Photo of the multi-awarded director, Marilou Diaz-Abaya
Photo of the multi-awarded director, Marilou Diaz-Abaya

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Baby Tsina is a film — tobi-billed by Vilma Santos — that depicts the exaggerating desperateness and suffering of a prostitute named Evelin Duavit a.k.a. Baby Tsina.

She is a victim of gang rape and was involved in a murder committed by her boyfriend, Roy. Her liberal personality led them to get away from the authority. They decided to seek help from a lawyer friend for shelter. But unbeknownst to them, Jorge informed the police about their hideout and escape plan which caused a shoot-out and Roy’s death. She then is captured and incarcerated in a detention center for women where her suffering became so dreadful to handle.

The Review

The cinematography in this film is flawlessly utilized that spectators will have a remarkable experience of the reality concerning the social message of prostitution and the psychological growth of Elena’s character as she makes her way through numerous circumstances in her life.

Though there were establishments of atmosphere, the film shot mainly with little bearing of the background. Diversity of lighting paved way for audience to infer the different moods instilled and various dispositions and situations of characters. The bluish color is used in various scenes such as when a she was on her way to work, the scene where she and Roy was in a shooting incident with the rival gang during a rain, and when she escapes from the prison through a crowd involved in a riot. It heightens the dramatic aura and heavy tone of a poor and chaotic environment.

Original movie poster of Baby Tsina
Original movie poster of Baby Tsina

The framing in the film gives the viewers a sense of atmosphere, in which it builds up the mood intended. A framing of long shot for a relatively stable shot used to see the full body action and tension between Elena and Roy’s sexual encounter. A medium long shot is used to institute a background of an alluring surrounding from where the main character works and it shows the tempting dances of the strippers as they move in the dance floor half dressed. At scenes shot at the dance club, it is usually shot with this framing to give a sense of the place and mood. While a use of a medium close up to show the sensuality and certain expressions of the individuals in that place. Also this framing is implied when emotions of two people are expressed simultaneously. As when Baby was being forced by a man from the club, the scene of him agitated and Baby’s expression of hatred and distaste and is both given implication and worth.

The application of soft lighting on Elena and hard lighting on Roy signifies of their diverse individuality at their first sexual encounter near the bay. Elena is shot looking seemingly sweet and placid while Roy is delivered as prevailing and muscular at their first moment together.

The heart-rending theme of the story was effectively communicated through the powerful use of mis-en-scène or how a scene is set. The film was set in a pre- Martial Law atmosphere, where chaos and lawlessness was already arising everywhere. The story of Elena Duavit, a.k.a. Baby Tsina, revolved around the underdeveloped environment. Thus, adds up to the kind of occupation she has as a prostitute in a bar called Pussy Cat. The detail of the period, the shanties and apartments, the restaurants and the dumps, the streets and the alleyways and the teeming crowds that come and go, these are familiar images in Philippines and life that in Baby Tsina appear more real and feel more real. The setting strengthens her motivation to work harder to keep out her family from poverty.

The sound used in this film accompany every mood of the scene and made it more convincing and realistic. The sounds inflicted in the film consisted of post- synchronization dubbing for the shooting and punches of gang members and sound effects. Editing is a very significant element of a film because it transforms a tedious sequence of shots into an attention-grabbing scene. It may be an invisible component to which film reviewers only get to analyze but as combined with other aspects of the movie it takes it into a whole new level. It considerably manipulates the overall experience of a viewer.

Baby Tsina illustrates some techniques and style of Italian neorealism movement for its similarity in some aspects. Particularly, the use of actual location usually in exterior rather than studio sites. The place where Baby Tsina works for is a real bar because the director did not deliberately use much props to execute the atmosphere of the workplace of prostitutes.  Thus the imprisonment of Baby Tsina was also shot in the actual detention center. This is very obvious because of the dirty walls and flooring while she was cleaning the bathroom.

There were also several shots in different parts inside the prison which is hard to do in a studio because it will not look realistic and convincing to the viewers. The film focused on how Baby Tsina became a better person after the conflicts and struggles that she went through. Even though in the beginning she made a lot of mistakes and bad choices, her motivations progressively changed. This is what Italian neorealism is all about: “a compassionate point of view and refusal to make inane moral judgments”. The movement also frequently deals with difficult economic and moral conditions hence portray the aftermath of the Facist war.

This illustrates the poverty that many Filipinos are facing during pre-martial law. This is the very reason why Baby Tsina chose to sell her body instead of finishing her studies. Poor economic development is what also drives Roy to migrate in the US where there are more job and business opportunities.

How is Baby Tsina seen in today’s world of technology and social media?

(via Joselle Janolo)

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