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2010/Philipines/Director: Sharon R. Dayoc/
Cast: John Arcilla, Arnalyn Ismael and Maria Isabel Lopez (Language: Filipino/Tagalog with English subtitles)
Festivals and Awards: Pusan, Tokyo
Director Sheron Dayoc’s striking feature debut is in some ways a story as universal as possible: the story of the immigrant. Yet, his focus on a forgotten corner of the world, Mindanao Island of the Philippines brings the each characters unique fight for a better life into sharp focus.
An arduous-and illegal- journey across the sea from the destitute shores of the multicultural Mindanao to the relative prosperity of Sabah ,Malaysia begins with an introduction to the protagonists. An “employment broker” Hernan (John Arcilla) a weary prostitute (Maria Isabel Lopez), a father and daughter , siblings in search of their mother (Arnalyn Ismael and Aljimar Hajijol) are deftly portrayed by professional and non-professional actors. Dayoc has a subtle approach to the topic of poverty and human trafficking. The audience is not beaten over the head with overwrought scenes of suffering. Rather, he expertly employs the use of the truism “don’t tell me- show me.” And what is shown is, at times, deceptively lovely. Village colors and the palette of the sea at night leap from the screen in direct contrast to the building anxiety and suspense. Danger is coupled with excitement and all is underscored brilliantly by a soundtrack that varies from heart-pumping percussion to plaintive folk songs.
Events unfold, the stakes get ever higher and we accompany our travelers as they sail into an unknown fate on a distant shore.