REVIEW: “Mindanao” the movie: the script reduces an island so full of cultural and ethnic diversity to a single narrative

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 05 January) — I finally had the chance to watch Brillante Mendoza’s “Mindanao.”

You have to give it to Judy Ann Santos: Her acting was very, very good. The cinematography including animation was beautifully done.

But if we base a review of the movie on its title — “Mindanao”—it becomes difficult for us who are of that island to process the fact that the script reduces an island so full of cultural and ethnic diversity to a single narrative. There are many narratives in Mindanao. To show only one is inaccurate.

“Mindanao” is what happens when you try to homogenize several voices into one storyline squeezed into less than two hours of movie: The film becomes a flawed narrative that perpetuates injustices in much the same way that people who do not understand Mindanao and its people impose their “Pinoy pride.”

What is vinta doing in the Liguasan Marsh? The vinta sails the Sulu Sea. Why present the different places in Mindanao as if they were simply different areas of one compound? Davao is not just a jeepney ride away from Awang, Maguindanao: The distance between Davao and Maguindanao is 222.6 kilometers, a good 4 hours and 20 minutes’ travel by land.

Proximity and distance are everything to us. They define our stories as groups of people in Mindanao. Our bodies of water are everything to us, you cannot just entangle these things and present a singular narrative.

You also cannot claim Mindanao as a title without discussing Sulu as a nation, and that is another complex part of Mindanao’s history right there.

It is obvious that the producers, actors and technical crew for this movie knew their jobs: The cinematography, special effects and acting were very good.

It is also obvious that the script needed more research, and deeper perspectives that it did not deliver—and that lack made a waste of good cinematography and acting.

Next time anyone wants to make a movie about the island of Mindanao, they really should check their geography, cultural research and facts. Never write from ignorance, because ignorance is a waste of everyone’s time and resources.

I watched “Mindanao” in Metro Manila, and I was hearing the audience of Manilenyos murmuring in Tagalog, “so that’s how they are,” speaking of the people of Mindanao.

No, that is not how we are. Accuracy is important, and even creative license has to take that into account—especially when portraying a place as culturally diverse and historically complex as Mindanao.  (Amir Mawallil is a Member of Parliament of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao)