10 Ingenious Films That Shed Light on Indigenous People
by Jace Amodo, September 30, 2019 4:00pm
Stills from respective films
You’ve probably already seen Brillante Mendoza’s 2012 masterpiece, Thy Womb. It is one of the proudly Filipino films that shed spotlight on our First Peoples. The Nora Aunor-starrer film follows a couple who sail from their floating village to nearby island communities in search of a woman who can make up for the wife's infertility. Mendoza is the only Filipino director with the Cannes Film Festival's "Best Director" award on its filmography.
Little did we know, films about indigenous people is a popular genre in Southeast Asian Cinema, and they’re all screened at Tingin 2019 last September 26 to 29 at the Red Carpet, Shangri-La Plaza, Mandaluyong City.
Tingin's second inception in November 2018 marked the 50th Anniversary of the Philippines’ membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); this year, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) honored the International Year of Indigenous Languages by showcasing films about indigenous people.
Baboy Halas (2016)
Directed by Bagane Fiola
What else do we know about the Southern Philippines aside from their pristine waterfalls and the Surfing Capital itself? Baboy Halas focuses on the Matigsalug indigenous family and their struggles in adopting mainstream customs. The film received the "NETPAC Jury Prize" at the QCinema Film Festival and "Best Cinematography" from the Young Critics Circle so you know it's the real deal.
Anggur in Pockland (2017)
Directed by Abdul Zainidi
Independent director Abdul Zainidi brings his signature strange and often obscure art house magic to this film, which revolves around the magical grapes of Brunei. The grapes visit those without purpose in life and transport them to the magical, worry-free realm of “Pockland," and only a little boy called Pock knows why.
Graves Without a Name (2018)
Directed by Rithy Panh
Graves Without a Name is the type of cinematic masterpiece that'll keep you on the edge of your seats.During the 20th Century, the world has seen one of the worst mass killings under the Khmer Rouge. The film follows Panh, who lost most of his family under the brutal regime, as he searches for a path to peace.
Sokola Rimba (2013)
Directed by Riri Riza
While we wait for BEBAS, Riri Riza's latest feature film to be released come October 2019, Sokola Rimba should let us have a grasp of his directing style. Sokola Rimba follows a young woman who travels to Indonesian jungles to teach the Orang Rimba people literacy and much more.
LAOS x JAPAN
The River Flows (2017)
Directed by Makoto Kumazawa
A product of Japan-Laos 60th anniversary relationship, The River Flows is about the strange meeting between a woman who accidentally travels back in time to the 1960s Laos and a young Japanese man who's researching for the country's first dam project. The genre may be a bit different from Tingin's lineup, but the focus remains on the life in the countryside.
Directed by Edmund Yeo
Helmed by a Best Director at the Tokyo International Film Festival, Aqerat is a fitting Malaysian film for Tingin. Aqerat tells the story of a woman who, as the popular Filipino saying goes, clings to a knife's edge to survive. Here, we'll get a peek of displacement and morality in contemporary Malaysia.
In Exile (2016)
Directed by Tin Win Naing
After filming political footage, Myanmar filmmaker Tin Win Naing must flee his country. But as he crosses the border illegally to enter Thailand, he only finds himself trapped under conditions of modern slavery. We'll see a director become a refugee amongst refugees, with only his camera as his most important tool for survival.
Sayang Disayang (2013)
Directed by Sanif Olek
What happens when you put a lonely, bitter Singaporean man and a homesick live-in nurse in one house? Words come to play in this film as the director frays away from giving basic conversations to the main characters. And when aggressive speech becomes too much, food plays an important role between the two.
By the River (2013)
Directed by Nontawat Numbenchapol
Indigenous people in the Philippines aren't the only ones fighting for their rights against mining companies. This creative documentary conveys such perennial problem Southern Klity villagers have endured.
Love Man, Love Woman (2007)
Directed by Ngyuen Trinh Thi
When Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage in May 2019, the rest of Asia were in a collective hope that their country may follow—Vietnam among them. Though the rainbow road is still under construction, effeminate and gay men in Vietnam rely on the tenets of their Mother Goddess Đạo Mẫu for freedom of expression, as seen in this arthouse documentary.
As the country’s only film festival dedicated to Southeast Asian cinemas, the NCCA made sure the lineup is as exceptional as the festival's advocacy. While the mission to place indigenous people into national-level discussions—the community, their rights, and the appropriation—has a long way to go, may these films spark conversations from within ourselves and our immediate connections. Because the more people talk about it, the more the awareness comes to light.
- Film Festival
- Tingin 2019
- Southeast Asian Cinema
- Love Man, Love Woman
- By the River
- Sayang Disayang
- In Exile
- The River Flows
- Sokola Rimba
- Graves Without a Name
- Anggur in Pockland
- Baboy Halas
- Thy Womb
- Indigenous People