THE NETHERLANDS – “Nervous Translation”, a film of director Shireen Seno, won the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) award at the 2018 International Film Festival Rotterdam.
Speaking on behalf of the jury, Andrej Vasilenko described “Nervous Translation” as a film whose “original representation of childhood that beautifully captures a unique view of world that is full of contradictory interaction, introspection, social and political dissonance, and dispute, successfully creating an unforgettable cinematic universe.”
The film follows the life of a young girl who spends her afternoons mostly alone at home, waiting for her mother to come home, entertaining herself with writing, cooking and listening to the voice recordings her overseas Filipino father sends regularly from Saudi Arabia. The film was inspired by Seno’s memories as a child who was born and raised in Japan by OFW parents.
Seno, who is nine months pregnant, was not able to attend the festival but was represented by director/producer John Torres and co-producer Arleen Cuevas.
“The character of 'Nervous Translation' is an 8-year old girl who is coming to grips with how she sees, how she processed them, what she thinks and the logic that we don’t see anymore as adults because we’ve forgotten them or we have removed them from our consciousness,” Torres told Balitang Global.
Torres added that this film encourages viewers to think and look within themselves, connect this to the world around them and learn to express how they feel even in the simplest form.
Torres, also a son of OFW parents, said that the film also relates to his memories of growing up feeling the presence of his father only on voice recording sent thousands of miles away from home.
In his review on the IFFR website, film critic Héctor Oyarzún Galaz wrote that "Nervous Translation" is a movie that is capable of bringing back glimpses of our childhood.
“Shireen Seno's second feature-length 'Nervous Translation' can be seen as an exercise to apprehend a confusing political moment through the chaotic memories of childhood. In the film, a solitary eight-year-old Yael cooks at home, writes letters, and listens to cassettes recorded by her absent father. This description could make us think of a slice-of-life kind of film, but there are a lot of big events going on around her. 'Nervous Translation' sets after the People Power Revolution– a series of demonstrations held against the regime of Ferdinand Marcos in The Philippines – but the film only shows some glimpses of the political climate.”
'RESPECT FOR TRUTH'
The award-winning rap film "Respeto" also debuted its international release at IFFR 2018.
In 2017, "Respeto" also won the NETPAC award at the Cinemalaya Film Festival in the Philippines, including Best Film among other awards. In Rotterdam, the film was nominated for the Bright Futures and Youth Jury Awards.
Although the script was written almost a decade ago, "Respeto" gives an almost realistic portrayal of the political situation in the Philippines, including the issues on extrajudicial killings in President Duterte’s war on drugs and the Supreme Court’s decision to allow former dictator Ferdinand Marcos to be buried at the Heroes Cemetery.
“We felt that with the current situation (in the Philippines) we really need to say something. This film is made to create a discussion about the current situation in the Philippines. Hopefully, this gives them a glimpse of what’s really happening with the war on drugs and the unending cycle of violence that started during the Martial Law years,” said director Alberto Monteras II.
Set in the slums of Pandacan, "Respeto" tells the story of Hendrix, a teenager who dreams to be a well-known rapper like his idol, the gangster Breezy G. Together with his friends Betchai and Payaso, they spend idle days daydreaming and doing teenage mischiefs, including a botched attempt to rob the second-hand bookstore of Doc, a Martial Law victim whose son is a corrupt cop. As the story unravels, Hendrix and Doc created a bond that parallels to their painful experience of violence and love for lyrical words.
The film explores the struggles of growing up poor in Manila, surrounded by wrong influences and fighting to survive. Monteras beautifully infused art and poetry with gripping scenes and surreal images while tackling the social and political ills of the Philippines.
“It was a great movie. It was a good story it was quite complicated and yet poetic and it emphasizes the importance of literature and poetry. I wonder if this picture is freely shown in the Philippines as well because it is quite critical. I’m not quite sure if President Duterte is loving this film,” said movie-goer Eelco Bruinsma.
In an interview with Balitang Global, Montreras emphasize the important roles that musicians, artists and filmmakers play in a society.
“We have voices, we have a venue to tell people about how we feel, whether that’s love, politics, etc. That’s our advantage from normal people. This is important that we use this voice properly and responsibly, as artists, as filmmakers. We are here to inform people of what’s happening in the Philippines, especially the youth,” he said in Filipino.
Asked where respect is most needed in the Philippines right now, Monteras said that it’s a good start to have respect for the truth.
“I’ve noticed that since we got a new government, respect for truth seems to have disappeared. Nowadays, you don’t know what’s true and what’s fake. We hope that through our film, there could be a discussion about these things and we could inform people how to distinguish what’s true and what’s not.”
Other Filipino films that were screened in this year’s IFFR are "NEOMANILA," "Dapol Tan Payawar na Tayug 1931," and "Those Long Haired Nights."