Saturday, February 22, 2014

Transit (Hannah Espia, Cinemalaya 2013 Best Picture)

I had seen Transit four times and each time I marvel at the elegance of the film. It sparkles like a pearl. There is a certain sheen that I seldom see from local indie films. The actors are classy and superb. The gorgeous location is refreshingly different and nice.

Transit is predominantly set in Israel. It deals with a Filipino family grappling to terms with a new residency law. The members decide to hide a young boy for a year in order for him to gain residency status. As it is, the boy is what you call a TNT (Tago ng Tago), a term referring to illegal aliens hiding from immigration officials.

The film's conceit is hiding bits and pieces of information. It then uses a unique editing style to unveil chunks of crucial information. As the pieces get connected, the true picture gets bigger and clearer.

But, just like a jigsaw puzzle, there are discernible breaks and cracks on the picture. The storytelling is not linear. Tales of the family members are presented in sometimes repetitive manner. Viewing the tales is akin to eating the same cake with different toppings five times. Viewers' enjoyment of the film will depend on whether the toppings are yummy and memorable enough.

In a film forum I've attended, the filmmakers shared juicy morsels about the film. The production group was lucky to find a building rented out by Filipinos. That building served as the main apartment in the film. Hidden away from our sights is the fact that the building was home to several families and teeming with tenants. Another stroke of luck was they chanced upon a responding fire truck near their set-up. The chaos on the streets add some tension during the scene showing the grandmother and boy's risky excursion outside.

I learned about the importance of the uncircumcised young boy's recitation of the Torah. The boy's action is a valiant attempt to show to the authorities that he is an adult. Not only can he recite Torah passages, he can speak Hebrew fluently. I also loved the boy's efforts to be invisible using a head scarf.

The head scarf though makes me wonder about the Muslim community in Israel. Maybe the scarves' power of invisibility works only for Muslims. I didn't see them at all.

Director Peque Gallaga defended the selection of Transit as the country's film entry to the Oscars. The committee members chose Transit because it projected what the Filipinos want the world to see. The Filipino parents' struggle to feed their families and the sacrifices they go through are vividly presented in Transit. It is worthwhile to note that two other Oscar hopefuls, Metro Manila and Ilo-Ilo, also dealt with sacrificial love for the Filipino family. Among the trio, I was rooting for Ilo-Ilo.

The film Transit is critical of the Filipino government and Filipinos. It unleashes a few topics cloaked by a head scarf. Why do thousands of Filipinos need to go abroad to find jobs? Why do they resolutely break the law in order to remain together abroad? 

This blog entry shares a Filipino trait with Transit. Both have a difficult time saying goodbye. My mind is like a carousel full of ideas to write about. Round and round and round it goes...

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