One of the prominent element in Lav Diaz’s latest documentary, Mga Anak Ng Unos (Storm Children) is the image of a nation washed off by the strongest typhoon that had ever hit the land –Yolanda. Here, Diaz shows no dramatic waves crashing in the shore, no strong rainfall, nor devastating wind howls. Instead he shows a quiet piece that burns slowly through strong, captivating images, leaving an imprint on one’s memory.
Released as the first of a 14 part series, the film is about the nature’s coming of age with hints as to what (or rather who), is to blame, and what steps are being done (or omitted), to the worsening impact of climate change.
Shot entirely in black and white, the film tells the story through long takes of well-framed photographs. Watching it evokes both satisfaction and awakening as Diaz maximizes every angle, familiarizing the audience with what the place looks like and how it feels to be a part of it, even for a brief moment.
Most documentaries portray well-thought narrations that prove a point. In Mga Anak Ng Unos, you won’t hear anything but Lav Diaz coughing from behind the camera. The message is less direct but it will successfully go through and affect you in more ways than one.
It is silent for the most part, clocking in at an hour before the child even utters a word. It takes time for the build up but once silence is broken, heartache follows. You won’t be ready for the revelations, the movie doesn’t aim to familiarize you with it, neither does the nature warrant you of a foreboding storm –it will leave you unguarded and that’s where the height of the film viewing experience comes from.
By the end of it, you will see children climbing the boats and then jumps from it, enjoying the sea, swimming, still hopeful despite of it being the one element that had once devoured their town.
It shows how broken the Filipinos are, and how they should inevitably adapt to the changing times.
But for how long?