“A contemplative film on the effects a typhoon leaves on a seaside city in the Philippines. Myths are woven in to try to understand how people cope with the devastation and trauma. A girl’s voice divulges bits and pieces of her own memory of her grandmother and mother to tie in the experiences she felt visiting this ravaged port city.”
“To Calm the Pig Inside” is an emotional journey through a ravaged landscape, where locals are faced with great adversity and struggle in dealing with tragedy. Director Joanna Vasquez Arong presents the information through an engaging narrative, delivered by a young girl relating both personal experience and second hand stories. Within the narration, the documentary touches on various perspectives of a devastated community. On top of the sincere interpretation through a young woman’s words, the dialogue also reflects on the media/political coverage, tragic accounts and folklore. Conveying its message through various sources creates a strong empathetic tone, with various reflections guaranteeing some familiarity to one’s own cultural perceptions. The narration also conveys a profound sense of pride for the residents of the small coastal village, in spite of the stories being disheartening. Ultimately, the production conveys the seriousness of the situation while showing its subjects as resilient and proud as opposed to helpless victims.
The use of sound to create atmosphere is impeccable in its delivery. Among the consistent sound of hushed rain and wind, voices or certain noises relating to the narration can be heard faintly in the background. The mix blends well with the haunting vibe of bombardment from the elements, scored with the tragic and sometimes hopeful sounds of the residents. It becomes hard to pin down the effect, as saying the overall sound is serene seems a bit disingenuous to the subject matter, but there is an undeniable beauty in its presentation. The narration is soft spoken, delivered in a calm, and sincere tone, which gives the impression of personal reflection on the past. Overall, the mix of background and spoken audio is sublime in its balance and delivery.
The high definition visuals offer a mix of footage, stills, art and news reports, mostly presented in black and white. The pallet compliments the material well with the exception of the news footage which is ugly and blurry in comparison. However, this footage does serve to better help the narrative and does not deter or disengage from the subject matter, instead only slightly marring an otherwise exceptional presentation. The footage and stills have the feeling of being meticulously curated to best match the voice-over, which always compliments the dialogue. With such a varied exploration of media, it flows seamlessly, making sure each moment will leave a lasting impression.
“To Calm the Pig Inside” is a brilliantly constructed documentary, which balances information, emotional response and folklore into a strong narrative. Complimenting the narrative is a strongly defined visual and audio approach that makes for an engrossing experience. Joanna Vasquez Arong showcases an understanding of storytelling and an eye for artistic flair which is rare for a debuting director. The short documentary is a must watch for anyone who gets the chance,since, beyond being well constructed, the humanitarian message is bound to leave an impression on audiences.