Updated: Mar 14, 2019
The American dream is an ideal chased by many for generations. The land of the free and home of the brave has long since idealised this notion of working towards a successful future, where one day all your graft is rewarded with the life you desire. In many ways the American dream, is the dream of most of us, sadly – like life – things are rarely ever so fair. Under the current administration especially the American dream has rarely looked so bleak, be it for actual Americans born and raised in the country or immigrants who travel to (what should be) the beacon of the Western world for a better life, and it is the latter story that Diwa centres on.
Starting with President Trump’s now infamous Mexican speech, you know that Diwa is going to have a heavy message but you are unprepared for the full weight of it to hit you. Telling the story of Diwa (Aina Dumlao), an undocumented immigrant from the Philippines, who has travelled to America to work towards a better life and help her family back home, this film also tells a far darker tale of the plight of a young woman who is exploited, assaulted and abused by physical attackers and by a broken system.
Some might say that the story is a tad heavy-handed thematically but it is one personal to co-director/writer and lead Aina Dumlao, whose uncle lost his wife while working for decades and never got back home to say goodbye. This is a vital story of how fractured the American dream has become, as well as a sympathetic call out to those that will listen, about the suffering that goes on in a confused, hopeless and ineffective immigration system and an indifferent eye of the law. Not to mention a damning statement on the current socio-political prejudices and hatred spread by a few that are poisoning people’s souls.
You could call this film angry but I’d prefer to call it sympathetic, as it applies this story of sexual/racial abuse and manipulation of the innocent and uses it as a universal application to the countless people out there living such uncertain, dangerous, hard working, lives. People who, like Diwa, arrived swept away by the face of a celebrated country before having their hope shattered by the sledgehammer of reality and were then let down further by the ineffective, often bile-filled, powers that be.
This is an important subject, covered impressively well by a short, which is shot with all the professionalism and excellence of a big budget production, thanks to sublime cinematography by Corey Cooper and editing/directing by Aina Dumlao and Bru Muller. Ramesh Kumar Kannan’s brilliant music captures a slight whiff of Hans Zimmer at points, as it follows the story from its uncertain start to its upsetting, lingering and unforgettably final finish.
Dumlao is superb in the lead role also and as Diwa she presents to us a figure that is realistic, innocent and common and her performance is emotional and dedicated to doing justice to a character that, in many ways, is so heartbreakingly real. Also good are the supporting players, including Leslie Thurston and Maria Pallas, as two compassionate but ultimately hand tied officials, whose attempts to help lead nowhere thanks to the convoluted and impenetrable modern system of immigration policy. There is also a very strong turn by Shaw Jones, who as an insulting and hostile officer aggressively characterises a country – like many others – that is too often governed by insecurity and abhorrence.
Diwa is a devastating watch that is not easy to sit through, mainly because of how easily believable it is.
Powerful and essential.
Watch the official movie trailer for Diwa here - https://www.mynameisdiwa.com/trailer