Monday, February 7, 2011
The struggle between traditional ways in the historical rice terraces of the Philippines and modernization, as represented by the desire for a new pair of shoes, as well as the generational conflict of a youth trying to find his way in the world, is the focus of the nice little movie Balat. A young man—loving brother, dutiful son, and generous friend—from a poor rice-farming family covets some footwear while dreaming of opportunities of the city, which has been robbing the village of its young and talented. Industrious and clever, every time he earns a little extra cash doing odd jobs ranging from porter to tourist guide, he ends up forking over his earnings for much needed rice or other domestic needs, especially while the father is off helping his grandfather repair his terraces. He discovers however that boots do not always solve all problems and that family and old ways are sometimes better. The film is somewhat slow (lots of walking scenes) and obvious, but the scenery is beautiful and the glimpses into local culture are interesting. The movie touches on the love of the land, traditional methods and religion, family relationships.