“FINISH.” Shaleha simply uttered the word as she looks at the newly-done colored mat she’s been weaving for days already.
This is one brilliant scene in Brillante Mendoza’s recent masterpiece, ‘Thy Womb‘ (Sinapupunan) with Shaleha (Nora Aunor), a Badjao midwife from Tawi-Tawi in Mindanao as the main character.
The scene is just one of the many metaphors that can be found in the film that this writer was able to watch two weeks before its Philippine premiere at a special screening for the press, film critics in Makati last night.
As Shaleha was seen talking about the mat, such a one-liner tells viewers thousands of ideas about her life.
Mendoza made good use of metaphors and irony in this award-winning film that is set to capture Filipino’s hearts starting December 25. It is one of the official entries in the upcoming Metro Manila Film Festival 2012 that will run from Christmas Day till first week of January.
‘Thy Womb’ tells the story of Shaleha and her unconditional love for husband, Bangas-An (Bembol Rocco) whose wish for a baby she wanted answered despite her being unable to conceive one. Thus, she finds ways to find a woman whose womb is capable of bearing a child.
Whoever says it is not among the best performances of Aunor is either a liar or doesn’t know real acting. Or maybe I am wrong. Does she even have any mediocre performance in her lifetime in show business?
Thy Womb won Aunor the Bisato d’ Oro Award (Best Actress) from the independent jury, Premio Della Critica Indipendiente when the film competed at the 69th Venice International Festival (2012) in September. The film also won two more awards: the La Navicella Venezia Cinema Award and the P. Nazareno Taddei Award (Special Mention). And just recently, it won Mendoza the Best Director award and Aunor her Best Actress award at Asia Pacific Screen Awards 2012.
As we’ve seen it, the film promises to give both the lead actors and the director more awards in the days to come especially that as per Mendoza, he continuously receives invitations to other international film festivals.
The director has a lot of praises for the Superstar, whom he said is a real artist and very professional. Asked on who other Filipina actresses could do the role aside from Aunor, he simply replied, I can’t think of anyone. Only Nora Aunor.
Glad that he let the actress do her own magic on the film, he said most of the scenes showcases the natural Nora and that she wasn’t really acting.
The other members of the cast, award-winning actresses Lovi Poe and Mercedes Cabral also played their part very well, Mendoza said. And casting them in the film was a good move especially that the two are awesome actresses with natural Filipina beauty.
Effective Film Making
With Mendoza’s Thy Womb, I all the more believed that effective film making is not centered on awards but that the recognition he receives is just a result of the quality of his works. Mendoza never followed the template of his previous award-winning films, when most of the directors may simply do. In his every film, he offers something new, something unique, something worth keeping for life.
The shaky shots he is known for, though present in his almost every film, is almost unrecognizable in this one as this has more established, more prominent, steady shots, which highlight the beauty of Tawi-Tawi and its rich natural resources. Colleagues who watched the film with me might not be aware of it, but they’ve left their mouth wide open for a short while in awe of the first scenes. Some might have mistaken the film for a tourism campaign, maybe.
But it is never without the morbid scenes Mendoza is known for, just that, ‘Thy Womb’ only involves a cow. It has sex scenes as well but in a more reserved, yet truthful manner. And though Mendoza uses again an actual scene of a mother giving birth in this one, which he already used in ‘Captive,’ that’s forgivable, no, necessary. It is ‘Thy Womb’ after all.
What’s lovable about Mendoza’s way of film making is that he doesn’t load it with his personal advocacies except the advocacy of truth-telling. He doesn’t preach either. He simply present the facts gathered in months and months of research and present it in a way that will let viewers think of what it says sometimes, viewers are even treated to being the one to create the ending they want for the story.
The film might have created noise internationally for the numerous awards it has won so far, but its in-depth presentation of a Philippine jewel from the Mindanaoan culture that won my heart, silently.
We all know that Aunor, with her superstar stature is such a strong character that might drown viewers to her role. But in ‘Thy Womb,’ she remained just an important ingredient to a very poignant film of which frame by frame provides an exciting surprise for the audience.
And though the film is focused on her character, it is not but a wonderful work of art about a wife and her unconditional love, about a minority’s space in a beautiful town in the conflict-associated Mindanao, about life’s ironic truths, and about everything beautiful regarding the seldom-tackled Badjao-Muslim culture despite difficult situations.
‘Thy Womb’ provided us a glimpse, if not a total journey, to the innermost being of a woman: of how it is to be one and what she’s capable of doing in the name of love; a tour into the heart of a culture people in the outside world failed to see or some of us won’t bother to appreciate; a wondrous ride into feeling the core of a portion of the Filipino race.
Let us just hope (and maybe pray, and campaign) though that this coming MMFF, Thy Womb could win as many brave hearts as possible to look into Shalehas unique, yet true-to-life story. Well, it takes bravery to dare becoming unconventional and take a break if not resist the blunt commercialism in films, which, much as I wanted not to say, is the force behind the annual film festival. I wish I am wrong.