Cinemalaya Movie Review: Liway

Liway is a poignant yet powerful family drama that shows us the importance of stories thanks to earnest performances and a thoughtful script.

The true story of a young mother who uses story-telling to protect her child from the reality of growing up in prison and the difficult life she endured.

Philippine indie movies that have made it in film festivals abroad mostly dealt with poverty, corruption and violence that the country has become known for depravity flicks. But it can be argued that historically, the Filipino people have short memories which makes these kind of movies important in their own right.

Liway is set in the backdrop of Martial Law, a historical event caused by a conjugal dictatorship that sucked the country dry and killed thousands of Filipinos.  The movie focuses on a mother and his aptly named son Dakip, who was born in prison. Day tries to protect Dakip from the harsh reality of their situation by indulging his son with folktales that reflect a world outside of their concentration camp. Her husband Toto however, disapproves and discourages anyone from sugarcoating the truth.

Unlike what you’ve come to expect from movies in Cinemalaya, Liway is a straightforward film with no meticulously composed images or a glacially paced allegorical story. It takes little to figure it out too: there’s an obvious emphasis here on mythology and it doesn’t take time for you – and in turn Dakip – to figure out the truth behind the shadow puppetry.

Nonetheless performances are great all around that you can’t help but invest in the film’s characters. Earnest performances from Glaiza de Castro and Kenken Nuyad make it a poignant family drama. Soliman Cruz adds a different perspective through a character who shows that people from both sides of the fence are fighting their own battles. More importantly, these characters are actually based on real people as Liway is based on true to life events.

Despite its unremarkable storytelling Liway makes a compelling statement on the power of stories – at its worst it can be used to conceal and manipulate the truth, at its best it can serve as hope and inspiration to uphold it. One man’s propaganda can be a nation’s truth. One person’s tall tale can be another person’s escape. A mother’s story can transform the future of a son, who goes on to impact the lives other people. It’s a timely topic when state-sponsored hate and information warfare are used as political tools to control the narrative.

Before the end credits roll the director – Kip Oebanda who has a personal connection to the story – reminds us of why legends bear repeating. Stories are both a cautionary tale and a vessel of hope that is more powerful when it’s shared.

My Rating: 7/10

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