“An infant. A burial. A river of tears and rage.”
A Film by Maricon Montajes. A Kodao Production
Women’s rights activist Reina Mae Nasino was a month into her pregnancy when arrested by Manila’s police on suspected trumped-up charges. She endured a difficult pregnancy in one of the world’s most crowded prisons and gave birth to Baby River Emmanuel while in detention. Efforts to allow mother and child to spend more time together failed, the Philippine government justifying their early separation to the lack of infant care facilities inside prisons. Denied care from her mother, Baby River died at only three months old.
River of Tears and Rage is film culled from Kodao Productions’ Facebook Live coverage of Baby River’s wake and burial. Amid a raging coronavirus pandemic, a dead three month-old infant became a symbol of political repression by a regime denounced worldwide for its crimes against the people.
Alternative media outfit Kodao Productions has extensively reported on many cases of activists arrested on trumped up charges of possessing illegal guns and explosives. Reina Mae Nasino was one such case. She was pregnant when arrested and was forced to continue her pregnancy inside the country’s notoriously overcrowded prisons. She gave birth while in detention and was forcibly separated from her infant child very early. Due to lack of maternal care, the baby got sick and died at only three months old.
Kodao produced comprehensive reports on the drama that transpired during the baby’s wake and chaotic burial. Its live report generated the most number of views and reactions from a shocked nation as fully-armed police and jail guards went against deeply-held Filipino values of respect for the dead and burial traditions.
This film puts together the most dramatic events during a three-month old baby’s wake and burial, using smart phones, consumer cameras and Facebook Live footages. It also includes real time comments from viewers, a great majority of whom expressed outrage at the government’s merciless show of might against its people.
Maricon “Conz” Montajes is a video editor, filmmaker and a former political prisoner. After being incarcerated for seven years, she resumed her studies and recently graduated Cum Laude from the University of the Philippines Film Institute with a BA Film degree. She was a three-year scholar of the Office of the Initiatives for the Culture and the Arts UP Diliman Visual Arts and Cultural Studies Scholarship Program (OICA UPD-VACSSP) as well as a university scholar. She is the video designer for Huni at Pakpak, a stage play for the CCP’S Festival of Women’ s Plays 2020. She is also the video editor and director of Salugpongan and Sining Sandata, which both won 1st prizes in the 1st UP PAG-AALAY webXHIBITION & FESTIVAL. Her recent work, Sanib Lakas, also won Top 2 Judges’ Choice in Year 2 of CNN Reel Filipina A Digital Shorts Competition (2021). She is a videographer and photographer for Kodao Productions, an alternative media outfit based in the Philippines, and also part of the film collective Sine Sanyata.
River of Tears and Rage is a 26-minute video-documentary that started from a coverage of the crackdown against activist groups by the Rodrigo Duterte administration of the Philippine government, including that of Reina Mae Nasino and, by grievous extension, her three-month old infant.
As the first anniversary of the baby’s birth drew near, Kodao Productions decided to gather its actual video footage of the wake and burial, along with other materials from activist organizations and other alternative media outfits. The film is thus produced from these materials, central of which is the Facebook Live footage that gripped Filipino netizens that fateful day.
The film is a simple retelling of those events. With the exception of the sound designer, its production team is virtually the same coverage team that covered the wake and the burial.
As in most other small, independent and alternative multi-media outfits throughout the world, the production team members are skilled and versed in various disciplines that allow them to produce several kinds of outputs in several platforms.
Severely limited in yet another lockdown due to an outbreak of record numbers of new coronavirus cases, production meetings during the production of this film was conducted online.
About the producer:
Kodao has received awards and citations from the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, Catholic Mass Media Awards, Pandayang Lino Brocka, Titus Brandsma Awards, Gawad Agong, and Gawad Urian for its film and radio productions. It celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
From Kodao’s inception until his death last month, National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera served as chairperson of its Board of Directors. This film is dedicated to him. #
(The film’s online premiere today, October 16, is the anniversary of Baby River’s burial. The premiere is in partnership with Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights, Kapatid, Promotion of Church People’s Response, Gabriela USA and Malaya Movement USA.)