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Philippines 2012
Directed by
Ma Mendoza
106 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Thy Womb

Fillipino Muslim midwife, Shaleha (Nora Aunor) is unable to have children and so she searches for a fertile woman who is willing and able to fulfil what for her is her life’s destiny in this story set in Tawi-Tawi, the Philippines' southernmost isles which in recent years have been the site of conflict between  government and Muslim secessionist forces,

Thy Womb has an almost ethnographic approach to depicting the reality of its subjects’ lives.  Shaleha’s peripatetic search for a surrogate womb is a perfect device for Mendoza to portray the lives of the Bajua (which translates as sea nomads) people who adhere to the time-honoured manners and mores of their forebears.

The screenplay is spare and it is largely the camera and the central performance by leading Filippino actress Nora Aunor that tells the story as Shaleha indefatigably follows one lead after another, accompanied by her obliging husband.  Mendoza takes his time with this, regularly meandering off to observe  the natural and cultural backdrop to the foreground proceedings, the film being as much a contemplation of a way of life as it is a story.

The result is a fine, yet strongly resonant portrait of human endeavour, small in the greater scheme of things yet poignant precisely because of that...





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