Ma’ Rosa: A Social Cancer Exposé

Ma’ Rosa, a Brilliante Mendoza masterpiece, is a drama of survival amidst a social structure of ills and corruption as it centered on family as the most fundamental means to communicate a story. Jaclyn Jose, a lead actor in the film, and her winning at the Cannes Festival this year made the film more interesting to the audience. Truly, the film is more than just winning piece; it’s an awakening one.


Jaclyn Jose’s winning may have led to debates as her role didn’t warrant a lead quality, I must say that her skill and presence were all apparent. That sense of control and composure, the emotional distraught and frustration, and the resilience were all depicted by her character. It was compelling that scene after scene revolved around her. Everything was felt from her own eyes and mind. It was blunt, crass, and genuine that the audience, who may be new to the setting, felt everything. Kudos to Jaclyn Jose!

The role of the husband as depicted by Julio Diaz relevantly cemented the context. Being a drug addict and user, and a father to the family showed an essential character of the demise in the traditional machismo role bringing into reality a clear picture of how men get into the pits of their own choosing and not getting out of them. It has been clear at the outset that the mother figure of Rosa brings a more assertive, matriarchal, survival lead, breaking traditional women roles, while showing the reality wherein women actually live.

The children’s characters were instrumental in moving the lens from different stories and gruesome realities. It made the transitions smooth in the process leading to the end.

The rest of the characters were foundational in creating a consistent picture of the reality that Ma’ Rosa ought to depict.


Social Realities, Matriarchal Roles, Social Ills

Brilliante Mendoza has been prominent in seeping through the depths of the societal maligning and depicting it for people to see. What I love about indie-films is their crass, blunt, and bleak depiction of reality, and with this, there is a refreshing take of the usual and predictable commercial films. I caught myself anticipating for predictable scenes as the lens of the camera made random focuses on people, but there was none to see. This is the breakthrough of indie-films, the exposing of the bigger picture of the story that is being told. As I was seeing Ma’ Rosa, it dawned on me that commercial films have become too illusive of the real stories to the point that people have become dreamy about things. But indie-films bring out the true story, a story that people must see.

What was blunt about the film was its underscoring of the maligned, social system. There was as if no hope of change since corruption is ingrained in society, among the powerful and authorities, and there is no way out. Poverty seems to be the design for society to function. The institutionalization of corruption justifies such structure. The film was effective in highlighting this as it gave out the emotion of hopelessness and a bleak day-to-day life. But as Mendoza had said, this is for people to start with change. It may be daunting to begin anyway, the objective in showing this story seems to unravel truth that has long been covered in the seemingly institutionalized social cancer. To me, this is phenomenal. Will this change society? Not necessarily. But films like this will forward causes and affirm people’s humanistic ideals for change.

What I appreciated the most in the film is the role of Rosa being the mother and the driving force for survival. This breaks the conventional depiction of men being the provider in families. This is reality in Filipino society. Mothers take the strong role of putting the family together amidst odds. It was depicted that while Rosa was all around putting things in place, the husband was just sitting around even sniffing substance. And in the context today, this ACTUALLY happens. This is more than just a feminist take on the film. It’s more of a giant stride to changing traditions and living in the real story. And again, this makes the film beautiful.


Ma’ Rosa ended with Rosa taking a glimpse at one picture of one probable side of reality. It dawned on her as she tried to wipe off tears and sweat on her face. It just brings me chills when these scenes bring to life how strong a human being can be despite the most depressing of all turn-of-events in life. Ma’ Rosa (Ma – a shortened word for Mama or mother) represents every Filipino amidst the worse of all social ills.

Another Brilliante Mendoza must-watch film in cinemas!


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