Cinemalaya 2012: Mga Dayo

There is something admirable about the intentions of this movie to shed light on the different facets of the Filipino immigrant experience. It is also quite rare to see a filmmaker attempt to tackle such a broad, hefty subject in such small, focused terms as simply telling three individual tales about the realities that OFWs face. However, good intentions are sadly not enough to make a good movie. Mga Dayo suffers from poorly constructed stories, uncompelling acting and shoddy cinematography. This needed more conceptual work and more time at the editing room because compared to the other movies in this year’s festival, this movie’s substandard technique sticks out like a sore thumb.

Mga Dayo tells the individual stories of Alex (Sue Prado), Miriam (Janela Buhain) and Ella (Olga Natividad), three women living in Guam, and their struggle to root themselves in the island. Their lives intersect at varying points, but unlike say Crash or Traffic, they don’t do so in any meaningful way. They walk the same corridors, they exist in the same space, but for all intents and purposes, they live in their own bubbles.

The primary problem of this movie is that there are amateurish elements that take you out of the experience of watching it. Take for example the constant blurring that makes the movie feel like it was shot on Instagram. Or the many actors peppered through out this film that simply could not act to save their lives, like the smart talking hotel staff that bullied Ella in the hotel or the white actors plucked from god-knows-where that served as the boys of Miriam.

But perhaps most disturbingly, the movie is just composed of underdeveloped stories that are mere stabs at melodrama, especially that of Miriam’s. The film didn’t give me enough reason to place my sympathies on her character. I can’t be expected to feel for her just because she stares off at the distance and cries about her boyfriend without providing any nuance to her backstory. In fact, it felt like it reduced the experiences of people in similar situations and exploited their heartaches for cheap drama. And I can’t help but feel the same for the other two stories in this unfocused narrative.

Prado and Natividad feel like they deserve to be in a different film entirely, one supported by better direction and a more adequate supporting cast. This is a film that tried to tell the displacement of Filipinos but failed at communicating the real anomie of the diaspora. Again, good intentions but subpar execution.

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