Sister Stella L (1984)

MIKE DE LEON

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB

, 1984. . Screenplay by , , Mike De Leon. Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by . Production Design by . Film Editing by .

Director Mike De Leon’s sharp examination of life under the dictatorship of Fernando Marcos filters its commentary through the fact-based experience of a Catholic nun who follows her conscience towards a political awakening. Sister Stella Legaspi administers to the women who stay at her convent, one in particular is unmarried and pregnant and dreading the arrival of her baby. When a labour organizer comes to the nuns asking for help with fundraising for a strike at a nearby factory, Stella decides to help out by marching with a sign, and before she knows it finds herself deeply moved by the plight of struggling workers who are trying to get justice out of a fat cat corrupt employer.

The leadership at her convent warn her that she could get herself into trouble that they cannot get her out of, but Stella marches on ahead despite the fact that it means leaving behind the people she has been helping for so long. Her ex-boyfriend, now a journalist, is having similar troubles with his employers, trying to write a piece promoting the strike and the nun’s participation in it but meeting with resistance from his editor, who is afraid to make waves.

Intelligent and direct with its message, this film suffers from being far too talky, displaying the character’s experience through an overabundant series of scenes involving dialogue discussions that describe the events of the story rather than showing them. De Leon’s attempt to make a national statement with a microcosm isn’t always successful, sometimes it just looks like he doesn’t have the budget to film more than a handful of extras in a makeshift crowd scene, but is elegantly dominating in the lead role and holds the experience together with her wisely underplayed performance.

Venice Film Festival: In Competition

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