Nervous Translation


Contemporary World Cinema | 2018 | 90 minutes

Stranger Says:

An 8-year-old girl in Manila keeps herself occupied at home while her busy family becomes increasingly fragmented. This empathic tone poem enters the headspace of its central character within the first few frames and never zooms back out, successfully replicating how a tricky math problem or the fixing of a well-worn cassette tape can briefly encompass the entire universe. Not for all metabolisms, certainly—the narrative could maybe use just a bit more drama, manufactured or otherwise—but the mood it creates and sustains is impressive. Capturing kidhood without being cloying is no easy feat.

SIFF Says:

Amid the backdrop of the Philippines's Peoples Power Revolution of the 1980s and its resolution, this encapsulating story is told through the eyes of eight-year-old Yael. Intoxicated by her own small world, Yael lives with her absent mother in Manila while her dad is away from the family working in Riyadh. The banality of everyday life is made entrancing by Yael’s precocious imagination. Most of her time is spent writing alone and observing the people around her as opposed to interacting with them. She plays recorded cassette tapes from her father over and over again as they simultaneously fuel her sense of wonder and longing. Her rock star uncle tries his best to play fill-in dad, only Yael’s mutable code is tough to crack as she refuses to open up. Yael and her mother deal with the separation from her dad in conflicting ways that highlight the power of Yael’s imagination and underlay the film’s overarching tension. When a massive typhoon threatens the country, Yael deals with it in the only way she knows how, buying a magic pen that, according to her dreams, can write off all of her problems. Director Shireen Seno’s quietly colorful tale celebrates the quirky wisdom unique to children, as they try to make sense of the turbulent world around them.

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Film Credits
Shireen Seno
Jana Agoncillo, Angge Santos, Sid Lucero, Cocoy Lumbao
SIFF 2018