It is always hard to sell an advocacy in a movie. Often, the effort feels a little stilted, even though that movie may be effective.
Case in point: Joel Lamangan's new indie film Migrante, produced by XITI Productions. PEP was present in the movie's private screening last Monday, July 2, at XITI's Quezon City office.
Migrante tells the story of a Filipina OFW who is working in Israel. She meets tragedy when she kills her burly male employer after he tried to rape her. She then runs away and meets fellow Filipino OFWs, who help her get back on her feet.
Jodi Sta. Maria plays the Filipino OFW. Supporting her are Allen Dizon as her husband, Tony Mabesa as her father, Rich Asuncion and Ryza Cenon as her sisters, and several other characters played by Bangs Garcia, Jim Pebanco, Luis Alandy, Chynna Ortaleza, and Raquel Villavicencio.
First and foremost, Migrante is an advocacy film. It even shares its name with Migrante International, a support group for Filipinos working abroad, which figures into most of the movie.
Being an advocacy film, Migrante feels like a long infomercial, instead of a traditional movie. The concern for the plight of OFWs pervade the story, at times veering away from the main character to unravel another character's narrative. The movie is built with characters who embody every single type of OFW for this purpose: the OFW who gets abused by employers, the OFW with no papers and who gets
deported, the OFW who meets luck and riches, the OFW who loses all his life's earnings in old age, a gay OFW who gets a fatal disease, even an OFW-to-be.
There are also those moments when the dialogue is unnatural. To push an advocacy, the actors break out of character to speak statistics and other facts about the problems of OFWs.
This is not a negative detail. In fact, this makes the purpose of the movie stand out, leading to a more powerful undertaking. The takeaway of any viewer from this movie is learning about the predicament of Filpinos working abroad. They might sympathize with them, and they might take action.
What's admirable in Migrante is the few moments of honesty it contains. The drama is subdued and well-directed, making it all the more touching.
Remarkable performances come from lead players Jodi Sta. Maria and Allen Dizon. Surprisingly, it is Rich Asuncion who is the scene-stealer, making a mark in the few scenes where she appears.
Cinematography is also remarkable, the lighting sufficient in the scenes shot in Israel, even though these are shot guerilla-style. The production only had minimal permit to shoot there.
Migrante will have a premiere night on July 15, 2012 at Robinsons Galleria Cinema 5. There will be four screenings: 10am, 1pm, 4pm, and 7pm, the latter being the gala premiere.