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  •  REVIEW: SMALL VOICES

      Small Voices
    Class lass

    A young woman struggles to teach her Filipino students while fighting corrupt school officials, guerrilla war dangers and apathetic parents in the discouraging yet inspiring "Small Voices."

    By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
    Offoffoff.com


    From the moment she arrives at Malawig, a remote, impoverished village a bus ride away from the bustling Philippines capital of Manila, Melinda Santiago realizes she has her work cut out for her. A young and optimistic graduate of Manila's City University whose family wishes her to repatriate to America where the real opportunities are, Melinda is not exactly prepared to meet the many challenges of her new position, that of elementary school teacher.

    SMALL VOICES
    Original title: Mga Munting Tinig.
    Directed by: Gil Portes.
    Written by: Adolfo Alix Jr., Gil Portes, Senedy Que.
    Cast: Alessandra de Rossi, Dexter Doria, Gina Alajar, Amy Austria, Bryan Homecillo, Pierro Rodriguez.
    In Tagalog with English subtitles.

    Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
      
    These challenges appear in many forms — an unscrupulous principal (Mrs. Pantalan) who sells ice candy to the students simply to stuff her own pockets, a motorcycle-riding "Bombay" (Indian merchant) who charges 10 percent for cash advances on delayed teacher's paychecks, and aggressively passive parents who believe that only the rich can afford to dream, insisting that their sons and daughters would do better to work the fields or provide domestic help rather than to secure an education.

    And then, of course, there is the monsoon season, bringing torrential rains that threaten to destroy the school's meager supply of schoolbooks, lesson plans, and other dwindling resources.

      
      For his lead, Portes has chosen Alessandra De Rossi and he has chosen well. She's delightful in the role of the nave young woman who faces cultural obstacles at every turn.
      
    Melinda goes about her work with daily diligence, though, always having a smile, a kind word for her neatly uniformed charges. But her battles against apathy, corruption, and contempt are constant, further hindered by the volatile political climate in which fathers and sons are constantly recruited to join guerrilla forces fighting in the mountains.

    When a funding opportunity in the form of a regional singing contest presents itself to Melinda, the idealistic teacher must smartly juggle uncooperative school administrators, confrontational parents, and the torn children themselves in order to let their small voices be heard.

    Gil M. Portes's simple, sincere "Small Voices" ("Mga Munting Tinig") offers a rare insight into a culture we rarely see depicted on film. It applauds the fight of educators in an environment that is oftentimes in direct opposition to the basic tenets of learning. Drawing from his own experiences, Portes fashions his film with light, delicate touches, deliberating on Melinda's daily struggle with a viewpoint that is refreshingly unaffected by Western influences. (This might make the film a little too unsophisticated for some.)

    Small Voices  
    For his lead, Portes has chosen Alessandra De Rossi and he has chosen well. She's delightful in the role of the nave young woman who faces cultural obstacles at every turn. De Rossi has a calm strength about her that's lovely to witness. Sometimes her reactions seem a little too immodest, such as when she acts surprised or shocked, but for the most part she's efficient and convincing, especially in the film's closing contest scenes.

    There's an innocent, lyrical quality to the film and it's hard not to be charmed by it. Portes, who lives in New York, has made some 25 feature films in his native Philippines yet in "Small Voices" he's guilty of a few fledgling errors — there's a brief, slow-motion sequence, for example, that seems out of place and for much of the time the film feels a little too deliberate in its predictable setup and character observations. The subtitling, too, is poor, with several stretches indecipherable against the whitened images the director has so carefully constructed.

    But "Small Voices," much like its central character Melinda, rises above these challenges to emerge as a euphoric affirmation of the power of change, teaching us that big dreams and the desire to follow them often come in small packages.

    NOVEMBER 1, 2003
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK


    Reader comments on Small Voices:

