Overseas (Review)

A vital and affecting exposé of a horrifying system. The filmmaker takes us inside a centre where Filipino women are trained to work as maids overseas, Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). The whole situation is horrible, the women are preparing to be sent off into slavery – given a meagre wage for exploitative contracts that they are forced to work outside of. There is an expectation of abuse and they are separated from their families, and robbed of all agency and humanity.

The film explores the profound loneliness and isolation of these figures, primarily mothers, who have to leave their children – and wider families – to work in foreign countries for unknown periods of time. It highlights a desperation that forces them into this scenario – wide societal issues – but also shows how the system they are now a part of will trap them in a new cycle of desperation.

The most affecting parts are the filmed role play sessions, where we get a glimpse into what will happen, and see it normalised. This includes preparing for sexual assault – and being told to report this to the company or immigration, nobody else.

Overall, this is an important and illuminating documentary. The verité approach and focus on just showing life lived suits the needs of the film – humanising the dehumanised. However, the overarching structure is very loose – very arthouse. This is a film that maybe could do with being more direct, a clearer structure to frame the slice-of-life evocations – as opposed to just arty b-roll connecting everything. There is the sense that, though it speaks powerfully, it could perhaps speak more clearly and to a wider audience – especially considering the importance of what it has to say.

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