Diaspora Entertainment

Short film on a Pinay “TNT” competes in Indie film festival for an Oscar slot

By Abner Galino

Aina Dumlao in one of the still shots of the movie Diwa

I DON’T know which is harder for a filmmaker to do: To expound on a story on a hefty time frame or to squeeze a story into a limited time span.

But certainly, the guys who made the short film titled “Diwa,” (which in Filipino either means “essence” or “spirit”) did a good job at it.
Diwa, the movie, is a tragic story of an undocumented Filipina, told in barely 18 minutes of dialogues, acting, music, sounds, lights, movements and camera works.

Immigration, of course, is a hot button issue. No matter how much a filmmaker tries to depoliticize Diwa (the character), her tears could only melt the heart of the sympathetic while the uncaring will simply sneer. The political divide is just too immense for the viewers to remain just passive.

However, shortly after the first private screening of Diwa at Canon Burbank last week, Undercurrent Films Director Bru Muller insist that the short film was never intended to be politically charged.

“I just want to present her (Diwa) as a human being,” Muller said, adding that by doing so he was hoping that he might be able to get the human being on other side to recognize her as such, a fellow human being.

“And maybe such could start a better political environment,” Muller reckoned.

Lead actress, co-writer and co-director Aina Dumlao said part of the truth in Diwa’s story was a tragic account of her own family member. Her uncle worked undocumented in the US for years and was unable to go home to grieve for his departed wife.
Apparently, her personal knowledge of the plights of undocumented immigrants was the source of the persuasive acting that Dumlao was able to draw out from within her.

Diwa is hope snuffed out. She is a recurrent version of an immigrant who came to the US and risked everything for the sake of loved ones.

But a tragedy is always unique to the one who suffers in it. And Dumlao succeeded in separating Diwa from the multitude of undocumented immigrants victimized by some nasty and greedy people, and by a system disdainful of redemption for the likes of her.
Thus, the very strong desire from many viewers to know Diwa a little bit more after having introduced to her. It is notable that the short film also exposed that some abuses committed against undocumented immigrants were done by compatriots.

Other actors that include; Leslie Thurston, Maria Pallas, Shaw Jones, Jeremy Andorfer-Lopez, convincingly played their roles despite the dearth of dialogues in the film.

The cinematography of Corey Cooper and Ramesh Kumar Kannan’s musical scoring are also worth mentioning.

So, Diwa is making its world premiere during the Dances With Films festival on June 9 at 5 pm. at the TCL Chinese Theatre at Hollywood Boulevard, West Hollywood.

The short film will get another screening on July 30 at 5:30 pm. at the Woods Hole Film Festival in Massachusetts.

“Our success at film festivals – from ticket sales, to audience reaction, to awards – will directly affect ‘Diwa’s’ future as a feature film. It’s a clear message telling investors, studios and powerhouses like Netflix, that our story is an important story that has an audience,” Dumlao told Beyond deadlines/Weekend Balita/US Asian Post during a subsequent online query.

“An Oscar nomination will change our lives, there is no question about it. As filmmakers and actors, a nomination is proof and validation that there is a place for us in the entertainment industry. That for as long as we keep working on our craft and for as long as we keep the truth as our baseline…people will keep wanting to see films like Diwa.”

Abner Galino
The author is a poet and a writer. He was a cultural worker before he became a reporter for Tinig ng Masa and Malaya Midday Edition during the Marcos regime. He later became a reporter of People's Tonight shortly after 1986 EDSA Revolution. He went on to become its Chief of Reporters, City Editor and News Editor. He retired after 15 years in the Journal Group of Publications. He now writes for Weekend Balita and the US Asian Post (USAP), weekly Filipino-American newspapers based in Los Angeles, California.

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