The film The Mountain Thief had its premier night at the Cinema 2, SM North Edsa, on January 29, at 7:00 P.M.. Its director and writer, the young and vibrant Gerry Balasta, gained fame and honor when his film won the Special Jury Award in the San Francisco Asian-American Film Festival, the Emerging Filmmaker Award in DC AP Film Festival, Washington DC, and PRIX DU PUBLIC (Audience Award) DC and CCIIFF in France, aside from numerous film festival selections in 2010.
The awesome story-telling made viewers glued to the screen. Actors and actresses were not well-known stars but scavengers of Payatas who underwent acting workshops before filming. Together, they essayed their roles with ease and certainty, that it was not hard to believe such story happened in real life.
Synopsis of the Story
Julio and his son Ingo seek refuge in a garbage collecting town “Little Hope” to escape life in war-torn Mindanao and to forget the past. Together, father and son try to fit in a mountain of garbage to avoid hunger. After some time, Julio finds love when he meets Paula and they live with her. However, Ato finds Julio to be a rival in a position he aspires for, to take over Manong as the town leader. In one of their quarrels, he accidentally kills Julio’s buddy but points Julio as the culprit. Julio, Paula and Ingo have to leave Little Hope to avoid the wrath of Ato. Meanwhile the mountain thief Simon follows them and witness their sufferings, especially when the blind Ingo suffers stomach pains due to food poisoning.There, Simon realizes that he needs to tell the truth that Julio was not the killer, but Ato. When they rush to save Ingo, they witness Julio’s way of ending the sufferings of his son.
The Mountain Thief is a gripping story about the life of scavengers in Payatas. People are used to the stench and still find hope in life in spite of nothingness. Their dreams are simple, to be able to have the most basic needs—education and good health. They do not dream of flashy cars, beautiful houses, and millions of savings in the bank. They only hope to fulfill their basic needs. But these simple dreams are sometimes elusive.
When I went home after viewing the film, I can’t sleep, not because the story is something new to me, but it reminds me of my first job in St. Benedict Human Development Foundation. I spent my eleven young years working for the least fortunate in Bacolod City. I have seen so many people wallowing in poverty, I witnessed their sufferings and have known all their sob stories, but in spite of poverty, they remain hopeful and positive, that someday, they will be able to improve their life.
It takes people from outside this country to notice the moving condition of the poor people in Payatas . If shown in commercial theaters here in the Philippines, The Mountain Thief might not earn the same accolades it won abroad, nor success in the box office, it might be a movie no one would like to view, because it mirrors so many lives, and no one would like to confront reality.
The Mountain Thief does not only show the kind of poor we have in this country, it also shows superior story telling, directing and real acting.
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