Two elderly matriarchs bear the consequences of a crime involving their grandsons: One is murdered, the other is the suspect. As the intense financial strains of a burial and legal case weigh on both women, they individually traipse around the prisons, funeral homes, and courtrooms of Manila amidst torrents of rain, while simultaneously struggling to maintain their families' lives in the makeshift shacks built along the city's rising waterways. Face-to-face with each other, they work together to reach a common, if compromised, resolution.
Capturing the desperate and frantically beautiful texture of the urban Manila landscape, Lola confirms the depth and range of Filipino director Brillante Mendoza's vision. Anita Linda and Rustica Carpio deliver incisive performances as the two determined leads in writer Linda Casimiro's penetrating critique of the criminal justice system, its accompanying bureaucracy, and the incomplete quest for justice and reconciliation.
Director's Statement Collapse
Our humanity can be weighed and balanced on the scales of justice. In Lola, a crime tests the strengths and frailties of two elderly women. One proves herself to be weak, the other strong. The balance of humanity is kept, and as in nature, the fittest survive. But human worth is governed by social status.
"Lola" means grandmother in Tagalog. Filipinos are very respectful of their elders, especially grandparents. Respect for the elderly is something the Filipinos can be proud of today and for many years to come. Grandparents play a major role in every Filipino family. Filipinos are known to have close family ties. When the parents are not around, the children are always left living with their grandparents. They often treat their grandchildren better than their own children.
In Lola, both grandmothers are played by professional actresses. I already had both actresses in mind when the writer and I conceived the story two years ago. Anita Linda, who plays Lola Sepa, is 84 years old and Rustica Carpio, who plays
Lola Puring, is 79 years old. It's always a joy to work with professionals like them. They never complained during the shoot, despite the difficult logistics.
The film was shot in Malabon, in the greater Manila area. It's about 45 minutes away from downtown. That community is flooded all year round. The water goes up or down depending on the rain. The people who live in that community decided to stay in the flooded area because they don't have any other home or place to reside in greater Manila. I decided to shoot in that area of Manila to show the living conditions of the people residing there and how they cope up with their daily existence and how they have adapted to such an environment. Despite their living conditions, they still manage to survive and at the same time find solutions to the problems of their loved ones.
I shot the film last June during the rainy season. I specifically wanted an overcast atmosphere to evoke the pain that the grandmothers are going through in the film. The rain and wind effects are all set up. We couldn't depend on real rain because the camera and lighting equipment would get wet. It's also too dangerous to have cables all over the place while it is raining. Water is also a symbol in Lola. Water is our source of life, but it can also be the source of stagnation and filth. We can also float along in water, but we can also drown in it.
The film was based on a real events like one grandson killing the other grandson. I situated this story during the rainy season not only to show how hard it is to live in that flooded part of Manila, but also because I wanted to have a more gloomy mood and atmosphere to complement the feelings of the struggling lead characters. Filipinos are basically survivors. They look at hardships as a part of life, but they remain hopeful. They tend to find solace and peace through prayer.
Modern life in the Philippines, like in any industrialized nation, can be complicated, especially for old people. City life is fast and hectic. Most of the time old people are considered to be a nuisance and useless because they are slow and old-fashioned. Nowadays, we can have everything with just the click of a finger, but in a developing country things can still be especially hard for old people because of red tape and bureaucracy.
The film starts on a close-up of money, and money plays an important part in the film's conclusion. Money is indeed the root of all evil. In Lola, the humanity of the two grandmothers is put to the test because of the needs of their loved ones, but not necessarily their own needs. The expenses of life and death depend on one's status in life. The richer you are, the more expensive it can be to die. But if you're poor, life can be negotiable.