cinemalaya, cinemalaya 2020, film criticism, Jan Andrei Cobey, QCinema, QCinema 2019, Review, short film, The Slums
The Slums is a mockumentary short film that laughs at how the media have the tendency to exploit stories about the poor. It follows a film crew whose goal is to document a recent fire that happened in an urban slum area, but they end up revealing their problematic ways of getting the story.
It effectively uses comedy to comment on social realities on the ground. The media have employed ridiculous methods to extract newsworthy elements at the expense of their subjects. These subjects are usually poor individuals or families that blissfully go on with their lives. The Slums showed how the media became a nuisance when covering these kinds of stories. The film is a clever snide comment on their fellow media practitioners whose works do not really contribute to alleviating the sufferings of the poor.
It has been a long debate on whether the media should cover these kinds of stories. On the one hand, the media could help expose the problems of people in poverty to the viewing public. On the other hand, misrepresenting their condition to exaggerate poverty is deceitful and unethical.
The film chose strong metaphors that capture the tale of the characters. The use of the television effectively represents the identity of the urban poor – you can body shame them, make fun of their poverty, call them mentally unstable, but you can never destroy their TV, their main source of entertainment.
Also, the screenplay was able to flesh out the identity of each of the character. Every family member has their own quirk and personality. This contributes to the funny dialogues and exchanges. And as a result, it was entertaining to follow how each character reacts to the situation presented in front of them. This, of course, relied so much on good casting. The actors played out the character well.
The genius of The Slums lies on its ending. After throwing the crew out of their home, the family got access to the camera. By the end of the film, it is the family who controlled their own story. They frame their own plight and experience. That was a strong statement on how the poor and the marginalized do not need to be emancipated by the outsiders. In many occasions, to end social ills is to allow the poor to take back their narrative.