Film review from Locarno 2019: 'Overseas'
Sung-a Yoon's Belgian-French documentary 'Overseas' examines the training of Filipina maids leaving behind their own families to enter the global domestic workforce.
Well-balanced hybrid shines welcome light on the plight of ex-pat household servants.Sung-a Yoon's Belgian-French documentary examines the training of Filipina maids leaving behind their own families to enter the global domestic workforce.The most sympathetic, illuminating study of domestic labor since
Roma, French writer-director Sung-a Yoon's documentary hybridOverseasranked among nonfiction titles unveiled at Locarno this year. Observing the training of maids from the Philippines before they are sent off around the world to join the teeming ranks of the nation's "OFWs" (Overseas Filipino Workers), the Belgian-French co-production is a cleverly constructed and briskly edited glimpse into the tough realities of a semi-invisible profession. Plentiful further festival bookings will follow for this first feature-length offering from the Korea-born, Brussels-based director.
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Courtesy of Locarno Film Festival Well-balanced hybrid shines welcome light on the plight of ex-pat household servants., who has played it approximately 47 times — or, at least, it feels that way.A word of warning: Searchlight’s red-band trailer effectively suggests the tone but gives away many of the film’s surprises, so go in blind (and come back to read this review afterward) if you’re sensitive to spoilers.Angel Has Fallen may not be appreciably better than the first two installments of this lower-middle-range Mission: Impossible wannabe franchise, but it's actually more fun — first and foremost because of a vastly amusing turn by Nick Nolte as Gerard Butler's eccentric Vietnam vet old coot father.
Sung-a Yoon's Belgian-French documentary examines the training of Filipina maids leaving behind their own families to enter the global domestic workforce. The most sympathetic, illuminating study of domestic labor since Roma , French writer-director Sung-a Yoon's documentary hybrid Overseas ranked among nonfiction titles unveiled at Locarno this year. More Reviews Film Review: 'Angel Has Fallen' Banning is now getting on a bit, suffering from chronic pain caused by a concussion and other woes he secretly medicates, lest anyone, from his wife (Piper Perabo) to the president, ask him to quit. Observing the training of maids from the Philippines before they are sent off around the world to join the teeming ranks of the nation's "OFWs" (Overseas Filipino Workers), the Belgian-French co-production is a cleverly constructed and briskly edited glimpse into the tough realities of a semi-invisible profession. A foster child with no real family of her own, Grace figured she’d hit the jackpot when she met Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien), unaware that the eligible bachelor could have such messed-up kin. Plentiful further festival bookings will follow for this first feature-length offering from the Korea-born, Brussels-based director. Butler’s squint tells you how he feels about that one. It arrives some seven years after Full of Missing Links , Yoon's 68-minute autobiographical essay-film which she made after a decade of more conceptual shorts. But what thanks does he get for his heroism? Instant blame for the whole bloody fiasco from Vice-President Kirby (Tim Blake Nelson), who insists that Banning is in cahoots with the Russians, has him charged with the attempted murder of the president and is immediately sworn in as acting president.
Here she takes a fly-on-the-wall approach to an inner-city training facility, where young women receive rigorous and extensive instruction in what to expect in their new workplaces. Yet when you’re watching a big-budget B-movie, there’s good preposterous and there’s bad preposterous. Opening with the same slick, story-serving showmanship that will drive the rest of their plot, co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (“Devil’s Due”) have already hinted at how lethal Hide and Seek can be in the movie’s unsettling prologue. The potential hazards and negatives of the job are repeatedly emphasized ("it's a matter of luck"), and the film includes plentiful first-person testimony of verbal and even physical abuse: many OFW maids complain of being treated like robots or slaves, with sleep and/or food deprivation not uncommon. "Never cry in front of your employers," the trainees are told by one no-nonsense instructor, "it shows weakness. They are drones, equipped with smart bombs and computerized facial-recognition software, and as they fly low and target their prey, the explosions pile up with a satisfyingly surgical but relentless precision. Filipinos are not weak!" The bulk of the film alternates between role-play enactments of typical scenarios (usually presented via fixed-camera tableaux) and down-time when the women share their experiences, hopes and fears. Although Alex’s mother (Andie MacDowell) and black-sheep brother Daniel (Adam Brody) appear slightly less enthused about killing Grace, most are downright bloodthirsty for the opportunity, none more than Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni), a Halloween-ready character who seems to have escaped from Tim Burton’s “Dark Shadows. Newcomers mingle and benefit from the advice of more seasoned "ex-abroad" workers: monetary specifics are exchanged, with wages ranging from the monthly salary of around $350 available in Oman to more than $550 in Hong Kong. And Mike? He’s alive because the drones purposefully avoided him. But what really lifts things in the second half is the frequent presence of Nolte.
