Small Voices,” latest pic directed by Gil M. Portes, could be called “To Madam With Love”; vet Filipino helmer is out to open maximum tear ducts with sentimental tale of how one young teacher makes a difference in an impoverished hinterlands school. Most optimistically seen as a humanistic and feminist counterprogrammer to his country’s usual macho entertainment, Portes lays on the good feelings so thickly his movie translates as impossibly antique to foreign auds, who won’t catch it outside of fests.
Replacing an older schoolmarm, idealistic Melinda (busy thesp Alessandra de Rossi) sets out to engage her young pupils, although their agricultural lives and barely surviving families place learning far down the priority scale. Script by Adolf Alix, Portes and Senedy Que gathers the usual variety of interested-to-feisty kids and oldsters, dropping in various mini-crises and an arch climax at a choral contest that Melinda has used as a major motivator for the students. Other than some interesting asides regarding an ongoing guerrilla war brewing just over the hill, and details of rural life, pic sacrifices subtlety and imagination for message.