Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sheron Dayoc's "Women of the Weeping River"- War Will End Us

Sometime in the early 90's, feminist writer Leila Ahmed discussed the concept of "Women and Gender" in Islam. She argued against the oppressive practices to which women in the middle east are subjected. Such practices result from the prevalence of patriarchal interpretations of Islam, one that patronizes gender-based hierarchy. 

Men decide and dictate, women follow regardless of the merits of any given situation. Opinionated women are frowned upon. On a more universal scrutiny of the concept, look where that got Hillary Clinton who's more experienced, more intelligent and probably even more vicious than her political rival.

The new millennium has made strides to improve on these concepts, but despite the evolution of "Gender and Development (GAD)" and its introduction in governance, many middle eastern countries remain immune to or simply ignore such programs. In countries like Iran and Afghanistan, women are still regarded as second-class citizens; their opinions are disposable. But look no further. The same is true in certain Muslim communities in Mindanao where a certain form of war (conflict, hostility) is sanctioned by men. Any perceived transgression or dishonor is solved by "war". That's what their quran advocates, after all.

This scenario is on spotlight in Sheron Dayoc's "Women of the Weeping River" which won a well deserved Best Picture prize at the recent QCinema Film Festival.


Satra’s  (Laila Putli Ulao) family is deeply enmeshed in a clan war against the Ismael family. The feud has them in sporadic outbursts of retaliatory violence. 

After the murder of Hasmullah, Satra’s husband, Satra is shook up. Farida, the aging community mediator, advises to diffuse any action that will further escalate this endless rido before it claims another life.

This blood war has already claimed the husband and son of the rival clan’s matriarch. But Mustafa, Satra’s father, is bent to carry on with his jihad which dictates protection of a family’s honor and shame. The cash-strapped family even sells Satra’s jewelries just to purchase a P120,000 rifle. One night, Hassim, Satra’s youngest son wanders off into the wilderness. Will he fall victim like his father?

Sheron Dayoc’s “Women of the Weeping Violence” is a brave dissertation on the culture of war endemic in Muslim Mindanao. This malignant practice consumes life and eradicates property - and it displaces families. On a more sociological standpoint, it cripples the local community. 

Dayoc insightfully scrutinizes a local tradition, not uncommon in Philippine society, where men has absolute authority over women who barely have voices of their own. He also underscores the tragic futility of war by spotlighting the demise of innocent children caught between warring factions. Like most of the director’s early works, amateur actors are adequately employed to mirror realism. The effect isn't always notable, but it brings a degree of earnestness on the yarn spinning. As the movie comes to a close, it was clear what the ultimate message was. As H.G. Wells once said, “If we don’t end war, war will end us.” 

There are no real victors in it.

The beauty of Mindanao has a deceptive nature.

Read our post on Cinema Bravo and the Headaches of Web Criticism:

#womenoftheweepingriver   #clanwar   #jihad   #qcinema

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