This must be one of the most surprising films I've seen for a long time. Browsing SBS Online on the TV, I came across "Metro Manila". I have not seen a Filipino film for years. Curious to see one here in SBS Australia, I played it. It hooked me from the beginning. I was just going to have a peek but I stayed for the whole movie. It left feeling like I've been kicked in the guts like the city did to the poor family in the film.
I had to look up who was behind it. I was surprised to discover it was by a British Film Maker. What an impressive and amazing job Sean Ellis did: being British, inspired by a city, goes there to make a film in a language he does not speak. To many in the West, they watch this film and they it as a Heist movie. But to me, it is more than that.
The film is a demonstration of how, in the Philippines, there is no safety net. In most developed countries, there are programs to help you when life takes a turn for the worst. There is no social security. There is no Government support to fund you when you're unemployed, disabled or old. Life is unforgiving. You make a few fateful decisions and you end up dying slowly of malnutrition as you try to eek out a living day to day, constantly hungry until disease or illness catches up with you. So, if the eventual fate is of misery, it is no longer risky to commit a crime. Yes, there is risk in terms of being bashed or killed but it is obviously rationalised and the pay-off seems worth it to someone who deems his or her situation hopeless. Many turn to small crimes, pickpocketing, stealing, robbery just to have something to sell so you and your family can eat for a day or two.
Sean Ellis understood this fact of life for many Filipinos. He not only managed to tell a story that uses the themes and issues that he correctly identified as being prominent in the Filipino psyche, he and his team had done it so spectacularly. Ellis can be proud to say that he has produced a film that Filipinos would accept as something that represents the anguish and aspirations of their people.
As a side, this thought came to my mind: Why do Filipinos allow their people to live generation after generation with no dignity in such lives of desperation?
The three main actors in the film: Jake Macapagal, John Arcilla and Althea Vega were brilliantly convincing. Apparently they were given the script in English but they had the freedom to translate their lines the way they ought to be said. They've done it so magnificently and definitely added a level of authenticity to the characters and to the film.
It is important to point out that regardless of where this is set and who made it, this film stands strong in its own right at the international level. This film definitely needs to be seen and known by more.
I recommend you see it. It is playing in SBS Australia now.