Review: ‘Children Metal Divers’

Storytelling and docu-realism blend seamlessly in Ralston G. Jover's emotionally charged pic.

Storytelling and docu-realism blend seamlessly in Ralston G. Jover’s emotionally charged “Children Metal Divers.” Applying an almost classical neorealist treatment to the raw material of kids who live by their wits in Manila’s largest squatter colony, the film balances the aesthetic rigors of Filipino indie cinema with audience-grabbing hooks. A lively festival tour should give distribs time to weigh pic’s commercial potential.

The simple story by Jover and co-writer Henry C. Burgos depicts a close group of boys who dive daily for metal scraps in Manila’s dangerous bay waters, vigilant against guards and police who try to detain them, but excited when they return home with booty, however meager. At the center of this basic world of survival is little sparkplug Utoy (Meljun Ginto, a born performer) and his big buddy Bungal (Vincent Olano), who has taken the pipsqueak under his wing. At the same time, it’s the more rational Utoy who dismisses Bungal’s fears about boy-snatching mythical mermaids swimming the local waters.

The discovery of a large anchor (captured in effective underwater photography) looks to be a jackpot for the boys, but tragedy is never too far away, as Utoy gradually comes to experience. It’s this slow dawning of his radically changed life that makes the film seem less like a melodrama and more like a tale about the impact of human loss.

Jover is clearly influenced by Brilliante Mendoza’s talent for balancing humanist stories and real-time cinema, and even casts Gina Pareno (from Mendoza’s “Serbis”) as the only truly sympathetic adult figure. “Divers’?” athletic handheld lensing also recalls Khavn’s “Squatterpunk,” set in the same shantytown settlement, but here used in the service of a drama with real emotional impact.

Only Pareno is asked to deliver a conventional performance in a film that otherwise blurs the line between role-playing and being one’s self. Ruben H. Dela Cruz’s nimble mobile camera maximizes the sense of realism, while Teresa Barrozo’s rhythmic score is tastefully underplayed.

Children Metal Divers

Philippines

Production

An Apogee Prods./Bessie Badilla presentation of a Queen B production. Produced by Albert P. Almendralejo, Badilla. Executive producer, Almendralejo. Directed by Ralston G. Jover. Screenplay, Henry C. Burgos, Jover.

Crew

Camera (Technicolor, DV), Ruben H. Dela Cruz; editors, Kats Serraon, Charlie Bebs Gohetia; music, Teresa Barrozo; production designer, Deans V. Habal; sound (stereo); sound designer, EJL Studios; line producer, Celso J. De Guzman; underwater camera, Visual Camp. Reviewed on DVD, Los Angeles, May 29, 2010. (In Los Angeles Asian Pacific, Vancouver, Pusan, Turin, Thessaloniki, Palm Springs film festivals.) Running time: 93 MIN.

With

Meljun Ginto, Vincent Olano, JR Olano, Ian Villareal, Aljon Ibanez, RJ Kim Resulta, Gina Pareno, Simon Iabarra, Cherry Malvar, Joe Gruta, Ketchup Eusebio.
Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More Film News from Variety

Loading