Film Review: Transit

By Joy Chiang Ling

Told through several character arcs, Transit is a film whose narrative structure is somewhat reminiscent of Memento. It is about a Filipino family living illegally in Israel and the challenges they face with the country’s strict deportation laws. The family consists of several members: Janet (Irma Adlawan), a woman who helps shelter her family members in Tel Aviv; Moises (Ping Medina), Janet’s brother, father of a four-year-old boy and a caregiver; Tina (Mercedes Cabral), Janet’s niece and newly arrived migrant hopeful; Yael (Jasmine Curtis), Janet’s daughter who identifies more with Israeli rather than Filipino people, and Joshua (Marc Justine Alvarez), Moises’ son. Transit deals heavily with complicated subject matters, such as illegal immigration and national and cultural identity.

Directors Giancarlo Abrahan and Hannah Espia (a female director!) clearly took great care and consideration in choosing the actors for the film. Notable actors include Medina, Adlawan and Curtis, who were all able to express powerful emotions very convincingly. Adlawan, for instance, expressed an array of complex emotions that ranged from tender, motherly love to impulsive fury. Her acting might remind viewers of their own protective mothers or mother figures, especially during the scene where Adlawan scolds her daughter, Yael, for being careless. An honorable mention goes to Marc Justine Alvarez, who is very talented for his age, but was unable to show off his true potential due to his role.

Transit will likely send a shiver up viewers’ spines with its script’s powerful writing and the cast’s evocative acting. It is, however, a film that is one-sided in its debate, and simplifies a complicated international issue by sugarcoating it with emotions. To help strengthen the argument that the directors are trying to make through the film, they should have further expanded on the characters’ motivation to move to Israel. Their reasons never go beyond “the Philippines is in bad condition,” which doesn’t seem like a strong enough explanation to justify putting so much effort in dodging immigration officers in Israel. The characters’ motivations would have been more plausible if the writers had included something such as memories of intense hardship in the Philippines.

People interested in immigration reform will undoubtedly be intrigued by this captivating indie movie. The Filipino diaspora in Israel is a unique and interesting group to focus on, but despite its specific subject matter, Transit will likely resonate with a much wider, global audience.

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