DIRECTOR Brillante Mendoza weaves another poignant film in the ethno-drama, “Thy Womb,” the comeback for one of the undisputed gems of the Philippine cinema, Nora Aunor.

The film tells the story of Shaleha (Aunor), an infertile mid-wife, who tries desperately to find for his husband, Bangas-An (Bembol Roco), another wife with whom he could sire a child.

Shaleha goes all over the island of Tawi-tawi, one of the five main Muslim provinces in the country, seeking a fair deal in exchange for a wife for his husband. She goes around asking for financial assistance and making money through weaving.

They are met by guerillas inhabiting the island in one of their seafarers, where Bangas-An is shot in the shoulder. He survives as he is tended by Shaleha.

Just when they think their quest of finding a wife for Bangas-An will end in vain, they learn that someone is willing to accept what little dowry they have. After agreeing to the parents’ demands, they meet the beautiful Mersila (Lovi Poe), who quickly caught Bangas-An’s eye. They are able to conceive a child after a couple of months. The movie ends with Shaleha looking with a hint of joy at the couple carrying their baby.

The film is set against the stark and colorful representation of Muslim culture and tradition, made even more colorful by the dazzling garments worn by the characters.

As with other Mendoza films, Thy Womb is able to capture the beauty of the islands, with aerial shots overlooking the vastness of the undisturbed sea.

Although the movie tends to be torpid, with some of the scenes dragging, it is able to sustain the audience’s interest through the vibrant use of colors and sights.

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It is a great comeback for Aunor as the self-sacrificing woman who will do everything to make her husband happy.

The script is clear, although it has sparse dialogue, and the characterization is well-thought out. While the development is rather slow, the film builds enough dramatic momentum to keep the viewer glued to the screen.

The film was premiered at the Venice film festival, where it bagged three awards including the Venezia Cinema Prize. It will be a part of the upcoming Metro Manila Film Festival.


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