Sunday, December 26, 2021

Isa Pa with Feelings really helps understanding

This film is beyond a self imposed limit for the year, but left me with an unexpected feeling of understanding something new.  I also thought I had reached my quota of Filipino movies, but one more put the effort beyond any quota.  It has a universal message you can feel.  Glad that Netflix chooses to show such great films.

In a sense"Isa Pa with Feelings" (2019) is a romance drama with an obstacle.  We are used to racial, religious and class differences, but physical differences are rarer.  The story starts off with the leading lady being happy, so happy she puts on a wireless headphone and dances all over her apartment and then goes out to the balcony.  There she is seen by her neighbor who gets excited, really laughing with joy, but she sees him as some sort of pervert.  Soon there is an uncomfortable scene as they share an elevator and avoid looking at one another.

On her side we learn that she has a young deaf niece who she obviously is very fond of, but can't really communicate with although she has promised to take sign language lessons.  We also learn that she is an architecture student who is very highly regarded by the teacher and her classmates and she takes an exam that everyone assumes she would ace.  In the meantime she does decide to start sign language lessons and is startled to find that her neighbor is her instructor.  The awkwardness lasts only a short time as he is very good and she realizes for the first time he is deaf.  One lesson is when describing the sign for "I'm sorry" he pointed out that sign language doesn't allow for tone and that has to be supplied with facial expressions.

Then we learn that her exam was a failure and to compound things she locked herself out of her apartment when he chanced upon her.  Eventually he persuades her to wait in his apartment.  There is a little misunderstanding and at one point he leaves to go to the balcony and climbs over the rail.  A suicide attempt makes no sense, but we all concluded that was his intention.  We learn later when he actually did it that he was planning to get over to her balcony so he could open her door from the inside.  Her apartment is a mess due to her depression which he doesn't quite understand.

She becomes obligated to him for a car repair and he insists she doesn't need to pay, but he would like a favor.  A strange favor because he is looking for a dance partner.  Later we learn that he had wanted to dance to impress a fiancee's family, a relationship that had left scars.  She gets involved and finds it enjoyable, but when asked she describes herself as just a friend.

They get closer, for instance he gets her interested in buying a fish.  But there were bumps along the road.  He went with her to a party with her former classmates and as she got called away for a private conversation he had nobody to talk with and left because of his discomfort.  A contrasting scene when she went to a party with his deaf friends when everyone, including her had a fun time.  A few other minor bumps leading up to a big bump when he felt she was being too protective and pitying.

One film tool that made the feeling of helplessness that deaf people must often endure was when the sound was cut off and he was both unaware of and bewildered by the actions of others.  Hearing is a big part of our awareness, but taken for granted.  Another strategy was using pop up subtitles for both Tagalog and English, leaving some words as blanks indicating what the receiving person didn't understand of the sign language.

 As a young newspaper boy I went with my mother for my first day of delivering newspapers.  What wasn't appreciated at first was that my predecessor had done a poor job and upset a lot of the customers.  It really came to a head when I pushed the door bell that activated a light.  The man who came to the door saw my red Telegram bag and actually started shaking his fist.  My mother was with me so he restrained himself, but he was obviously frustrated.  He calmed down, but I dreaded future visits to collect money for the paper, however he was a lot friendlier after that.  It was my first encounter with a deaf person and I was reminded of it when in the film the leading lady decided to solve her not yet boy friend's inability to hear the door being knocked on by setting up a light that would go off when someone rang the buzzer.  I can't really say I went on to better understand the plight of deaf people, as other than watching a few other movies such as "Children of a Lesser God" I hadn't really had any contact.  

It takes a lot of people to put together such a delicate film.

The story originated with Jenilee Chuaunsu and Kookai Labayen  (also an associate producer ) who worked together not only on the story, but also on the script. 

Directed by Prime Cruz who has acted, written and produced films. 

Produced by Kriz G. Gazmen and Camille Gomba-Montano and Marjorie Lachica. Olivia M. Lamasan, executive producer directed "Barcelona:  a Love Untold" (2016)   Marizel Samson-Martinez, supervising producer was involved with"Love you to the Stars and Back" (2017) and "Barcelona:  A Love Untold."

Andrew R. Florentino was responsible for the music--which played an important role in the movie about the deaf man.

Tey Clamor handled the cinematography.

Benjaimin Gonzales Tolentino was the award winning editor.

Maine Mendoza played the leading lady.  She went from this role into a long lasting series (over 100 episodes).

Carlo Aquino played the leading man.  He has appeared in a variety of roles starting back in 1995.  Has won a few national awards and along with Maine Mendoza was nominated as Movie Love Couple of the Year.

A supporting role was by Angeli Bayani who played a leading role in "Ilo Ilo" (2013).)

"Isa Pa with Feelings" had a human feeling that brought home that all humans are better off when we can communicate with one another.

For other Filipino films check:

I have bolded the first mention of a movie I have seen, partly for vanity, but also to assure my readers of some familiarity of the topic.

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