Life on the Tracks (2002) / Poison (2002)

Life on the Tracks (Riles), 2002 (Ditsi Carolino)

Life on the Tracks is a charming, graceful, compassionate, and staggeringly intimate portrait of the everyday struggles of a poor, but devoted (and playfully bickering) married couple named Eddie and Pen Renomeron as they eke out a meager existence for their two daughters and three adopted children (whose parents were killed by a train) in a squatter village in the district of Balik-balik, Sampaloc in Manila. According to filmmaker Ditsi Carolino, there are two social classes that exist in the village: the opportunistic, often politically connected, permanent squatters who built the crude shantytowns alongside the railroad tracks for rental, and the migrant tenants, often from rural provinces, who move to the city in search of a better life. Capturing the poignancy and affection of the destitute villagers as they pass idle time through karaoke, alcohol, card games, and the synchronized dodging of passing trains, and the Renomeron family’s attempt to provide a sense of normalcy for their children despite profound physical (the film provides an unsettling glimpse of the inadequacy of health care for the poor through Pen’s continued health problems that also resulted in a crude mastectomy) and economic hardship (the children, in turn, dream of a better life abroad, such as a daughter’s aspiration to become a singer in Japan), the film is a humbling and indelible portrait of human dignity, resilience, and community.

 

Poison (Sanpeet), 2002 (Giuseppe Petitto, Enrico Pizianti, and Gianluca Pulcini)

In an attempt to curb delinquency and drug use among young people in the impoverished area known as the ‘Golden Triangle’ in northeast Thailand, the government endorsed a policy to promote sports, leading to the institution of youth kickboxing competitions in the region. Sanpeet, a small built, seven year-old boy, is the eldest of three children in the Petnonnoi family. The kickboxing competitions have become a source of supplementary income for the family, as Sanpeet’s unemployed father uses his son’s deceptive physical stature in order to skew the betting odds in illegal gambling activities that inevitably accompany the tournaments. Provocative and innately disturbing, Poison is a compelling examination of the vicious cycle of poverty, vice, and abuse.

© Acquarello 2003. All rights reserved.

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