No mention is made, however, of the financial set-up of the training-academy itself. Yoon is clearly more interested in the proceedings' psychological and sociological aspects, presenting the role-plays in a detached manner which nonetheless brings out their bizarre and humorous aspects.C. Christopher Murphy handicap her somewhat by insisting that she’s nothing like the Le Domas tribe, which means she can fight back but isn’t allowed to sink to their level by actually killing anyone. But these welcome moments of levity never detract from the fundamental seriousness of the subject matter. Yoon shows appropriate interest in and respect for the tough psychological traumas that OFWs ("so vulnerable") can often suffer, manifesting in loneliness, depression, and in extreme cases, suicide. Mike, after a brief spell of unconsciousness himself, escapes, and it doesn’t take long for the film to tell us what we already know: that he was spared by the bad guys so they could make him the fall guy. Most of the maids sign up for two-year stints during which they will have minimal or zero contact with their loved ones back home. While it’s easy to enjoy this gripping, giallo-gruesome exercise as a kind of Gothic genre-movie pastiche — “What We Do in the Shadows” meets “Rosemary’s Baby,” with a generous helping of “Clue” — the subtext is rich enough to fuel reams of feminist- or film-studies essays. Single-handedly, Nolte lifts the entire confection two or three notches above what it would have been without him.
"Rule number one," they are reminded, is their motivation "to help [their] family. If you want to know what bad preposterous looks like (or, to be generous, let’s call it mediocre preposterous), check out the scenes in which Mike reunites with his father, Clay Banning, a grizzled Vietnam veteran living off the grid in a West Virginia shack, like a cross between the Unabomber and the most cliché crazy war vet you’ve ever seen. It's all about sacrifice.. At the preview showing I attended, the audience applauded after the scene in which Nolte detonates, by remote-control trigger, an unending wall of bombs he has rigged in the woods by his home. By the end, things have gotten so anarchically unhinged, it’s no coincidence that the directors have looked to “Heathers” for inspiration.. What you earn abroad, you cannot make here. It reduces him, in the process, to being a macho lox. Opens: August 23 (Lionsgate Films) Production: Millennium Films/G-Base Cast: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Jada Pinkett Smith, Lance Reddick, Tim Blake Nelson, Riper Perabo, Nick Nolte, Danny Huston, Joseph Millson Director: Ric Roman Waugh Screenwriters: Robert Mark Kamen, Matt Cook, Ric Roman Waugh, story by Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt, based on characters created by Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt Producers: Gerard Butler, Alan Siegel, Matt O'Toole, John Thompson, Les Weddon, Yariv Lerner Executive producers: Andrey Georgiev, Christa Campbell, Lati Grobman, Mark Gill, Avi Lerner, Trevor Short, Heidi Jo Markel, David Bernardi, Jeffrey Greenstein, Jonathan Yunger Director of photography: Jules O'Loughlin Production designer: Russell De Rozario Costume designer: Stephanie Collie.
" The bulk of the running-time is vérité stuff, punctuated with more obviously staged interludes in which we observe trainees in reflective solitude. As the wide-eyed bride, Weaving (“The Babysitter”) bears a striking resemblance to fellow Aussie Margot Robbie, playing a doll-like blonde resourceful enough to earn our respect as she sneaks around in her increasingly blood-soaked wedding dress. Overseas actually begins with a four-minute sequence in which a woman is shown cleaning a bathroom, gradually becoming overwhelmed with increasingly loud tears. At times, with Banning in the role of unjustly pursued renegade, the whole thing plays like a generic “Bourne” knockoff. The combination of "straight" documentary and more stylized sequences is thus apparent from the early stages, and Yoon blends the two with confident and productive aplomb in a work of quietly impressive technical competence. In the latter stages, we go outside the confines of the training-center and follow the women as they take their next steps toward leaving their homeland. That’s one of several pseudo-relevant tidbits the film tosses into the blender, along with the privatization of the defense industry and a vice president (Tim Blake Nelson, looking like a member of Herman’s Hermits) who’s more hawkish than his boss.” Popular on Variety Film Review: 'Ready or Not' Reviewed at Fox Studios, Aug. Scenes of bureaucratic efficiency and corridors full of paperwork hint at the vast scale of the OFW phenomenon: around 10 million Filipinos work abroad, their remittances contributing more than $30 billion to the country's economy, around a tenth of total GDP.
The film includes mention of the Philippines' notoriously hardline President Duterte hailing OFWs as heroes and heroines, but scores by going deep into the personal circumstances that underpin such soundbite rhetoric. A place that’s equipped with one or two minor security systems. Production companies: Iota Production, Les Films de l'Oeil Sauvage, Clin d'Oeil Films Director-screenwriter: Sung-a Yoon Producers: Quentin Laurent, Isabelle Truc Cinematographer: Thomas Schira .) MPAA Rating: R.