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Chassis

Helmer Adolfo Borinaga Alix Jr. casts a compassionate eye on a homeless mother fiercely determined to give her daughter a better life.

With:
With: Jodi Sta. Maria, Evelyn Vargas, Angeli Bayani, Lemuel Pelayo, Kimberly Fulgar.

Continuing to examine those on the margins of Filipino society, helmer Adolfo Borinaga Alix Jr. (“Adela,” “Manila”) casts a compassionate eye on a homeless young mother fiercely determined to give her young daughter a better life. This won’t be Alix’s commercial breakout, but the pic has the potential to score respectable biz on its domestic release in early December. Lengthy fest expose is a given, and specialty broadcaster slots are possible, though a finale containing explicit sexual violence will need to be modified in many territories.

“Home,” for Nora (Jodi Sta. Maria) and daughter Sarah (Kimberly Fulgar), is a cardboard groundsheet and a hammock tied to the undercarriage of a semitrailer in the parking lot of a Manila cargo terminal. Badly in debt and given little support by her irresponsible and distant husband, Lando (Lemuel Pelayo), Nora only cheers up when Sarah is close by.

Part of an established community living in similarly dire conditions, Nora spends her days sifting through garbage and sharing her suffering with Vilma (Evelyn Vargas), a happily single shopkeeper, and Minda (Angeli Bayani), whose truck-driver husband vanished a month ago, presumably to live with another woman.

Scraping just enough money together for Sarah to attend school each day in a neatly ironed uniform, Nora is faced with the additional burden of paying for a field trip and a set of angel wings for Sarah’s role in the class play. Much like the struggling father who wants to buy his daughter a communion dress in Ken Loach’s “Raining Stones,” Nora sees her sense of worth as a mother as inextricably linked to supplying Sarah’s costume.

Without any other viable options, Nora turns to prostitution. With a blank face that lingers in the memory, she sees clients in narrow passageways in between containers. Nora is prepared to endure such indignities solely to secure a decent start in life for her daughter, but she has her limits; a late scene in which her burning anger at men explodes into an extremely vicious act won’t be forgotten in a hurry by any viewer.

Adopting an observational docu approach and operating without a music score, Alix exercises firm control over tough subject matter and steadfastly avoids wallowing in anyone’s misery. Present in practically every scene, Sta. Maria is quietly compelling as a woman with a single, unshakable reason to live.

Immaculately shot around Pier 16 of Manila’s Tondo container terminal, pic boasts steady handheld black-and-white HD lensing; all other tech credits are fine. Helmer is now using his full name, Adolfo Borinaga Alix Jr., rather than his more abbreviated former moniker, Adolfo B. Alix Jr.

Chassis

Philippines

Production: A Happy Gilmore Prods./Sunflower Films (in Philippines) release of a Happy Gilmore production. (International sales: Bicycle Pictures, Quezon City, Philippines.) Produced by Avelino Relucio, Jonas Gaffud, Doc Gamboa. Directed, written, edited by Adolfo Borinaga Alix Jr.

Crew: Camera (B&W, widescreen, HD), Gabriel Bagnas; production designer, Roland Rubenecia; sound (stereo), Ditoy Aguila. Reviewed at Pusan Film Festival (A Window on Asian Cinema), Oct. 10 2010. (Also in Vancouver Film Festival -- Dragons & Tigers.) Running time: 73 MIN.

With: With: Jodi Sta. Maria, Evelyn Vargas, Angeli Bayani, Lemuel Pelayo, Kimberly Fulgar.

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