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You could’ve chosen a number of trainees and followed their personal stories, but instead, you decided to show the collective experience.
If I’d shown more of an individual story, I would’ve made one of the domestic workers a heroine, as an exception among the group. Each year, more than 200,000 women leave the Philippines to find domestic work abroad. The Filipina workers are often stereotyped as obedient and naturally suited to take care of elders and children. I wanted to break this stereotype to show that they are also individuals, not weak-willed victims, and that they aren’t just a statistic. I also wanted to explore the group dynamic, the sisterhood that builds among the group and the support they have for each other.
Your documentary introduces a different kind of reenactment to other documentaries, perhaps a pre-enactment, as physical and sexual abuse is staged as a form of preparation before the workers are deployed.
It’s true to an extent that they are working on future traumas rather than past traumas. But actually, it’s a mix, as the instructors and the experienced workers are bringing in their own lived experiences in the staging of these scenes. As such, the scenes are based on truth and not just imagination. The scenes were a good way to show what is happening overseas without actually going there. What I wanted to do in the film was to depict a transitional moment, an in-between space, kind of like a waiting room at an airport. They’re still in the Philippines but, in a sense, they’ve already left.