It's rare to watch a movie about kids living in rural poverty and yet, leave the theaters still feeling elated. But Carlo Obispo's Purok 7 successfully does that.
A fourteen-year-old Diana (Krystle Valentino) lives alone with his kid brother, Julian (Miggs Cuaderno), since they have an OFW mother and their father lives with his new family. Together, they desperately try to get by with the money Diana earns from her part-time jobs, all the while awaiting the fate of their mother overseas. It's a story about family, hope, kindness, and surprisingly, first love.
I am completely taken by this movie, and I am afraid to say something that will fall short of how incredible it is. It's not your typical indie movie that deals with poverty. Yes, there are the same elements. There's the same resilience that Filipinos show everytime the worst that can possibly happen happens. There's the absentee parents and siblings having to take care of each other in their absence. What makes Purok 7 different is how it capitalizes on the little things and the people around them that make life still enjoyable for the siblings, instead of dwelling on the negative aspects of living.
This movie never fails to show that life isn't a field trip and there's no reward waiting for them at every turn. But Purok 7 is probably the best representation of Filipinos' resilience and the sense of community around. Here are two children who experience challenges on a daily basis but with each other, they still know how to laugh and to enjoy each other's company. Here are two kids who may not have parents guiding them but they have the neighbors who treat them like family and ready to jump to their aid anytime.
There's no resolution to the siblings' dilemma. There's no concrete ending that will tell you what exactly will happen next. But the movie is still wrapped up pretty well by showing us that life goes on despite all the things that seem to signify great changes in your life.
I'm not sure where they found Krystle Valentino but she does a lot of heavy-lifting in acting in this film. She's not only convincing as the candid and honest Diana, but she can also rip your hearts out by her struggle to accept their situation. She's amazing, and I hope that she gets more job that will challenge her as an actress. It's not just Valentino who does a good job, but the entire team also pulled off a really good movie. I'm not sure if it's in their intentions to create something so heart-warming and uplifting, but they did. What's even more amazing is how the movie seems to engage the entire audience that we ended laughing and crying with the siblings. Their emotions felt so raw that the audience can't help but empathize with them in every scene! It's effective storytelling at its finest.
What I particularly love in Purok 7 is how it touches on a reality that is rarely (or yet to be) tackled in the media: the stories of the children of OFWs caught drug-trafficking in other countries. The faces of their parents plastered on every TV screen, the children have no choice but to await for news from the TV programs. It's amazing how they managed to put emphasis on what it could possibly be like without making light of the situation.
Have you ever felt grateful after watching a movie? Because it's what I felt once the closing credits rolled. It's not the gratefulness in the sense that I have more while others have less. It's more like being thankful for having the chance to see such an amazing movie. Too bad that it probably won't go mainstream. It's really the type of movie that many Filipinos will appreciate.
It's one of the only two movies I watched from this year's Cinemalaya. And of the dozens screened this year, I'm glad that I picked this one.