Bayang Ina Mo
Directed by Ramona S. Diaz
Editing Award World Cinema: Documentary, 2017 Sundance Film Festival
Fresh off its premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where it won the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award, Festival veteran and award-winning documentarian Ramona Diaz brings us her latest project which takes us into the Philippines’ (and one of the world’s) busiest maternity wards—Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Metro Manila—and follows the lives of several different women, Lea, Aira, Lerma, among them, as they enter the hospital to give birth till they are discharged. Enacting a fly-on-the-wall, purely observational approach as seen in Frederick Wiseman’s HOSPITAL and his canon of American feature docs on social institutions, Diaz brings a similar verve to the proceedings here in a decidedly Filipino context.
Diaz raises many issues that are often swept under the rug in Filipino society. From family planning, poverty, abuse, to general preventative health maintenance, her camera captures raw and unadulterated footage of these low-income to poor women as they negotiate their new roles as mothers or get tough love from hospital staff on what they need to do in order to be better mothers and citizens. Many mothers, already with several children, when advised to get an IUD or a ligation to prevent future pregnancies, bulk at the idea, often due more to fear than religious belief. Not surprising in a stalwartly Catholic nation but Diaz suspends any or all judgment as she shows how each woman grapple with such a choice. Poor funding and infrastructure plague the hospital so all mothers (and fathers) need to take turns as “human incubators” (babies are tucked into a tube-top strapped around their parent’s body and heat is generated between bodies). It’s a sight that both poignant and potentially sad.
Locked into this claustrophobic space and privy to the most intimate of human acts—the birth of a child—we witness a microcosm of those most vulnerable in contemporary Filipino society struggle, live, or die. Diaz, a chronicler of Filipino social and cultural issues in IMELDA, THE LEARNING, and DON’T STOP BELIEVIN’: EVERY MAN’S JOURNEY, keeps us looking even when we want to look away.
— Melanie Ramos, with additional contributions by Lindy Leong
Ramona Diaz is an award-winning Asian-American filmmaker best known for her compelling character-driven documentaries that combine a profound appreciation for cinematic aesthetics and potent storytelling. Her films, which include Spirits Rising, Imelda, The Learning, Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey and Motherland, have demonstrated her ability to gain intimate access to the people she films—be they rock stars, first ladies, teachers, or mothers—resulting in keenly observed moments and unforgettable nuanced narratives.
Executive Producers: Brillante Ma Mendoza, Sally Jo Fifer, Justine Nagan, Chris White
Producers: Ramona S. Diaz, Rey Cuerdo
Line Producer: Chris Rodriguez
Director: Ramona S. Diaz
Cinematographers: Nadia Hallgren, Clarissa De Los Reyes
Editor: Leah Marino