NERVOUS TRANSLATION – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

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Eight-year-old Yael (Jana Agoncillo) has long, lazy afternoons to fill when she is home alone after school, a daily reverie that writer-director Shireen Seno depicts with a delicately observed melancholy and a charming whimsy reminiscent of the films of Miranda July. A remarkably imaginative and self-contained child, Yael is often left to her own devices: her father is away working in Saudi Arabia — though the audiotaped “letters” he sends home, which she listens to over and over again, help fuel her daydreaming, even if she cannot quite understand the adult longing he expresses in them; and when her mother (Angge Santos) returns home from work each evening, she demands “30 minutes no talking” from the child. The heart breaks for Yael.

It is the late 1980s here, in the Philippines after the ouster of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and so it’s a very specific a moment of upheaval in Filipino history that Seno is grappling with. But everything in Nervous Translation we see through Yael’s eyes, and she of course has no idea what’s going on beyond the screen door of her house. Continue reading…

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MaryAnn Johanson

MaryAnn Johanson is a freelance writer on film, TV, DVD, and pop culture from New York City and now based in London. She is the webmaster and sole critic at FlickFilosopher.com, which debuted in 1997 and is now one of the most popular, most respected, and longest-running movie-related sites on the Internet. Her film reviews also appear in a variety of alternative-weekly newspapers across the U.S. Johanson is one of only a few film critics who is a member of The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (the Webby organization), an invitation-only, 500-member body of leading Web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities. She is also a member of the Online Film Critics Society. She has appeared as a cultural commentator on BBC Radio, LBC-London, and on local radio programs across North America, and she served as a judge at the first Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Film Festival at the 2003 I-Con, the largest SF convention on the East Coast. She is the author of The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride, and is an award-winning screenwriter. Read Johanson's recent articles below. For her Women On Film archive, type "MaryAnn Johanson" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).