Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Transit (2013)

Director: Hannah Espia
Cast: Irma Adlawan, Ping Medina, Marc Justine Alvarez, Mercedez Cabral, Jasmine Curtis-Smith

Transit tells the story of Filipino migrant workers in Israel. The parents desperately hides their children because of the new law that says that non-Israeli children under the age of 5 need to be deported. It's a single story told in five separate perspectives. Hannah Espia expertly uses the technique to give us a more in-depth look at the plight of the characters. It's amazing how this movie shows how a story can change depending on who's telling it.

The way they structured the story is really different. First, we see the story of Janet (Irma Adlawan) and how she struggles to stay hidden despite having an expired visa. She fights so hard to stay in Israel because it's the home of Yael, her half-Israeli daughter. Moises (Ping Medina) is a Filipino care-giver who raises a four-year-old child by himself. Tina (Mercedes Cabral) just arrived in Israel but also faces difficulty on how she can stay despite the new rules being implemented. Yael (Jasmine Curtis-Smith), despite being raised by a Filipino mother, only sees herself as an Israeli. Joshua (Marc Justine Alvarez) is the four-year old son of Moises who slowly embraces the Israeli culture as he's further exposed to it.

Transit bagged many awards, and I can guarantee you that it's well-deserved. This movie has solid storyline coupled with actors who give raw but compelling portrayals of the characters they're playing. It seemed so real, especially the performance of Jasmine Curtis-Smith and Marc Justine Alvarez. If I didn't know better, I would have thought that they're really Israeli children! Irma Adlawan also gave a stellar performance, as always.

What I like most about Transit is how it emphasizes that every story has many sides to it. Sometimes, those whom you think have very little part actually see a lot. Take Joshua for example, he's only four years old but the story revolves around him. The elders may think that children should play no part in their dilemma, but they see and feel everything that happen to them and their family. In stories about OFWs, it's rare to see it told by the children who were born and raised in the foreign country. The parents may have a longing for their home country, but how about those kids who never set foot on it?

The only problem I have with it is Tina's role. Her story is a story worth telling, but I'm particularly keen on how it doesn't have a very strong connection to the rest of the characters' lives. But it doesn't the decrease the quality of this film. NOT AT ALL.

It's easy to get confused in the format Hannah Espia had chosen to tell the story. But she meshed the perspectives so seamlessly that it still achieves coherence. The ending may be open-ended but there's a sense of finality to it that's incredibly hard to achieve without strong writing.

So basically, Transit doesn't just have a good story and cast, it pretty much have a  good everything else! I cannot wait for this movie to have a mainstream release. It definitely deserves to be watched by more Filipinos.

I only got to watch two films in the this year's Cinemalaya offerings. But I think it's enough for me to believe that there really are so many good films this year, and Transit is just a proof of that. I'm just hoping that some of those that I didn't watch will go mainstream and be screened in more cinemas.

This year, I only got to watch Transit and Purok 7, and both films made me leave the theatre with an awfully huge smile on my face. Films like these two made me revive my faith on Philippine cinema. We are a lot more than overrated romcoms and depressing poverty stories. Cinemalaya continues to prove that the Philippine cinema landscape has a lot more to offer.

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