The documentary form is certainly adept at bringing far-flung people and places into our hearts and minds via condensed visual storytelling. The genre can be further given credit for breaking down the barriers that separate us from the countless stories we catch fleeting peripheral glimpses of on the street.
Chances are, you’re familiar with the Filipino nanny. Perhaps the more privileged among our readers have grown up with or employed one. These temporary foreign workers give a lot to us, but leave so much behind. Writer/Director Kent Donguines would know. His own mother left home when he was six to raise other children across the Pacific. She was unavailable to tell her particular story here, but Donguines finds many just like them in his latest short-form doc, Kalinga (aka Care).
Some like Esther Tabujara have been helping to foreign children for longer than we’ve been alive. Others have used their experience to help pave a smoother road for those who follow them, like Maria Facundo’s caregiver placement agency. Many like Marry Ann Dumaguing have had to deal with the anguish of being estranged from their own children, a point that hits home hard in a particularly heartbreaking interview. It doesn’t help that this type of labour is easily exploitable as pointed out by Vancouver MLA Mable Elmore. Temporary foreign workers typically have their immigration status tied to their job which leaves them little recourse when confronted with bad employers.
Donguines makes the most out of the limited half-hour runtime. Each of the participants adds a vital piece to a conversation that needs to be had outside the occasional slow-day news cycle. The facts and experiences on display deeply resonate even if you’ve never had or hired a nanny/caregiver. The presentation lacks polish at times with overwritten lower thirds clashing with english subtitles (half the film is in Tagalog) and some questionable archival photos the director uses to set up his story (which one of these kids is him again??).
My own maternal Grandparents were blessed to have live-in caregivers from India when the COVID pandemic hit which I am convinced helped them to avoid the fate that befell far too many in long term care homes in the course of this pandemic. The growing pains of expanding globalism continue to introduce new problems even as it solves old ones. Kalinga invites us to reckon with the trade-offs that result when we try to patch our own families with pieces from another one.
Kalinga (Care) screens as part of a virtual DOXA from May 6 – May 16