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Friday, June 19, 2009
Pinoy Film Focus: Minsan Lang Sila Bata (1996)
(Children Only Once)
Directors: Sadhana Buxani, Ditsi Carolino
Runtime: 50 minutes
Few students and graduates of private high schools in the Philippines have not been exposed to the harsh realities of child labor in the country through the powerful and indelible documentary Minsan Lang Sila Bata. It is a testament to the sheer strength of the film--and of the documentary genre, a form of full-length feature rarely made and discussed in this celebrity-obsessed country--that schools use it to open the eyes of more privileged students and that, more importantly, it works.
The documentarists capture the struggles of severely young children forced by their social standing to work at ports, slaughterhouses, and sugarcane fields, even as they clearly express their desire to become educated and make better lives for themselves. And yet through the heavy lifting of sacks of cement, the unintentional bathing in the stench and blood of butchered animals, and the scorching heat of life by the sickle, the children maintain a sense of humor that endears them and their fate to the viewers as much as their hardships do.
Minsan Lang Sila Bata is easily the definitive, most well known, and perhaps most seen Filipino documentary. For good reason. They are, indeed, children only once, but there are generations more of them that have been and could further be saved by such rare, socially conscious gems as this.
Image source: Database of Philippine Movies