A film made about expatriate life that was shot for just Dh10,000 has hit the big screen and a streaming service.
The Filipino-made psychological chiller Lamentasyon was shown to moviegoers in the Reel cinema in Al Ghurair Centre, Deira, last month.
The film focuses on the challenges faced by overseas workers when they move abroad to support family back home.
In a modern migration phenomenon, it is estimated that nearly 10 per cent of the Philippines' 100 million-plus population works overseas at any one time, including more than two million in the Middle East.
“The idea for the film came from my own life experience,” said director Chino Pereira, 38.
“I’m the breadwinner for my wife and daughter and the experience of the pandemic really hit me."
Mr Pereira has been in the UAE for 12 years, of which 10 years was spent working in marketing in airport duty free.
He later established his own photography and video business for the events industry, before focusing full-time on filmmaking and TV commercials in 2019.
Lamentasyon, or Lamentation in English, was his first full-length feature film produced, written, acted, directed, marketed and distributed by Filipinos based in Dubai.
It took ten months to film and hundreds of viewers have paid Dh10, or 150 pesos, to watch at home via an streaming service called KTX, with proceeds contributing to the Psychological Association of the Philippines.
Dubai plays a starring role, with shots of the Burj Khalifa, Downtown, the beaches of Jumeirah, Sheikh Zayed Road and Deira providing much of the scenery.
“Dubai was a spectacular backdrop as a film set,” said Mr Pereira, who was surprised by the film’s relative success online.
“We were already a few months into filming when the outbreak happened and we had to take a break.
“I had a small budget and it was just for fun, more of a passion project, so we never thought it would get this big.
“Outdoor scenes were hard to make and the continuity was difficult as some staff were no longer available, so we had to reshoot.”
The casting came from a Facebook group called 'People On The Go'.
Many were Mr Pereira’s friends, a group of actors, fellow filmmakers and others who he got to know in Dubai.
“We have weekly acting workshops and we have 450,000 followers on the group so it is very popular,” he said.
The story follows Samuel as he gets to grips with his new life in Dubai and the new challenges along the way.
When Gino moves out of his shared accommodation, it leaves an opening for Samuel who is working overseas for the first time.
The plot follows his journey in Dubai, from meeting new housemate Gerry, starting a new restaurant job and the challenges of dealing with family problems while away from home.
Things turn dark when Samuel starts hallucinating and Gerry starts to suffer from depression, as he misses home and struggles to adapt.
As Samuel begins to adjust to his new life, the film takes another chilling twist.
Mr Pereira said the plot was influenced by his own bout of depression.
“Depression is an important topic," Mr Pereira said.
“At the start of the outbreak, everything was shut down and I found it hard.
“I experienced depression and it made the film even more real for me.
“The film making process really helped me and gave me hope that depression is not the end of the world.”
Filipino contribution to Dubai society
Lamentasyon shows the strong sense of community among Filipinos and shares familiar themes experienced by many expatriate workers.
Paul Cortes, the Philippine consul general in Dubai, whose wife appears in the film said its themes reflect a wider contribution from kabayans to Dubai life, and not just as workers who send money home.
“It shows the contribution Filipinos make to their home country by their remittance as well as what they offer here in the UAE,” he said.
“We have tried to point out it is not just economic, but also social and this contributes to the overall image of a Filipino abroad.
“People from the Philippines talk about mental health casually, but not academically or in terms of searching for professional help.
“The mentality is one of family, so we discuss thoughts and opinions with each other. Rarely do we find the need to ask a professional for help.
“This movie touches on the need that sometimes, a professional is necessary to combat depression.”