Hunghong sa Yuta (Arnel Mardoquio, 2008) March 5, 2009Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Festival, Indie Sine, Noypi.
English Title: Earth’s Whisper
Written and directed by Arnel Mardoquio
Cast: Nelson Dino, Lucia Cijas, Joan Mae Soco, Popong Landero
The producers have envisioned Hunghong sa Yuta as a tool for their “mobile peace education campaign,” a film that would somewhat express their stand on the lingering tension in Mindanao. It is a totally unpretentious work; in just a few minutes when the young child narrates his life one can easily get the feel of view-selling just by looking at their situation. Every character lies on the contour of a handsome volcano about to erupt. But what exactly is peace education? What have we not learned? Is peace equivalent to non-violence? Is war always violent? Is peace something to campaign for? And to think that the word “campaign” is initially used to describe “a series of military operations undertaken to achieve a large-scale objective during a war,” it only rings true that war and peace can never be simplified, or be put in either black or white. And a film, a dynamic form of expression yet also easily abused, should not only wear its advocacy on its sleeve to be effective. There is more to it than a narrative, more to it than aspiring for the reality of small nations living in peace and harmony.
It is difficult not to be humbled by Hunghong sa Yuta‘s telling of the conflict. The civilians caught in the crossfire between the military and the armed rebels are shown as powerless victims of this predicament. Thus a young man who is willing to live in such place to teach deaf-mute children is welcomed with suspicion; he has yet to prove his pure intention. When that time comes, when he is able to earn their trust and affection, that’s when things start to fall apart. The narrative builds on conventions – – the things we are well aware of – – but the treatment is fresh, if not too stagy. The said immateriality of its aesthetics, masked by its intention as an advocacy project, is all too kind for me. Egay Navarro’s camerawork is good but there are misplaced shots, misplaced highlights, and some production gaffes barely saved by editing that are hard not to notice. The pacifist tone is consistent from start to finish, but these things come out so simple, so plain, and so easily maneuvered that I find it a faulty representation of war. But then what is? It is distant poetic, struggling to accomplish two things that fail to work together: its producer’s cause and its artistic merits. It leaves important questions, which is admirable, but it also leaves a mark of strained advocacy, a stretched idea of solution, a wayward misnomer if a solution is ever attainable in a lifetime.