Movie Review: Haw-ang (Before Harvest)

Sometime last May, we blogged about Haw-ang, an indie film about a Catholic nun assigned to teach catechism in an Ifugao village but who ended up doing more than that. This is what we said:

After Batad sa Paang Palay, here comes another film about Ifugaos entitled Haw-ang (English Title: Before Harvest) produced by an independent outfit.

We are, of course, looking forward to watching the movie but it seems like it belongs to that tired genre of movies about poor local villagers who have “slow spirits” and who live “little lives” and whose lives will improve only because of the help of an outsider. [Quoted words are from this article which appears to be a press release for the movie.]

We never believed in those kinds of films, they may be well-meaning but they are patronizing and condescending. In fairness, we still have to watch the movie so we are keeping our mouths shut for the moment.

We are now going to open our big mouth because we watched the movie. Our verdict: We didn’t expect to like it but we ended up liking it a lot. It is better than Daan Patungong Kalimugtong (which we also like but we like Haw-ang more) and much much better than Batad sa Paang Palay (which we partly liked and partly disliked).

We still don’t like the “theme” or the main message of the movie, i.e., outsider changes the lives of poor villagers. Why? Because it teaches us to look for outside saviors rather than helping ourselves. Also, this theme is particularly the wrong one to use in a Cordillera context because our environment have shaped us to rely on ourselves and to not be dependent on outside forces. Outsiders, of course, can bring in a new perspective to a remote village but to portray them as saviors is just silly.

Anyway, despite the above quibble, Haw-ang is a very good and well-made film. There are many things to like in this movie such as:

Adorable kids? Check
Use of local language? Check. In some portions.
Movie twists and turns? Check
Good acting? Check
Nice music? Check
Great cinematography? Check. It would be poor film making indeed if one shoots in Ifugao and still comes up with a bad cinematography.
Ifugao rituals? Check. At least dito, they are integral to the story. Unlike in Batad sa Paang Palay where indigenous rituals are shown without any apparent reason.

There’s even some sex and violence for those who like movies of that genre. So folks, this is a good film. Those of you who are in Manila should watch it while it is still showing. The theater was empty when we watched it yesterday.

9 thoughts on “Movie Review: Haw-ang (Before Harvest)”

  1. Hmmm…You didn’t like the script but you liked the movie because of the other factors that you mentioned, is that it, Sir B?

    You are correct in your critic of the script. Outsiders are always portrayed as saviors of indigenous groups. But I think most NGOs today know that communities should ‘own’ the projects they introduce because it is the only way that these projects could continue especially when they (outsiders) are gone.

    However, this is ideal and it’s not oftentimes the case. Case in point, GMA: Foreign investors, anyone? =)

  2. Hehehe, mukhang hindi masyadong klaro ang aking review. To be honest, I was looking for the right word in place of “theme” pero I can’t find it. Now, I think the better word to use, for what I didn’t like in the movie, would be “main message”. I’ve edited the post to include these words.

    So it isn’t so much the script that I didn’t like kundi ang pinaka-mensahe nito — that locals can’t effect change in their lives kung walang outsider pushing them to do it.

    In this movie for instance, hindi daw makita ng barangay captain ang relevance ng school. Tanong niya, bakit pa kailangan ang school eh meron namang ibang school six kilometers (or six hours yata iyon) away? So the nun had to open his eyes to see the importance of the school.

    But despite this and as I said earlier this is a very good movie.

    Yes, I think the NGOs are doing a better job in this area. To be fair, some government agencies are also conscious of this and are careful not to project themselves as saviors or to build a outsider=savior mentality.

  3. I still don’t like missionaries.

    If this was a movie about a teacher who just happens to be a nun. Well and good.

    However, if this is a movie about a nun converting locals in the guise of building a school then I don’t support it…:D

  4. Hi Nashman,
    I assumed that the people there are already Catholics because I thought (maybe I’m wrong) that the Catholic Church teaches catechism (catechize?) only to its members.
    Pa-clarify nga if catechism could also mean converting/evangelizing people. Thanks. Hindi ko alam eh.

    So she is a nun who went to teach catechism but who eventually decided to teach the ABCs when she found out that the kids don’t know how to read.

    I was a bit confused in this movie (like why is she teaching kids only and why is she building a school and not a church) but decided to just sit back, relax, and enjoy. Thanks again 🙂

  5. that’s good that she was building a school instead of a church.

    i think if you teach catechism, saan pa nga ba mapupunta yun? i mean there is not point attending religious classes at that level. it’s mainly a recruitment program…

  6. kaya hindi nyo masyadong malaman if you like the movie or not kasi dalawa director niyan..most of the scenes in that movie hindi yung nakalagay dun. magkaiba ang artistic staff pati ng movie na yan. mas maraming ginawa yung naunang artistic staff diyan..

    ayun lang..


  7. Hi Anonymous,
    Thanks. Interesting info. But, just to clarify, are you referring to the Batad movie? Because I was really divided whether I should like it or not. Kasi nga parang disjointed ang movie so the disjointedness could be explained by its having two directors/artistic staff.

    I liked Haw-ang as a movie but not its underlying message, i.e., outsiders are saviors.

    Thanks again 🙂

  8. Hello Mr. B! Nice review. I have enjoyed reading it. I wonder if you can provide me detailed description or summary of the Independent Films Haw ang, Batad and Daan Patungong Kalimugtong. I am very eager to watch these films but unfortunately I can’t fnd copies of these films in Baguio even in Manila. Thank you…

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