Review: ‘The Teacher’

A seemingly objective look at getting a largely illiterate rural people out to vote transcends anthropological reportage to become a more individual take on a way of life and the push for self-determination in Brillante Mendoza's "The Teacher."

A seemingly objective look at getting a largely illiterate rural people out to vote transcends anthropological reportage to become a more individual take on a way of life and the push for self-determination in Brillante Mendoza’s “The Teacher.” So closely inspired by real life that it’s difficult to know how much is reenactment and how much scripted, pic focuses on a 13-year-old from the Aeta group of indigenous Filipinos and her efforts to teach her community how to fill in ballots for the 2004 presidential election. Shot in just five days, pic looks best on small screens but has enough staying power to interest fest programmers.

Following graduation, Jonalyn (Jonalyn Ablong) teachers her elders how to cast their votes. The day before the election, she and her dad (Edgar Ablong) head for the wilderness to find her grandfather (Carlito Ablong) and bring him back from his hunting expedition in time for the election. Vignettes of this little-pictured people reveal a difficult life, but subject is equally the mixed emotions of an adolescent girl who wears her burden of responsibility with determined ease. Pic and helmer won best digital awards at Cinemanila.

The Teacher

The Philippines

Production

A CenterStage Prods., Holy Angel U. Center for Kapampangan Studies production. (International sales: Ignatius Films Canada, Mississauga, Canada.) Co-producers, Arlyn Villanueva, Robby Tantingco. Executive producer, Ferdinand Lapuz. Directed by Brillante Mendoza. Screenplay, Ralston Javier.

Crew

Camera (color, DigiBeta) Mendoza; editor, Charliebebs Gohetia; music, Jerrold Tarog; line producer, Renato Esguerra. Reviewed at Turin Film Festival (competing), Italy, Nov. 14, 2006. (Also in Rome Film Festival, Cinemanila.) Botolan Sambal dialogue. Running time: 74 MIN.

With

Jonalyn Ablong, Edgar Ablong, Carol Ablong, Carlito Ablong, Losing Miranda, American Miranda, Indung Barasati Balatbat, Robylyn Miranda.
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