Cinemalaya review: Espia's 'Transit'

By Fred Hawson

Posted at Aug 03 2013 03:12 PM | Updated as of Aug 03 2013 11:12 PM

"Transit" tells the story of Filipino diaspora in Israel. It specifically deals with one family, siblings working in Tel Aviv. They have expired working visas. They are in hiding.

Janet works as a housekeeper. She has a teenage daughter Yael by a former Israeli boyfriend. Janet's brother Moises works as a caregiver. He has a four-year old son Joshua, whom he has to hide because of a newly-passed Israeli law that seeks to deport children of foreign workers less than five years old.

The same story is told from five different points of view of five characters. Each episode will add an additional detail and dimension to the story. This innovative technique of story-telling sets this movie apart.

It was also impressive that the Filipino actors all seem to be speaking flawless Hebrew. (I say seem because I have not heard good Hebrew being spoken before in actuality.) However, many conversations where parents speaking Tagalog and their children answering in Hebrew can be disconcerting.

Irma Adlawan was very real in her role as Janet,totally immersed in her role. I hope though that she could try to minimize her "harassed mom" mannerisms, which were very reminiscent of how Ms. Caridad Sanchez did it before.

Ping Medina was convincing as the proud, paranoid, suspicious, and practical father Moises, who simply wants to keep his child with him in Israel. He did not care whether others called him selfish. His look has matured a lot since I first saw him in another indie film "Numbalikdiwa".

I found the episode with indie princess Mercedes Cabral (as the new arrived Tina) extraneous and not contributory to the main narrative. The momentum of the story actually dipped in this middle episode. I did note that Ms. Cabral could probably play Sen. Nancy Binay in a biopic.

Jasmine Curtis-Smith is really a very beautiful young actress with no bad angles, even when she was in tears. Not only that, she was able to rise up to the challenge of portraying the conflict of Yael, a teenager who was born and grew up an Israeli, yet struggling to keep the Filipino flame alive in her as her mother wanted.

With due respect to these older actors though, the success of the movie actually hinged on the star-making performance of child actor Marc Justine Angeles as Joshua. He outdid everyone else as far as acting is concerned because he did not seem like he was acting at all. That tense scene where he was willing his "cloak of invisibility" to work was simply amazing in its innocence.

This film is very good in its technical execution. The cinematography was very clean with some breathtaking camera angles in the scenic port city of Jaffa, the historic Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and that scene where Toni Gonzaga makes a cameo appearance as Joshua's estranged mother. The film editing is definitely of awards-caliber as it seamlessly went from one point of view to another.

Admittedly though, the story may be of limited interest to the general public. The story of illegal OFWs may also not be too flattering in the international scene. But the high quality of story-telling and film-making by director Hannah Espia makes this film worth catching. 7/10.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."