Monday, June 21, 2010

Off World

    'Off World' is a movie set in 'Smokey Mountain', a notorious slum in Manila.   A few minutes into the movie we are told 30 years ago it was a small fishing village and now it is 2 million tons of garbage.  It is named 'Smokey Mountain' due to the continuous flow of methane gases that leak out of the 12 story pile of trash.  Children, 5 and 6 yrs old, and adults endlessly search through the pile looking for plastic and other saleable items for a few pesos a day. 
   Lucky, born in these slums but adopted by Canadian parents, has returned after many years to search for his kin.  He has contacted one person, Julia, who knows where he can find his brother. 
   Julia introduces Lucky to his brother Mamacita, an effeminate gay hustler who turns tricks to survive.  Keeping their connection a secret Lucky decides to crash in Mamacita's place presumably to get closer to 'her' and keep his distance at the same time. 
    Lucky falls into desolation wondering why his mother gave him away and kept Mamacita.  He wanders through the squalor in Smokey Mountain, the visuals of the slum mirroring the emptiness he feels inside, till one night he just lays down, presumably to die.  Then Julia saves him in one of the more beautiful and poignant scenes of the movie.  The plastic bags are hanging all around them like white surrender flags.  
    After Julia nurses him back to health he reveals his identity to his brother as they are walking together on Smokey Mountain.   Again, the cinematography steals the scene...
   By the end of the movie Lucky has re-connected with himself, his brother and his mother, fallen for Julia and we are to believe that he has found what he was looking for. 
    For me, I got so engrossed with the amazing images that the storyline lost it's momentum and I found myself confused but haunted. 
   While I was cleaning up the theater I asked a friend what he thought of the movie and he said 'I think it was just a way to show how those people were living in that slum and they could have said that in 15 minutes'.   I have to agree that the storyline felt like it was there to serve the larger purpose of educating the viewer about the conditions in the Smokey Mountain slums and yet I am still haunted by some of the most striking cinematography I have seen in a movie. 
  Thanks for reading and as always your comments are welcome..  yona c. riel

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