Published Oct 01, 2003Small Voices is a genre film in the small triumphs over great adversity mould. Set in a poor rural community in the Philippines, it follows the arrival and initiation of an idealistic, aspiring teacher, Melinda, played by Alessandra de Rossi. Her expectations are battered at every turn by the self-interested frivolity of her co-workers and the contempt for education shown by her students and their parents. She sets herself the task of thwarting the complacency of those surrounding her by deviously ingenious solutions and wins the affection of her students by her gentle and real concern. As she becomes more aware of the lack of hope endemic in this community, she decides to enrol her students in a regional singing contest. Needless to say, she encounters opposition on all sides and must embrace the double task of winning over her colleagues and the parents, as well as teaching the competition song to her class.
Although we have all heard this story many times over, there is something special, if not surprising, about Small Voices. It's incredible, but there appears to be a corner of the globe that has not yet arrived at the age of irony. Unlike recent inspirational films made in the west (The Full Monty, Bend it Like Beckham, etc.), this film is an honest retelling of a classic theme without the overt manipulation that puts the others into a marketing sub-genre. Small Voices is devoid of the conscious awareness that stroking the right audience in the right way will result in a mega-blockbuster. Rather, it revisits a time when a simple story could be told sincerely without compromising its universal human interest.
Naturally this makes a tale that is almost too sweet for today's jaded palette. However, there are shots and episodes that reveal the plight of the small Filipino farmer with almost documentary candour. The use of symbolism, although simple, is perfectly chosen and integrated. The children are all unaffected and very diverse and there is not one actor, including the modest Ms. de Rossi, who looks ready to board the next plane for Hollywood. All of these factors contribute to making Small Voices a compelling restatement of its internal theme. (Mongrel Media)