BFI London Film Festival: Ma’ Rosa

Ma’ Rosa
Directed by Brillante Ma Mendoza
Starring Jaclyn Jose and Julio Diaz
LFF Screening October 6th, 9th, 2016

by Joanna Orland

Ma’ Rosa was a sensation at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, winning best acting accolades for lead actress Jaclyn Jose as matriarch Rosa.  Auteur Filipino director Brillante Ma Mendoza harshly depicts what it means to be poor in this realist drama, filmed in the style of a fly-on-the-wall documentary.

The issues and themes in Ma’ Rosa are of social importance, showing police corruption and the victimization of the poor.  The verismo style of filming allows the reality of the situation to shine through, but detracts from any drama and narrative that this film could potentially have.

Gritty and cynical, Ma’ Rosa is extremely difficult to engage with, in spite of portraying socially universal themes.  The filmic style is its biggest hindrance, as it’s extremely hard to empathize with characters and their situations amongst the dirty chaos unfolding on screen.  Mendoza truly earns his ‘auteur’ label as while this film has critical acclaim and festival buzz, it will fail to reach a mainstream audience and will have little appeal to a typical cinema-goer.

While I don’t mind a challenging film with difficult subject matter, watching Ma’ Rosa was just too much of a laboured effort.




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