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Birds of Prey is sincere but falls short of full potential

Tearsheets: Chris Chua, President, Filipino Student's Association, 524 D Burton

Suggested headline: Filipino film BIRDS OF PREY is interesting, but falls short


Directed by Gil Portes.

Sponsored by the MIT Filipino Students' Association.

Plays tomorrow at 7 pm in Kresge.

Admission for MIT students: $1.50.


THE "PEOPLE POWER" REVOLUTION in the Philippines three years ago has left an indelible imprint on the Filipino national consciousness. Birds of Prey attempts to address the role individuals -- specifically Filipinos living abroad -- have to play in rebuilding their country following the downfall of the Marcos regime.

But the film's political and social concerns have to compete for attention with a tearjerking love story and mother-child reunion. The technical production and acting quality, furthermore, keep threatening to fall below acceptable limits. It is a tantalizing film, but it falls short of its full potential.

The film tells the story of Cecilia Santos, who lives in New York. She receives a letter from a friend back in the Philippines that her husband has died in an encounter with the military. Having been pressured by her parents to leave the Philippines because they disapproved of her husband, Cecilia decides to return home to investigate her husband's death and to find her missing daughter. Steve, an American reporter who befriends Cecilia, comes with her. In the end, Cecilia has to decide whether to stay in the Philippines or return to her life in New York.

That central conflict -- the conflicting emotions faced by those living outside of their native land -- is mirrored by the conflict faced by director Gil Portes in balancing his political and social concerns with his responsibility as an artist. The proper balance can be elusive and difficult, but as films like Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, Victor Schonfeld's Shattered Dreams, Kenneth Loach's Looks and Smiles, and Louis Malle's Au revoir les enfants demonstrate, it most certainly can be attained.

Birds of Prey is obviously the work of a sincere and committed filmmaker, and it does have a few poignant and resonant moments. But it falters when compared with the universal value attained by other films that address similar concerns. If anything, Birds of Prey proves that the personal sincerity and commitment to social concerns are insufficient to fuel a work of art on their own. The films mentioned above all transcend numerous barriers and limitations to meld filmmaking and social concerns into symbiotic, organic works of art; one can only lament that such an accomplishment cannot be ascribed to Birds of Prey.