Thursday, August 9, 2018

Musmos Na Sumibol Sa Gubat Ng Digma


An old man and his grandson traverse the marshes on a small boat in search of an important item from his past that he holds dear. Nostalgic, the grandfather narrates the story of three children who have gone through the same journey decades prior. Falling victim to Rido, a term widely used down south to refer to inter-familial feud featuring warring clans, twelve-year-old Eshal (Junyka Sigrid Santarin) is forced to seek refuge in the harsh forest of Marawi with her infant brother after the murder of their father. There she meets Ahmed (JM Salvado), another Muslim kid who is also on the run from the same threat, an endless cycle of revenge passed down from one generation to the next as dictated by tradition and culture.

Personally, it’s 50-50 for me. I appreciate the artistic values involved but at the same time I feel lost somehow because there are certain scenes that I don’t understand, like that one where a murder seems to be committed, only for the victims to be present in the next scenes alive and kicking. Perhaps it was more like a dream sequence and I am just too slow to figure it out? In any case you will admire the parallel storytelling, the story within a story setup. It is evident that the two are related, but you have to wait until the end as to how the two storylines will converge.

The film is rife with symbolism and imagery which might be beneficial or detrimental depending on who’s looking. You just feel like you are watching a piece of art in motion, what with all those scenes bathed in faint sepia tones, yellowish even, featuring artistic silhouette shots begging you to interpret them. On the contrary, it can also be a bit of a stretch for someone with a tired mind who just wants an escapist feature to enjoy. There are 10 films in this festival, you can always take your pick.

There are also many scenes in which you can hear chanting, basically a prayer of sorts that tells a story. It appears to be a collection of verses from the Koran. It is juxtaposed with the plot unfolding in the main story and through the subtitles you get to realize that there is some sort of parallelism between the two. It feels as though a layer of prophetic mystery is added to the material because of this, like you are listening to a parable being narrated and visually coming to life at the same time.

This is one of those movies that are important because they foster a better understanding of a culture that should not be alien to us. It is not a documentary but educational nonetheless. It’s just that when the south is discussed in the media what we see and hear are often just statistics or gore. In this film, the issue is humanized and we get to see a more nuanced version of the narrative from the perspective of children, no less. Perhaps it is also because of this that we see the conflict with a tinge of innocence which, tragically, has to make way for forced maturity for the sake of survival.

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