by Heinrich Domingo
Great artistry does not only happen under the limelight. Sometimes, those located at the periphery are the ones who bring the best of the movie. Ronnie Quizon (playing caretaker Dado), as the supporting actor, embodies forbearance. He is one among many Filipinos who are willing to accept pain, let go of its source, and be happy again. The uncertainty in balut business is a reminder of our prevailing culture to willingly suffer long months of hard work without any promise of good return. Balut Country brilliantly captures the Philippine social and class struggles enveloped within a conservative blanket of Filipino culture. Though the film might not look appetizing at first, giving it a try is a must.
Like the infamous balut, the film starts off as intimidating and unfriendly. The movie does not take shame in incessantly using a provincial language. It took Kapampangan to the center stage, an unfamiliar culture to mainstream Manila-centric audience. As the movie progresses, viewers are presented with unpopular cinematic theme of farming and rural life.
The storyline seemed cliché. It is but another poverty-themed film. When the cinemagoers felt like puking, Paul Sta. Ana (director) prepared a surprise inside. The cast were directed showing off a superb acting. Rocco Nacino’s (playing Jun) sincere acting joined the seasoned performances of Nanette Inventor, Archie Adamos, and Jelson Bay. All are willing to give justice to a beautiful plot. It is about Jun, a musician who has inherited a duck farm in Candaba, Pampanga. With the current financial struggle he is facing, he is torn between selling the farm and continuing the legacy that his father left him. The film is an essay on how Jun weighs in on his decision knowing that a family’s life will be affected.
Despite the simplicity of the storyline, Balut country reveals that films must transcend cinematography and fancy production design. It chooses to bank on a topic that is pressing and relevant but is not discussed often – the Philippine feudal system.
Through feeding the audience with metaphors on poverty and social change, the film ensures that the audience who are unfamiliar to the struggle of the Filipino masses can cope with the sequence of events. It patiently guides the ‘ignoramus’ viewers to bear with boring shots in order to make it till the end. Often, transition shots foreshadow the consequent discussion of the scenes. All of these show the deep understanding of the filmmakers on the challenge of delivering a non-saleable topic to the popular crowd.
Balut Country recognizes that there is so much to do to bring the plight of the poor peasants in the center stage. Like the varied reception that the balut receives in other countries today, this rotting yet still relevant issue of land reform can be discussed on the policy and political level. As it was beautifully depicted in the movie’s last scene, a newly hatched chick comes out of its egg shell- a hopeful tomorrow is about to unfold.