Manila North Cemetery in the Philippines is a place of rest for 3000 people, all of whom are alive.
When rich families first erected mausoleums for their dead in the 1800s, they needed caretakers to maintain them and guard any valuables buried within. In exchange for their work, the caretakers were allowed to live inside the mausoleums, and a cemetery community was born.
Gravekeepers grow gardens around tombs; chefs cook up hearty fare in pop-up restaurants alongside crypts; and children play basketball in between school and funerals.
Manila North Cemetery has become a home to those without a home. But the graveyard is not always peaceful. One caretaker must face the task of burying his own relative in the cemetery, and another – only 13 years old – must undergo an exorcism lest forever be possessed by the spirits he disturbed.
Yet in a place where exhumations, ghosts, and witch doctors are part of daily routine, the biggest dangers residents face are universal to the human experience.
In 1969, an American Vietnam war hero relocates to a remote village in the Philippines and invites hundreds of women to live with him in his compound. Through money and violence, he was able to rule as a king. “It was like having a vacation everyday”, he recalls proudly.
In 2002 he was charged with over 80 counts of rape.
Victor Pearson is now in jail serving two life sentences, but many of the women remain by his side. Pearson and his harem form an extended family bound together with codependency and power issues. Although still behind bars, he has since married five of the women who testified against him in court keeping them in apartments in the neighbourhood.
Unrepentant, Victor Pearson is undoubtedly a charismatic character who lived his dream. When confronted with his abuse of girls as young as fourteen, he claims that the lifestyle and education he provided these women with, outweigh the charges leveled at him.
“Kano” is the fascinating story of a convicted rapist and the women who come together to form a most dysfunctional family.