IISA: A Reflection of Survival and Life

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QCinema Film Festival celebrates its third year this year. A staff told me in an interview that the movies comprising it this year are bigger that the ones they had in the past few years. What a privilege it is for me to witness one of its movies as I attended its gala premiere.

The movie I am referring to is Iisa (translated in English as As One). Iisa is the film debut of Director Chuck Guttierez, whom for the past years is known for his film editorial skills as well as past documentary work. The story of this movie focuses on the lives of the people in area, on how they survived the days after a strong typhoon hit their place and their ways of survival despite the controversies comprising one of them.

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At first, I thought Iisa was just like any ordinary indie films I saw in the past, but as the story progresses, I realize and see the beauty of the picture it comprises. During the open forum after the movie was shown, some casts and the director pointed out facts that the movie itself is based on the stories of the people in the area. Aside from the story it comprises, the portrayal of its casts, Miss Angeli Bayani, Miss Rio Locsin, Mr. Jess Mendoza and Mr. Mon Confiado just made the picture of this movie even better.

After watching, I was applauding hard, not just because of the casts itself but also because of certain realizations I got after watching it, by understanding the symbols present as well as its relevance to the lives of the characters in the story.

****SPOILERS ALERT****

THE MUD

The movie entered a scene wherein the rebels were buried in the mud. The struggle for each one to stand and leave that muddy area was show. It shows the picture of the tragedy which happened in the place. It was dark, sticky and hard to get over.

THE DESTROYED HOUSES

As the rebels finally regained their strength, they came across a small town, which was also hit by the typhoon and rescued several people in the area. As they search for a good place to build their shelter, shots of destroyed houses and trees were seen. This pictured their destroyed livelihood and life. This reflects how their lives which has everything suddenly has nothing.

THE CROSS

Among the structures that were destroyed by the typhoon was the chapel. In that chapel, the only part that was not destroyed by the typhoon was the cross. Fortunately, with the help of the people, they were able to let the cross stand on top of the hill.

The cross flashes in almost every scene of this movie. As what the people would believe in, they lack everything they had; they lack faith in God. However, they were wrong, because through the guidance of their laity, Sister Jo, the presence of the cross symbolizes that whether or not they have faith, God is still with them, and that whatever trial may come, they would still survive it.

THE STREAM

Aside from the cross, one thing that usually appears in the movie is the stream. At first, the flowing water from the stream was clear, then suddenly I notice that it seems that it turns into light brown. The flowing water in the stream symbolizes life. Despite that disaster, life must go on and must never stop. There may be stones which serve as obstacles to its flowing body, but it continues to flow up to its destination.

DARKNESS

Throughout the production of the movie, it was dark. As explained by the director, it was because there was no electricity in that area. But as a point of view of an audience like me, the “no light” production was part of the story. It reflects the dark side of the people in that place – the money purposely meant to build a school in the area was being stolen by one of its people, Ross, in order for her to fly out of the country and the Robinhood attitude of Mao and the rest of the rebels in scaring rich people in order to gain something for their survival.

THE TWO SACKS AND THE BLOODY ROAD

One scene from the movie, two of its characters, Ross and Mao, entered an NFA warehouse to grab some sack of rice for them to use as food in order to survive. Unfortunately, they were shot by a soldier which led them to death. As their bodies were being carried, a capture of two sacks of rice and blood were seen on the road where they were shot. It became a symbolic meaning of two lives that is willing to do even the most risky things just for them to provide their companions some goods to eat in order to survive.

GREEN LEAVES AND SUNLIGHT

This was the last symbolism I saw before the movie ended. The green leaves and the dew which melted on it is a good sign that a new life has come to the people in that place and that finally they have stood up once again after that traumatic typhoon which stole their lives and hope.

As how I’ve known what indie film is, I would not point out to why it has less dialogues or why its lighting seems poor. Every element this movie has is fit for its theme. After the movie was shown, we all applauded the casts and crew for a job well done. As the title would say, AS ONE / IISA is not just pure survival brought by one person but survival brought by failures and success of each and every person being affected by the typhoon.

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