Poverty of the Human Soul: A Movie Analysis of Brillante Mendoza’s Tirador

Forming an unassuming picture of the less familiar side of Manila, Brillante Mendoza’s Tirador showed how it feels to live in the slum area that is Quiapo.


Forming an unassuming picture of the less familiar side of Manila, Brillante Mendoza’s Tirador showed how it feels to live in the slum area that is Quiapo.

Using a handheld camera and following the trend of documentaries, the movie follows the characters through dark, eerie corridors, and through the filthiness of the squatter areas, which shows the human soul as the weakest point of the society.

Veering from the plots of the usual heartwarming Pinoy films, the film shows how to subsist amid the cruelty of society, the characters’ schemes to survive for another day, perhaps accurate in all its scatological aspects. The film shows the unwanted effects of the culture of machismo, it shows that the human soul is frail and weak to resist the call of evil and how people can be corrupted by strong human urges.

It shies away from scenes showing the characters crying in their melancholy or showing them ending their strife through the “easy way out”, or portraying the side of poverty which we‘re used to seeing. The film shows more of the human side of the characters.

The poor, usually portrayed as one-dimensional characters with stealing as their middle name, are given an in-depth treatment in the film and we are taken into their personal lives.

The characters show their connectedness through certain attributes, most particularly, poverty. And through this connectedness, images are presented to us: a street rumble showing its “real” cause, the annual Quiapo penitensiya complete with its resident participants – both the believers and the flippant, an infant deprived of affection and love eating her own feces as her parents fight, a teenager killing his girlfriend’s lover using a switchblade and crying in the middle of a basketball court after committing the crime, and a young boy conversing with his mother over the phone about the cost of his fathers burial, devoid of any feeling.

The call of need makes a great impact in one’s self, and the movie shows the ingenuity of human beings who are in great need. To the “civilized”, where the truth is fabricated, actions that do not fit the standards of what is “accepted” are considered as crimes. But what do we know about the lives of those who know no other way of earning a living other than stealing? We see them as criminals, but tend to forget that it is human nature to do EVERYTHING to survive. The end does not justify the means, you say. But the end that they’re striving for is merely to put the food on the table for the day, with hopes of having another for the next day, and the next day as well. Who knows, we might be committing crimes more offensive than what these characters commit, but due to those “truths” instilled upon us, we are quick to judge what they do without considering our own actions.

The characters may not live by the rules, man-made rules which equate to the obstruction of their rights and privileges. Showing the unglamorous truth about the present society as mediocre and the vulnerability of humans to doing whatever it takes to survive, Tirador makes the prejudiced sympathetic in ways that tear-jerkers cannot.(Bulatlat.com)

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