Bayan Ina Mo
Gateway | Dragons & Tigers
At once immersive and illuminating, Ramona S. Diaz’s vérité-style documentary Motherland plunges viewers into the workings of the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, one of the Philippines’ busiest maternity wards. The recipient of a Sundance Special Jury Award for "commanding vision" upon its premiere, the film keenly balances intimate human detail with sweeping Wiseman-like institutional (and cultural) documentation.
Overcrowded and underfunded, the hospital (located in Metro Manila) serves as a snapshot of the Philippines’ birth-related issues, which have to do with a predominantly Catholic population that’s also poor and uneducated. The setting alone provides so much compelling detail: a ward doctor who drones over the PA system the way one would address a summer camp; a technique called "Kangaroo Mother Care" widely used because of a lack of incubators; the insurance mechanisms provided by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO). Cannily, Diaz also finds time to capture the sense of community that forms there: both between the mothers, and the tireless nurses and doctors. It’s a cinematic portrait that’s sobering without ever feeling grim—a perfect balance for a documentary so steeped in a sense of place.
"Ramona S. Diaz’s latest is a lively and engaging glimpse at a Manila maternity ward… a film whose primary impression is one of charm and humor amid challenging circumstances."—Dennis Harvey, Variety