The purity of “Pureza”-A A +A
By Luci Lizares
Saturday, February 18, 2012
I MADE it a point to watch the gala showing of Pureza despite personal circumstances (we just buried my Mother a few days past) because I knew that this documentary was most important. It dealt about my past (even way past my past) and onto my children’s future.
So there I was, open to watch, to listen, to learn. For someone who grew up in the sugar industry and believing that I knew enough, I realized that there many things amiss and I was likewise remiss.
It elicited a flood of emotions: there was much pride, much sadness, shock of the plight of the sacadas, more compassion for the generations of our farm workers who have toiled in our lands.
Since our eyes saw the first light of day, our world was sugar. People seem to worry about 2015 but I still look up in faith and hope. Negrenses cannot be faulted for not trying to diversify because we tried in many ways. But in the end, we went back and quite got stuck with the sugar industry - striving through the worst of times and enjoying its glory in the best of times.
We all have our varied opinions of the movie. To most hacienderos, the truth is embraced. Every person I know in Negros and more were present in the cinema. But I see the need for people, especially those in government and its agencies who make the laws and enforce them and yet know less than us who have lived on this industry for generations.
The movie’s aim is to define the sugar industry through all its participants and not merely by one or two or a handful so that there is clarity of understanding.
Jay Abello, director of Pureza says: “If we told everyone that the story of the sugar industry was so compelling, so complicated and worth 10 movies, people would just wait for it to be told. Nobody would go and read or go to the museum to research on it.
Very little enjoy history anymore. That is why we never learn. Sad to say, you can’t really tell the story of the sugar industry in one movie. But we tried.
Our first edit was three hours long. And we brought it down to 2 hours and 15 minutes. We then asked three of our filmmaker/director/writer friends to watch it and it was just terrible. Eventually, we cut it down to 1 hour and 45 minutes. That is what you will see. It won’t have everything because it can’t. But it’ll be enough.”
How do you tell such a story?
Joey Gaston narrates: “Three years ago, Agnes Magsaysay Villar, Gina Bautista Martin and I were tasked by our group to embark on a very ambitious project – to make a documentary film about the Negros sugar industry. This was borne out of a need to tell a story - our story.”
“This was one story that has never been done on film before. And we all felt that it was vital to the history and the future of this industry. Our biggest challenge then, was – how do you tell such a story?
For this task, we turned to filmmaker and director Jay Abello. Being a Negrense himself and a sugar farm manager at one time, we felt that he was the right person to do this. We were very grateful when he accepted the challenge and he suggested that we do a full-length documentary film.”
“We then began the difficult task of not only raising the money to produce the film but get the research started, looked for material sources and identify people to interview. The response was very encouraging. We discovered that each door we knocked on opened one door after another and another. Everyone we talked to had a story to tell. And the story evolved. What started as a one-year project took three years to complete. It was definitely not easy. But somehow, things fell into place, and we thank God for that.”
Joey thanks the people who supported and helped in making the film a reality: the interviewees who gave their valuable time and the patience to sit for hours sharing their experiences and stories. To those who shared their documents, photos, memorabilia, libraries, to those who opened up their homes - from the farm workers to the planters, to the millers and different stakeholders in the industry who made the documentary most credible and factual. Not forgetting the benefactors, who have contributed, big or small, to make this a reality.
Pureza is an important story as Joey says because it is both personal and very close to our hearts - we Negrenses. And it is to the people of Negros that this film is dedicated.
Jay Abello who gave a prologue before the film showing said, “The sugar industry fell in the late 70’s and I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I think my parents protected us from the real horrors that were happening. Yes, they were probably just protecting us.”
I totally agree with him because we were all sheltered from the truth. These were the many revelations of the movie.
He continues, “This is a very hard movie to watch. It’s going to be long and heavy because history is long and heavy. But it is also very important. History is very, very important.”
So let the truth be told!
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on February 18, 2012.