Friday, November 5, 2010

Lola - 2009

Director - Brilliante Mendoza


Two elderly ladies lives are tragically entwined as they try to keep their families together in the aftermath of a tragedy.

Lola, means grandma in Philippine, and this story of two towering, old matriachs is a moving, documentary-like film. Set to the harsh, impoverished backdrop of Manila, the film begins with Lola Sepa desperately struggling to find her grandson on the mean streets. Her grandson has been murdered by Lola Carpin's grandson, who has been sucked into a criminal underworld. One lady desperately seeks the money needed to afford the funeral costs, the other is trying to pay for bail.

The film serves as social commentary. It's shot in that shaky, handheld digital, and as we follow the ladies around on their quest it all does feel vividly real. It attacks the circumstances that created this situation not the young man in jail. Sepa, soaked in rain, goes to her grandson's boss to ask for help, insurance. Her son, who has worked diligently, does not qualify. Her treatment is appalling, her son's death is clearly of no concern and she is briskly palmed off. Carpin seeks help from relatives living on a duck farm, she comes back penniless, but with a case of eggs. Beyond the direct references to these problems the film threads them into its milieu; gameshows, where the aim is to free yourself of debt, the background presence of those generic loan adverts

Interestingly, though a court case is central to the film, Mendoza focuses on behind the scenes dealings between Sepa and Carpin. Carpin breaks down initial resistance to attempt to sort the case privately, finding an acceptable sum for a settlement. Economic need has essentially castrated a legal system, and this bargaining bears far more relevance than the judge or jury. It is shocking in one instance, this is a murder case being settled by the accused paying for the funeral costs essentially, but the underlying need for Carpin to protect her boy, caught up in a storm of bad circumstance is immediately understandable.

At the core of this film are the two noble grandmothers, like ultra-magnets, pulling their families together. Slightly voyeuristic perhaps, but a clear picture of modern-day Manila is established, with its precarious fault-lines carefully highlighted.

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