Day three I saw a stellar pair of films that were not easy to manage together. All in all, the Cinematografo Film Festival is shaping up to be a time filled with films that are beautiful, unique and humane stories that speak to the soul. What these two films do is cover a world not seen by many and one that may go on being unseen for decades to come. With films like Yield and Women of the Weeping River come films about patriarchy, family, resilience, hope, despair, and the human experience, personal, distanced, and unique unto your own.
What has been remarkable about the festival, and I am so thankful I am able to attend, is the scope and variety of films I have seen thus far. I know outside this festival, I would likely never see Yield or any of these films, except maybe a few decades later when they surface up as masterpieces or landmark films, which I am sure some of them are, but more about that later.
Day three brought on the hard real issues going on in the Philipines: child labor and religious extremism and violence. Where Yield breaks barriers with the documentary film in an incendiary and foundational way, Women of the Weeping River creates a story and thrusts upon the viewer a world dominated by man, but we rarely see them. These two films, although very emotionally challenging to see back to back, provided a beautiful and lush world to uncover in their ~90 minute run times.
The film is an experimental documentary about a collection of children who live in the Smokey Mountains in the Philippines. It captures the lives of these child laborers and follows them as they grow older, some getting sick, some going to school, but mainly all of them living unique and moving lives. This film is 100% inspirational and heartbreaking but impossible not to look away or stop watching. It was a shocking and powerful cinematic experience.
I was completely taken by this film. Meshing together a kind of Koyanistaski and Baraka, but infusing it with a captivating and brilliant personal and human touch that surpasses even a number of narrative fiction films this year. It threw away voiceover and didn’t waste time with a documentarian voice forcing a perspective or idea onto you, which I feel can be an issue in ‘issue’ documentaries. It gave way to showing human existence in a way that felt jarring and enveloping with each frame. As the film opened up further it drew you in, all of this, still, being done without any kind of classical method you typically see in the documentary format. It relied solely on the visuals and the people it depicted to translate a story. This is done brilliantly and in such a way that we don’t need translations, or voice over, or some guiding force to GET IT. What we see is left out for us to see in the open, to absorb and just try to comprehend. This was the best film in the festival and one of the most moving things I have seen come across the screen in a very long time. There is a basic humanity that screams from this film that absolutely touched me. I cried. I laughed. I felt everything this film had. This is a film that NEEDS to be seen by people.
Women of the Weeping River
Women of the Weeping River was a beautifully crafted story about a bloody family feud that seems to have no consideration for how much is too much. Dealing with patriarchy and family, Women of the Weeping River perfectly captures its story and characters in an intimate and honest way.
A film that rockets between quiet intimacy in the jungle between mourning mothers to raging fires fueled by ignorance and rage. This quietly explosive film explored a world I knew little about, and it did so in one of the most visually stunning and beautiful ways I have ever seen. It perfectly manages to ride between being slow cinema and brash, violent, exploitative film. Something about the way that foreign cinema manages to stir up such human and primal feelings and emotions gets to me when I see great films like Women of the Weeping River. American cinema has great films, don’t get me wrong, but the way foreign films evoke feelings and manage to cause a visceral feeling in you is quite compelling, perhaps borne out of the difference in culture and environment. These films are able to operate on a totally different level from other films, and they dominate that sphere.