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‘Batanes’ Film Review: Crossing borders

“Batanes” is essentially a heartwarming study of a relationship between two cultures.

With the tagline “Love knows no borders,” this flawed but poignant love story explores life and love between different places and cultures. It explores the loss of one’s will to live because of a love lost, as well as the discovery of new love at an unexpected time. The storytelling may not always be consistent and the technical aspects may be a bit rough at times, but the slice-of-life take on the material allows the film to rise a bit on top of the tides.

“Batanes” establishes an intimate portrait of a woman’s relationship with the sea after her husband’s tragic passing. Set in the vast landscapes, rough seas, and ever-changing weather of Luzon’s northernmost paradise island of Batanes, this picturesque romantic story represents the struggle of emotions from the whirlwind romance between the city girl Pam (Iza Calzado) and the Ivatan Rico (Joem Bascon), the simple but happy life they started to embraced in the island, the loss of life and love from the hands of the angry sea, and a new love bestowed in the most unexpected times of mourning.

It is interesting to follow the story of romantic love struggling through the giant sea waves, then bumping into huge, dangerous rocks, if not travailing the serene waves of the waters in a sunny day. Like the relatively unpredictable weather in Batanes, things seem so unexpected, uncontrollable, and at some point, unfair. As the story progresses, it effectively shows that above all, love is universal and emotions find no boundaries, no language, and no cultural borders in the midst of the most dangerous storms and currents.

“Batanes” is a joint venture of Ignite Media and GMA Films and written and co-directed by Adolf Alix Jr. and Dave Hukom. The story is pretty simple, but it works for the level it chose to take. The build up of the story passionately affects the audience for both the painful and happy moments of the main character Pam. This becomes the picture’s main source of strength.

The story begins with Pam’s newfound love and her embracing of the Ivatan way of life. Like any other person used to urban living, she struggles to adjust to the slower pace of provincial life. She gets rewarded well — with a simple, rural family and a peaceful married life where the sea and weather conditions turn out as the only violent elements around. As Pam’s Ivatan husband Rico shares with her how the powerful and temperamental sea becomes a jealous lover demanding respect and attention, Pam later finds out what Rico initially meant when she goes head to head with the strength of the mighty waters after Rico’s death — in the hands of the sea he respects and admires. During her mourning, she sails off to an island and gets stranded in a storm. There, she finds a man lying on the sand. She saves the heartbroken Taiwanese fisherman Kao (Ken Zhu) and brings him to the village. In no time, without any intention of getting things complicated, she starts getting drawn to him, as how he gets drawn to her as well. Despite the language and cultural differences, a new love blooms in the harshest times and amidst their own losses.

Iza Calzado exceptionally plays the main character Pam. Taiwanese star and F4 member Ken Zhu effectively plays the Taiwanese fisherman Kao. Newcomer Joem Bascon renders a compelling performance as Pam’s husband Rico. This dramatic piece boasts a powerhouse ensemble with Bembol Roco, Daria Ramirez, Julio Diaz, Sid Lucero, Coco Martin, Mike Tan, and Glaiza de Castro.

Love is indeed at the center of this moving and powerful film about the relationship between two cultures. It is a moving tale of love crossing the boundaries of language and culture.

Rianne Hill Soriano
Rianne is a director, writer, educator, and consultant in film and commercial productions. From mainstream essentials to independent flair, she knows the drill in making entertaining and well-meaning productions. She can lead a pack passionate about extreme action and technological edge; she can breathe an endearing and sentimental style for a team with a sweet disposition.

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