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Cigarettes, Survival: The Ultimate Juxtaposition



Behind the clean facades of the main streets of Manila, a young couple dwell in the maze-like squalor that is the slums of the Philippines. In an environment where theft and extortion are a means of survival exist a young family trying to make a buck in one of the most despairing ghettoes in the world. Meet CELSO AND CORA – the ‘stars’ of the award-winning Sunday Feature this Sunday May 29 at 9.00 PM.

In this important film taken from fragments over three months’ in the family’s lives, Celso and Cora make a living selling cigarettes at night outside a downtown hotel in defiance of city regulations. The film begins with Cora’s attempt to find a new room for the family after they have been evicted from their previous home. Later, Celso and Cora face a crisis in their own relationships, aggravated by the stresses of their daily life.

The film picked up the Grand Prize Winner award at the London Film Festival (1983), the Best Feature Documentary at the Chicago Film Festival (1983) and Biennial Film Prize Winner award at the Royal Anthropological Institute (1984) for its potency.

But, rather than being a report on poverty, this is a universal story of individuals experiencing everyday events with a mixture of courage, humour, irritation and weariness.

Australian independent film maker Gary Kildea spent several months living and filming in Celso and Cora’s neighbourhood. Throughout the film, there is a remarkable sense of trust and familiarity and the resulting work is both personal and observational, presenting an aspect of Filipino life rarely treated in depth by the western media.

Kildea’s previous films include one of the acknowledged classics of ethnographic cinema Trobriand Cricket (1974) and he has also worked for many years in Papua New Guinea contributing to numerous documentary projects.

During the film, viewers are treated to a first hand view through the ‘eyes’ of the camera as the couple struggle with a son with pneumonia and a daughter with a continual cough. As they spat over Cora’s mother, looking after the children and ‘work issues’, the couple’s domestic life seems queerly familiar. Except, as Celso says, they aren’t : “That’s how it is with the life of the poor. It’s not equal.”

A political and emotional statement, CELSO AND CORA screens on Maori Television on Sunday May 29 at 9.00 PM.


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