether this mission is merely intended to stroke his own ego.
Sean Ellis doesn't so much understand Filipino society as merely sees it as grist for standard genre fare, perhaps hoping that the foreign setting will somehow automatically make the clichés feel fresh.