Director: Hannah Espia
Cast: Irma Adlawan, Ping Medina, Mercedes Cabral, Jasmine Curtis-Smith & Marc Justine Alvarez
Screenplay: Hannah Espia
A couple of weeks ago, I was able to sit and speak to Hannah Espia’s mother. She’s a friend of my mom and I had the pleasure to meet her and hear her speak very highly of her daughter Hannah, who directed and wrote “Transit”. Being the fake film snob that I am, I wanted to wait till CINEMALAYA and watch the movie myself and decide on my own whether it’s good or bad (and being a film student myself, we all love to do that). But what I came to see changed my opinion completely about Filipino independent cinema. This is because “Tranist” (the first movie from this year’s CINEMALAYA festival I got a chance of seeing) was nothing short but brilliant. Espia’s wonderful direction and screenplay rolled off the natural tongues of her very talented ensemble cast, that didn’t only make the film entertaining but touching and full of heart.
The film didn’t need a showy plot or a gritty sexuality to be good. It brought us into the lives of a Filipino family living in Israel that exposed the government’s treatment of deporting children of foreign workers who didn’t pass a certain “criteria” to stay within the country. The cast is led by Ping Medina who plays caregiver Moises (the father figure of the family) who works as equally hard as his partner Janet (Irma Adlawan) as they struggle to hide their children from the government, looking for kids to deport. Yael (Curtis-Smith) and Joshua (Alvarez) play the Filipino but Israel-born children that their parents strongly want to hide and protect. Also in the story is Tina (Cabral), a woman recently employed in the country who learns the ropes of the entire situation, and must battle her own social repression.
What I loved most about Hannah Espia (in terms of both her script and direction) is that you can feel her passion through the screen. For someone we don’t see throughout the movie, Espia’s presence is felt. Being a part of the new breed of director’s for this years film festival, I pray that she gets in next year. Her movie is her baby, and the love and genuine feelings that she paints in her canvas isn’t only stunning to watch, but it gave my heart such an beautiful and uplifting feeling. Props to such a talented woman.
Irma Adlawan was best in show. She is a powerhouse of an actress. Everything from her line delivery to her expressions were at par (and sometimes better) to many of the “Filipino greats”. I am now truly obsessed with this actress because she embodies “acting talent” in recent Filipino cinema. The cast around her doesn’t disappoint either. Medina was emotionally convicting and encapsulates a father’s hard work, love and understanding. Cabral is a seasoned actress that gave a small character larger-then-life emotions that if you didn’t shed a tear, you’re probably heartless.
The young Jasmine Curtis-Smith surprised me big time. Her acting was natural and I see a bright future of her in cinema. She should never stray away from indies or movies like this because her acting chops were visible, and she’s actually terrific at it. Alavarez, the little boy in the film, captured the audiences heart just like Justin Henry did in 1979’s “Kramer vs. Kramer”. And that’s a fantastic thing.
Espia, is a brilliant woman and filmmaker. If I had a chance to pick at her mind, I would very well say that she’s inspired me to make movies like this if I had the opportunity to. She brought together such a rich culture and incorporated it with our Filipino social issues not only to show us something happening in another part of the world, but she created art that she should truly be proud of. Truly heartfelt filipino cinema is not over people. This film proves that we don’t have to show nudity, sex, drugs and grit to be a good film. When it comes from the heart and you know how to make movies, you will make something equally as beautiful as this film. So far, one of the strongest films of 2013 I’ve seen. Do not miss a chance to see this before the festival closes this Sunday.