VENICE - Two Filipino grandmothers scraping a living to get by in Manila's slums are at the center of Brillante Mendoza's new film "Lola," a story about the resourcefulness of people living in abject poverty.
The movie, a surprise entry in the main competition at Venice film festival, tells a fictional tale but is shot like a documentary, leaving the audience wondering throughout whether its scenes are from real life.
Each of the two elderly women bears the consequences of a murder involving their respective grandsons -- one the victim, the other the suspected killer.
Frail and destitute, both have little time to give in to misery as they desperately need money, one to pay for a decent funeral, the other to get her grandson out of jail. Pragmatism prevails.
"You can't be too emotional when you live in a condition like the Philippines, that kind of condition and situation in life ... You just have to move on and live your life," Mendoza told Reuters in an interview.
"When you live in the Philippines and you are exposed to this kind of story every day, it is not difficult to show it in your work. I wanted to show it in a very natural and very spontaneous way, like you are watching life right in front of you."
"Lola" -- which literally means grandmother -- gives a glimpse into the country's inefficient judicial system, prison overcrowding, loan sharking and life in the flooded shanty towns where people get around by canoe.
"That part of Manila is flooded all year round," said Mendoza, who shot the film during this year's rainy season. "But the thing is that people stay there because they have nowhere to go, they have no choice."
Critics in Venice praised "Lola," with Italian daily Corriere della Sera calling the performance of the two lead actresses -- Anita Linda and Rustica Carpio, aged 84 and 79 -- "extraordinary."
Mendoza won the best director award in Cannes this year with "Kinatay," also a grim depiction of modern-day life in his homeland.