Sunday, June 9, 2019

Watch List (Maria) - SIFF 2019 Movie Review

The Movie: Watch List (Maria)

The Director: Ben Rekhi

The Cast: Alessandra de Rossi, Jake Macapagal, Arthur Acuna, Jess Mendoza, Angeli Bayani

The Story: After her husband is mysteriously killed in the drug wars of the Philippines, a widowed mother of three must confront her own darkness to protect her children from further harm.

The Review:
The Philippines is a lot of different things and has so many aspects to its culture, economy, politics, religion, and daily life all of which come with both positive and negative sides to them just like anywhere else. Director Ben Rekhi has chosen to give us a glimpse of one of the more dangerous and deadly slices of life on the islands, a glimpse that could be rather polarizing depending upon your point of view.

The primary subject of the story is a woman named Maria who is left caring for her three children in the middle of a poor and drug riddled neighborhood after her husband has been murdered under very suspicious circumstances. The drama is heavy and the story gets pretty intense and emotional as Maria's desperation leads her to take on a rather unexpected life in an effort to keep her children safe, not only from criminals but from the authorities who are using controversial tactics to clean up the streets.

Maria herself is played by Filipina/Italian actress Alessandra de Rossi in a truly stunning, inspiring, and heart breaking performance. Maria is loosely based on a real woman as well as various incidents in neighborhoods like the ones seen in the movie that have been affected by the deadly drug wars. Also on board is actor Jake Macapagal, a native of Manila, as a police chief tasked with doing whatever it takes to win the drug war and keep evildoers off the streets. Macapagal creates a very interesting antagonist that exhibits more humanity than villainy even as he pushes the boundaries of his position's legal authority.

The dichotomy between these two characters is really the heart of the movie with Maria representing the struggle of the poor and disenfranchised people of the Philippines while the police chief represents the current political climate that has citizens polarized on their opinions of whether it is doing more good or harm for the population as a whole. There is a lot of commentary on how the less fortunate are experiencing the worst forms of oppression in comparison to the much easier lives the wealthy seem to enjoy.

Watch List (Maria) is an intense and emotional thriller that features strong acting performances along with an authenticity and a respect for the people and culture it is representing. Even though there is an undercurrent of hopelessness and dread, there is also just enough inspiration and humanity added in to make this a very worthwhile and rewarding experience.

Watch List (Maria) is an official selection of the 2019 Seattle International Film Festival.

To see more reviews, interviews and festival coverage please go to:

TwoOhSix at SIFF 2019

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