REVIEW: Mindanao - Bigger Battle Than War

There has been countless films about Mindanao and its people, yet Brillante Mendoza wants to share another view of the diverse island which comprises of many cultures, people, and stories. Though there is still the concept of war still happening in some parts of the island, they also incorporated the story told by a mother to her child with a legend of the dragons of Mindanao.

Starring in the film are Judy Ann Santos, Allen Dizon, and Yuna Tangog as the family who is struggling with both war and the illness of thir daughter, Aisa. Originally titled "Maguindanao" it was later changed to Mindanao to reflect  an expanded worldview. Brillante Mendoza also mentioned that this is part of his trilogy about the region, the first one which is also a MMFF entry, Thy Womb featured Nora Aunor and Lovi Poe tells the story about the Bajao people.

The film garnered the most awards at the MMFF 2019 awards night that includes Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Actress among it's hauls. Judy Ann already had an advanced best actress award before the MMFF at the Cairo International Film Festival, while Brillante also got  an award for the Henry Barakat Award for Artistic Contribution.

The three main characters gives emotion to the whole film with each having their own struggles, a mother wanting to heal her child, a child fighting for her life while staying positive, and a father who works in the military as a medic yet unable to cure his own daughter.

Though the conflict is still there, the animated legend  brings a lighter feel for the film though it also a story of war. A crayonish-texture gives the child-like imagination of the story, which contrast to the gore realities of war.

Yuna Tangog got my attention as she played a cancer-stricken child which made me feel that they really got a real cancer patient for the role. The struggle of survival from the sickness becomes the bigger battle than the war. Allen Dizon mentions that portraying a soldier was one his dream roles and he is also joined by seasoned actors like Ketchup Eusebio and Epy Quizon.

Mindanao also brought animation to the MMFF and also a first for Brillante. Though not as fluid a many animated films was something to look forward to along with the heavy drama brought by the cast. A drama heavy film with some light animation side story, Mindanao is a gamble for the director and the actors to try something new, reactions may vary for the story but its biggest advantage are the core actors Judy Ann, Allen, and Yuna.

Mindanao is now showing in theaters as part of the 45th Metro Manila Film Festival.

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