Small Voices

An idealistic Filipina school teacher tries to improve the lives of her students at an impoverished school by entering them in a district choral competition, but faces stiff opposition from both her complacent fellow instructors and the children's parents, who don't see how education will benefit future subsistence farmers and parents. Recently graduated...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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An idealistic Filipina school teacher tries to improve the lives of her students at an impoverished school by entering them in a district choral competition, but faces stiff opposition from both her complacent fellow instructors and the children's parents, who don't see how education will benefit future subsistence farmers and parents. Recently graduated from the University of Manila, Melinda Santiago (Alessandra De Rossi) defies her mother's request that she join her in America and takes a position in the tiny, isolated, rural school district of Malawig. She's replacing Pilar Chayong (Lailani Navarra) who, discouraged with the low wages and poor working conditions, has decided to take a domestic job overseas. The school is a wreck, lacking proper books or materials; the roof leaks when it rains and the principal, Mrs. Pantalan (Dexter Doria) supplements her income by bullying the children to spend their few pennies to buy ice cream from her. Children often miss school to help out at home, boys working the fields with their fathers and girls watching younger children. When they do attend class, siblings often share a single uniform shift, attending classes in shifts. The jungles surrounding Malawig hide guerilla rebels, and bodies often wash up on the shores of the town's river. Despite such pervasive hardship, Melinda refuses to give in to despair, sharing with her students the advice her won father gave her: "Everyone has the right to dream," and with hard work dreams can become true. When Melinda hears of an inter-school music competition, she sees a way to give her students a goal. With only grudging support from Mrs. Panatlan, she enters Malawig Elementary School, and sets about transforming her ragtag charges into a cohesive choral group. As they learn their number — a sweet little number about hope and love called "Small Voices" — the youngsters learn to work together, respect each other and imagine that perhaps they might one day leave Malawig and venture into the wider world. The end is hardly in doubt, since this sweet-natured film treads a path worn smooth and hard by countless other tiny feet. Its message is as unimpeachable as it is familiar, differentiated from countless similar tales only by the Filipino setting. (In Tagalog and Philipino, with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: An idealistic Filipina school teacher tries to improve the lives of her students at an impoverished school by entering them in a district choral competition, but faces stiff opposition from both her complacent fellow instructors and the children's parents,… (more)

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