Nervous Translation

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Philippines | 2018 | 90 minutes | Shireen Seno

In this beautifully woven drama set in post-Marcos Philippines, familial tensions are heavy for precocious Yael, hence why she avoids all relatives, including her mother. A magic pen that can translate the thoughts of nervous people might solve her problems.

Amid the backdrop of the Philippines's Peoples Power Revolution of the 1980s and its resolution, this encapsulating story is told through the eyes of eight-year-old Yael. Intoxicated by her own small world, Yael lives with her absent mother in Manila while her dad is away from the family working in Riyadh. The banality of everyday life is made entrancing by Yael's precocious imagination. Most of her time is spent writing alone and observing the people around her as opposed to interacting with them. She plays recorded cassette tapes from her father over and over again as they simultaneously fuel her sense of wonder and longing. Her rock star uncle tries his best to play fill-in dad, only Yael's mutable code is tough to crack as she refuses to open up. Yael and her mother deal with the separation from her dad in conflicting ways that highlight the power of Yael's imagination and underlay the film's overarching tension. When a massive typhoon threatens the country, Yael deals with it in the only way she knows how, buying a magic pen that, according to her dreams, can write off all of her problems. Director Shireen Seno's quietly colorful tale celebrates the quirky wisdom unique to children, as they try to make sense of the turbulent world around them.

Director Biography 

Tokyo native Shireen Seno is praised for illustrating emotions and bringing settings alive with which she has no personal experience. Her focus on small details is due in part to a childhood of listening intently to descriptive family stories passed down through generations. Though a student of architecture, she finds her passion comes alive through the medium of film.

Sponsored by BECU, Fox Plumbing & Heating

  • Director: Shireen Seno
  • Principal Cast: Jana Agoncillo, Angge Santos, Sid Lucero
  • Premiere Status: Seattle
  • Country: Philippines
  • Year: 2018
  • Running Time: 90 minutes
  • Producer: John Torres, Ronald Arguelles
  • Screenplay: Shireen Seno
  • Cinematographers: Albert Banzon, Jippy Pascua, Dennese Victoria
  • Editors: John Torres, Shireen Seno
  • Music: Itos Ledesma
  • Website: Official Film Website
  • Awards: International Film Festival Rotterdam 2018 (NETPAC Award)
  • Filmography: Big Boy (2011)
  • Language: Filipino
  • Has Subtitles: Yes
  • Format: DCP
  • International Sales: Reel Suspects