Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Spirit of Voice By Patrick D. Flores

from the 2002 YCC citations

The Spirit of Voice By Patrick D. Flores

In Mga Munting Tinig, directed by Gil M. Portes, a young teacher,
brimming with idealism, plays the role of a messianic reformer in a
remote town, but walks away from the middle-class sojourn chastened
by the realization that the work of civil society is bound to fail if
it merely foists its vision of change on passive people perceived to
be needing relief. The film resists the temptation to promote a
panacea of social ills. Rather, it intimates a keen analysis of the
social condition of a milieu wracked by corruption, insurgency, and
the seduction of flight. Arising from this commentary is the
well-considered effort to recover the repressed voice of potential
change through music, an allegory of art as an agent of
transformative expression that is collectively performed as a choir
of deliverance.

The tendency for this type of film is to subscribe to what can be
called the “primitive imaginary” in which the reformer-or perhaps,
the reformist-descends on a savage territory in order to colonize it.
Such disposition is clearly imperialist in orientation as it pursues
the trajectory of development as the privileged strategy of progress.
What emerges from this sort of project is a neo-liberal
interpretation of inequity and its solution. The people pictured as
requiring liberation or amelioration, or in some cases even humanity,
are nearly catatonic and merely wait for benevolence to endow them
with intelligibility as subjects of a domain. The film Mga Munting
Tinig departs from this convenient practice by:

investing its heroine not with the full and complete rationality of a
redeemer, but with an enabling ambivalence that allows her to, on the
one hand, doubt her own place in the setting and, on the other, to
act on the condition before her in the manner that her experience
predisposes her. In the end, person and place, self and other
mutually change each other;

putting in place a dialectic that analyzes social reality as at once
a corrupted condition and a transformable possibility. In this
situation, the idealism of the heroine is undercut as an illusion by
a jaded, but nevertheless sensible, colleague, who in turn opens
herself up to a revision of consciousness. This dialectic, or
reflexive reflection, is important to scan the contradictions of
milieu and to probe the context of whatever human action plays out.
Without such dynamic, which eludes some films which dare to tackle
historical reality of epochal significance, all manner of practice is
ultimately facile, sterile, and anomalous; and

rendering the voice as a vital agent in the articulation of
difference, the engagement with a higher force, and the summoning of
a spirit that transcends the limitations of official speech,
comfortable silence, or conspiratorial cacophony. In this scenario,
the recovery of voice in the context of a coming together in a
community that is the choir transposes into some allegory of art as
an interventive gesture of affective power.

A film nourished by this premise cannot fail. The personas of
teachers are rounded out. Students are located in the thicket of
social struggle as apt pupils, children of the revolution, and
singers of their songs. And society is a charged terrain of armed
revolt, State control, tutelage, and resistance. Direction,
screenplay, cinematography and visual design, editing, sound, and the
performance of a sensitive cast contribute to the comprehensive
competence of Mga Munting Tinig.

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