Movie Review: Katas ng Saudi

An entry to the 2007 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), Katas ng Saudi (Juices of Saudi) is a commentary on the current state of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) told in a comic and heartwarming tale. (Trivia time: Approximately one in every ten Filipinos are working outside of the Philippines and three in every one hundred Filipinos are based in the Middle East.)

"Katas ng Saudi" is a phrase used to describe the fruits of labor of a Filipino professional in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The movie shows what are the "fruits" of laboring in the Middle East for ten years for an engineer (played by a hefty Jinggoy Estrada) who goes back home to the Philippines to a family he barely knows. Add to that a host of sycophants (his mother, his brother-in-law, distant relatives and friends) to make things worse, the hapless balikbayan* is left wondering if going home was a good idea.

The movie shows a microcosm of life for OFW families: a parent who missed a good portion of his children's lives and wanting to be a part of it, relatives making the balikbayan guilty for not helping the family, and the question of practicality in working abroad versus staying home to be with your loved ones. Director and writer Jose Javier Reyes makes very good observations on contemporary Filipino society and distills them in to an easy to appreciate film.

While the acting from the main cast (Estrada, Lorna Tolentino as the wife, Shaina Magdayao as the rebellious daughter) is decent, storytelling is where Katas ng Saudi earns its chops. The "A" grade** from the Cinema Evaluation Board is a very well-deserved fruit of the film creators' efforts.

*balikbayan - A Filipino term to describe a person who went home from overseas.
**"A" grade - The highest grade the Cinema Evaluation Board gives to a film based on direction, screenplay, acting and technical merits.

Rating: 4/5

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