Sunday, September 16, 2018

TOFARM 2018: Review of 1957: Agrarian Aspirations

September 15, 2018

The year was 1957, on a corn farm in the Bicol Region. The Rosales family was composed of Karding and Aida, and their two children, a young man Lucio and a precocious girl Linda. Karding's father Lorenzo was already very old and senile. They worked as farmers in the huge corn plantation owned by Don Jose de Villa. When Pres. Ramon Magsaysay came for a visit to their farm to push his agrarian reform advocacy, Karding sought to request Don Jose for a small piece of land to call his own.

This film tackles the issue of agrarian reform, a real problem of our farmers to this day. They bust their backs working on plantations daily all year long, only to get a measly percentage of the earnings from the harvest and stagnate in poverty, while the landowners become richer and richer. In the story, landlord Don Jose wanted a lion's share of 70% for himself, and alloted the remaining 30% to be divided among the three families working for him. 

1957 was supposed to have been a turning point year for these small farmers as Man of the Masses President Ramon Magsaysay was serious about instituting agrarian reform. However, 1957 was also the year a fateful plane crash in the mountains of Cebu also crashed all of these farmers' dreams of ever owning their own land - - a dream yet to be fully realized from then till now. 

The story was told from the point of view of the eldest son Lucio. Ronwaldo Martin played Lucio to be a capable and responsible young man, who knew his way around the cornfields, but was also very dedicated to his family. Aside from his duties in the farm, he also took care of his senile Lolo ever looking for his lost amulet (Joe Gruta) and his smart and sassy younger sister Linda (Kaethe Bernales). A curious detail of his facial makeup was a seeming birthmark under his right eye that looked like a permanent teardrop. 

However, the meatier role was that of Lucio's father Karding, who had been working under Don Jose's stringent miserly rules since after the war. As Karding, Richard Quan may have looked too young to be Ronwaldo Martin's father or too fair to be a former Huk rebel. I However, those minor details would be overlooked because his performance marked by pride stifled by humility for the sake of family and harmony in scenes with his son Lucio and his boss Don Jose (an imperiously dictatorial Menggie Cobarrubias). 

Selina Grace Boucher played Aida, Karding's dutiful wife who loyally stood her husband. Rolando Inocencio played their family friend Vicente, whose daughter Gracia (Mary Cristy Anne Corporal) was the girl Lucio loved. Angelo Hulip and Ahlex Leyva played Raul and Sonia, a couple who used the cornfield for their naughty trysts, who also triggered intrigue against the Rosales family. Rene Bobsie Garote played Adonis, Don Jose's trusted bodyguard and man-Friday.

The main strength of this movie was its story, which was eye-opening as it was heart-breaking. Writer-director Hubert Tibi reminded us that there was once a Pres. Ramon Magsaysay who had positive pro-poor, pro-farmer policies, in the fervent hope that another such president will revive his advocacies. The year 1957 did not seem like a significant year in Philippine history for me before watching this film, but now I know better. This remarkable film about farmers and their plight about the land they till truly reflected the uplifting spirit of the ToFarm film festival. 7/10.

No comments:

Post a Comment