  • most inspiring movie i've ever watched   from valerie, Nov 16, 2003
  • small voices   from mayen, Jan 5, 2004
  • Re: small voices   from senedy que, May 9, 2004
  • comments on "Mga Munting Tinig"   from Eugenia C. Martin, May 17, 2004
  • Small Voices   from Josh, Aug 12, 2004
  • very enthusiastic   from don, Aug 13, 2004
  • very realistic but powerful movie   from peachy borres, Sep 15, 2004
  • i'm disappointed... really.   from karen, Nov 24, 2004
  • Re: i'm disappointed... really.   from Mark Montemayor, Aug 19, 2005
  • Re: i'm disappointed... really.   from yvon, Oct 13, 2005
  • Re: i'm disappointed... really.   from kate, Oct 14, 2005
  • Re: i'm disappointed... really.   from kier, Nov 21, 2005
  • Re: i'm disappointed... really.   from Jay-R, Dec 18, 2005
  • Re: i'm disappointed... really.   from kriscell, Nov 10, 2005
  • Re: i'm disappointed... really.   from , Feb 20, 2007
  • Re: i'm disappointed... really.   from aml, Feb 29, 2008
  • Re: i'm disappointed... really.   from je, Nov 21, 2009
  • about the show   from camille tacazon, Nov 25, 2004
  • Re: about the show   from mona egonia wangca, Jul 5, 2011
  • munting tinig   from benelyn, Dec 28, 2004
  • Not just an ordinary movie!!!   from ain, Mar 18, 2005
  • grabe!!!!! nakakaiyak!!!!   from lovely, Mar 31, 2005
  • comment   from akie, May 3, 2005
  • Aug 19, 2005   from Jucie, Aug 19, 2005
  • great movie   from H, Aug 29, 2005
  • marajaw na salida   from nieva, May 10, 2008
  • My comment.   from kier, Nov 21, 2005
  • Congrate's!   from Jay-R, Dec 17, 2005
  • the movie is sooo great   from aniesa marie joy legarta, Jan 10, 2006
  • grabe   from christian bables, Jan 21, 2006
  • comment   from precious, Jan 31, 2006
  • wow hapet!   from FUckers, Feb 12, 2006
  • Re: wow hapet!   from june, Dec 29, 2007
  • nice movie....   from jholan torres, Jul 20, 2006
  • tinig   from renz castro-millare, Dec 13, 2006
  • munting tinig..   from em0ascii, Jan 14, 2007
  • An Excellent fil or realistic proportions!   from David D'Angelo, Jan 15, 2007
  • small voices   from Beaulahly G. Salazar, Jan 21, 2007
  • nakakaiyak!!!corny!!!   from jefrenv illamor, Jun 19, 2007
  • it's great!!   from rina, Jul 3, 2007
  • galing!!!   from charmaine baylon, Aug 7, 2007
  • great..   from Kassey, Aug 25, 2007
  • [no subject]   from ria, Oct 7, 2007
  • Mga Munting Tinig   from jester sagun, Oct 18, 2007
  • [no subject]   from nancy baltazar, Oct 25, 2007
  • fabulous   from clang2x, Nov 10, 2007
  • munting tinig   from lovella, Nov 23, 2007
  • "Great Movie!!!!!!"   from Betty, Dec 9, 2007
  • Inspirations for Teachers,Parents,Students,Gov't   from Annie M. Omalza, Jan 30, 2008
  • great!   from jbd, Feb 2, 2008
  • Nyz movie   from jenie bona, Feb 13, 2008
  • [no subject]   from joana, Feb 14, 2008
  • [no subject]   from joana lagmay, Feb 14, 2008
  • Explendid!!!!!   from patricia, Jul 17, 2008
  • hello   from lubster, Aug 1, 2008
  • munting tinig   from jr, Aug 6, 2008
  • comment   from hello, Sep 5, 2008
  • [no subject]   from hannah, Oct 1, 2008
  • tungkol sa show   from candy, Oct 25, 2008
  • munting tinig   from zywell, Nov 13, 2008
  • bravo   from dara, Nov 17, 2008
  • A fantastic values educational film to watch   from kRaYcAeN, Dec 6, 2008
  • super beautiful   from john louie, Dec 14, 2008
  • lupet...   from ej, Jan 11, 2009
  • very realistic   from iva, Jan 30, 2009
  • comments   from joybrok, Feb 8, 2009
  • Ang GURO....BOW!   from abbylove72, Feb 12, 2009
  • appreciation   from bee, Feb 17, 2009
  • small voices   from dhoray, Feb 23, 2009
  • inspired   from foxtrot, Mar 17, 2009
  • munting tinig comment   from loida david, Mar 25, 2009
  • a must see movie   from silver yellow, Jul 25, 2009
  • WE MISS IT   from LEONOR ESCALANTE, Aug 17, 2009
  • [no subject]   from sofia, Sep 15, 2009
  • small voices   from jhang, Sep 24, 2009
  • i'm touch...   from baby j, Oct 13, 2009
  • [no subject]   from maryjean Esma, Dec 12, 2010
  • [no subject]   from yes its me, Dec 12, 2010
  • inspired!!!   from kathlene, Jan 12, 2011
  • it is a great example for the teachers   from omelanne, Jan 29, 2011
  • [no subject]   from April Rose Tapio, Jan 29, 2011
  • Wow   from Alvaro Laureano, Mar 20, 2011

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