Cinemalaya 2020: ‘The Slums’ Review


You may be fully expecting a comedy when you watch Reeden Fajardo’s short film, The Slums but after watching the movie in its entirety, you would get mixed feelings about poverty and the media.

SYNOPSIS: The Slums is a mockumentary that follows a documentary team as they terrorize a poor family living in the urban slums of Manila. The film features the colorful lives of the Reyes family: Nayda, the family’s loving mother with body image issues; Julio, the hardworking but not very bright father; Oliver, the fabulous son who wants to be a supermodel; Boy, the youngest and naughtiest child; and Pam, the feisty eldest child of the family. The family TV is broken and as they struggle to fix it, they grow increasingly annoyed as the documentary team becomes more involved in their daily lives.

Pinoys are known to be a happy lot who make the most of any given situation and in the case of The Slums,  this character trait is explored to an uncomfortable degree as one poor family agrees to become the subject of a documentary film purported to depict their way of life in the slums of Tondo.

The positivity is effectively depicted by the actors cast as the poor family — when they are acting naturally on screen. However, halfway through the middle, as the documentary team starts to lead with questions and stage the scene of the family’s “horrible” predicament, you begin to wonder and reflect how society view the people who are living in slum areas. It also makes you question whether the scenes that you see on television is the actual reality being experienced by the poverty stricken folk or if they are overly dramatized versions aimed at getting views and hits.

As the film progresses, it slowly becomes evident that the family is viewed not as the subject of a documentary but as tools to reinforce stereotypes associated with poverty. The dehumanizing treatment of the family members disguised as comedy pokes fun at the public’s hyprocity  when they talk about aiding the poor.

The Slums doesn’t get overly profound with its messaging but it does get its point across in a straightforward manner. There were attempts to be funny but all of this is just a facade for entertainment value. For those who understand how it is to be poor, it is truly heartbreaking piece.