`H.O.P.E' by Edwin Chen

H.O.P.E extends that thread on poverty from `Away From Home’ and takes us back to the motherland of many domestic maids – The Philippines. In a suburban town, where rickety old houses and structures stand against richly-hued skies, a bittersweet story unfolds. One about giving hope to kidney patients.

Essentially, the documentary tries to uncover the motivations behind kidney donations in this town through 2 men’s stories. Undoubtedly, poverty and the need for money is involved somewhere. While, the answer could easily be guessed right from the start, it is the journey the documentary takes us on that makes this a a more vivid experience.

Unfortunately I forgot their names but one is more pot-bellied and the other a slimmer and younger bloke. The former ferries people around in something that looks like a tuk tuk but on bicycle wheels (more like a trishaw). Then we are led in on how he lives. It is essentially a depiction of squalor but cheerfully introduced. Naturally, the account of how the sewage pipes would occasionally burst and flood the house floor stuck in my head. It is against this context that we picture his attempt to donate his kidneys. The latter case made it more clear his reason for donating and could actually quantify the monetary rewards from doing so (if I remember correctly). I guess, he speaks for the more opportunistic, reckless, younger crop of donors. His ignorance of medical terms and comic mispronunciation of terms at the health declaration process spoke so much for his motivation behind the donation.

I found a lot of natural humour in H.O.P.E by Edwin Chen and Centrestage by Sze Jiamin and they were also very well edited to the right effect. While Centrestage was a laugh throughout, H.O.P.E. traversed between grimness and gregariousness. Somehow, I remembered towards the end, the conference moderator merrily reminded all that the kidney centre would be closed for Christmas, so no donations can be made, as if some would if it was open. For a country where Christmas is richly-celebrated, it was a bittersweet reference to the reality of poverty.

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