Movie review: Muro-Ami

IJsselstein, Thursday, 10 October 2002 04:25:11

Every year, the ruthless fisherman Fredo recruits about 200 children for his fishing ship, the "Aurora." They are hired to help him catch 300 baskets of fish before Christmas, using the muro-ami method, in which divers scare the fish into a net by making a lot of noise, pounding pieces of coral on the bottom -- a process that is not only dangerous for the children who do the diving, but also badly damages the coral reefs. This time, Fredo's bitterness and greed, who has lost his wife and child in a boat accident, leads him to increase the quota to 500 baskets; and then events starts turning against him...

This socially critical movie was filmed on and around Bohol, with many local children from Balicasag island basically playing themselves, and a small cast of famous actors, such as the Boholano actor Cesar Montano as Fredo, and Jhong Hilario as Butong.

The movie gives a good impression of the gruesome child-labor practices -- even though the truth is even more horrible -- and the destruction brought forth by the illegal fishing practices (and actually leading to accusation that the making of this movie itself also damaged the reef). The movie includes a lot of impressive underwater scenes, and makes a good piece of drama.

This is certainly not the standard run-of-the-mill type of movie, and if you want to buy just one Filipino movie, get this one!

I have seen this movie on DVD, with English subtitles, bought for 450 pesos at a department store in Cebu. Technically, this DVD doesn't achieve the quality the DVD medium can offer, but it is certainly better than VHS or VCD, and has the additional benefit of having English subtitles. Curiously, the cover says the disk is coded for region 3, but the disk itself says it will play in all regions.

Muro-ami is available from DVD Asia

Jeroen Hellingman