(Philippines Political Melodrama)
Toronto Film Festival 1995–The Flor Contemplacion Story is an effective, often stirring recreation of the true-life story of a Filipino maid, who was executed in l995 for allegedly killing a co-worker and a young boy. A strong performance by movie star Nora Aunor dominates the film, which is at once a touching family saga and a forceful case of social injustice. However, unrestrained melodramatics and excessive running time undermine overall impact of a story whose facts are still in dispute.
Extreme poverty and an accompanying sense of hopelessness have driven many Filipinos out of their country, seeking employment abroad. The plight of women employed as domestic workers has been a major problem as reportedly many have suffered in the hands of their masters various forms of abuse, including torture, and rape.
A devoted mother of four, Flor Contemplacion (Aunor) went to Singapore to work as a maid, where her employers treated her fairly. However, in March l995, she was arrested and executed by hanging for allegedly murdering another maid, Delia Maga (Amy Austria) and the Singaporean boy Delia was taking care of.
Framed as a mystery, the tale reconstructs in flashbacks episodes from Flor's family life before and after she left the Philippines. These episodes not only enrich the story, but successfully move the film beyond a case of social outrage into a heart-wrenching exploration of women's inferiority in a patriarchal system. Indeed, Flor's long absences from home drove her weak hubby Efren (Julio Diaz) into an open relationship with a mistress and forced her two older children into early marriages. In one of the film's many touching scenes, Flor visits her family, but she can't distinguish between her twins.
According to the film, there's no doubt that Flor was innocent and that her confession was obtained through physical torment–her predicament brought an outpouring of sympathy from her countrymen, who still refuse to believe her guilt. Director Lamangan offers political background which implicates the Philippine government, from the President all the way down to officers of the Departments of Labor and Foreign Affairs, with cruel negligence and incompetence.
A prominent actress, Aunor invests her role with powerful emotions and utmost conviction, showing how an innocent, humble, self-sacrificing mother became a victim of corruption and abuse–and later, a national symbol adored by her countrymen. A title card informs that in April l995 the Filipino government reduced diplomatic relations with Singapore.
Factual story is so engaging that it almost overcomes the trappings of an overly sappy melodramatic style, one that tends to milk the raw sentiments in every situation to their maximum effect.
A Viva Films production. Produced by William C. Leary. Executive producer, Vic Del Rosario. Directed by Joel Lamangan. Screenplay, Ricardo Lee, Bonifacio Ilagan, based on Efren Contemplacion's story. Camera (color), Romeo Vitug; editor, Edgardo Vinarao; music, Vahnee Saturno; production design, Manny Morfe; sound (Dolby), Ramon Reyes.
Running time: 120 min.
Flor Contemplacion……..Nora Aunor
Efren Contemplacion…….Julio Diaz
Russell Contemplacion…Vina Morales
Evangeline Porales……..Rita Avila
Delia Maga……………Amy Austria