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​thy womb

a BRILLANTE MA. MENDOZA film

​World Premiere, Competition Section of the 69th Venice International Film Festival 2012

Revealing the rigors of unconditional love, the nature of sacrifice is dramatized through the dilemma of a Bajau midwife as she copes with the irony of her own infertility amid the deprivations of her gypsy community in Tawi-Tawi.  A saga of island life stuck between the devil of passion and the deep blue sea of tradition.

Shaleha Sarail (Nora Aunor) hails from a seaborne village in Sitangkai, Tawi-Tawi. The province is a seaweed-producing spot in the southernmost part of the Philippines all the way down the Malaysian and Indonesian archipelagos. Aging and still smarting from three miscarriages in the past, Shaleha agonizes over her failure to bear a child. Though an adoptive parent to her nephew, she still feels that her husband Bangas-An (Bembol Roco) desires to be a father.
To fulfill her husband’s only wish and to be blessed by Allah--in her belief that having a child is a tangible proof of divine grace--Shaleha resolves to find a new partner for her husband. Night and day, she and her husband sail away from their floating village and to nearby island communities in search of a fertile woman. As if by providence, Shaleha finds the girl through  friends' recommendations. But on the eve of her husband’s second marriage to Mersila (Lovi Poe),  jealousy gnaws and consumes Shaleha.
     
   Conceiving a Cinematic Coup
   THE DIRECTOR'S OVERVIEW
“I am making a film about the Bajaus, with the aim to celebrate
a nonviolent people amidst a very violent world. It’s an intriguing premise about a particular people of peace living in a place of endemic violence.

One of the most interesting peoples in southern Philippines, the Bajaus are native sea-dwellers that are also found in the neigh-boring Malaysian and Indonesian archipelagos. They are the so-called Sea Gypsies who are skilled in building various types of

boats, and widely known as fishermen, pearl divers and mat weavers.

As a film, THY WOMB examines the opposing natures of two women (Nora Aunor/Shaleha’s sterility against Lovi Poe/ Mersila’s fertility) to reflect the prevailing condition in Tawi-Tawi, a place endowed with natural beauty and rich resources but mired in economic and socio-political crises. A quiet hell of a paradise,  

THY WOMB’s “birth place” and its environs are constant reminders of yesterday’s conflict that has remained unresolved up to the present.

 

 

The Bajaus are considered to be the most primitive and oppressed among several ethnic groups in the region; and they assume a subordinate status in their diverse and divided community, which includes the Samal and the Tausug, among others. But in spite of this, the Bajaus are generally perceived to be non-confrontational, forgiving, seemingly contented and happy people.
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When wronged, it is said that the Bajaus would simply move to another place, bringing their houseboats (lepa-lepa), constantly roving, living in harmony with nature. To this day, they are mostly looked down, degraded and much maligned by their ethnic neighbors and others, thus rendering them harmless, helpless and almost powerless.

But in their heart of hearts, are they really so, or is it just another way of life merely misunderstood by those inured to violence? With this thought and theme, and my curiosity further piqued, the narrative voice of the film has emerged loud and clear.
​
With intensive research and truthful depiction of certain characters and their circumstances, as articulated in the poignant tale of an aging, childless couple who resolve to find the mother of their much-wanted child, I hope THY WOMB would show a slice of life in the best possible light."

​                               

                                                -- BRILLANTE  MA. MENDOZA

 

Photos: MARK JOSEPH GRISWOLD

Photo: BOR OCAMPO

  Website by MYKE U. OBENIETA

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