Embracing humanity: 'Yakap,' the documentary on children with special needs
There are many films that can bring even the hardest of hearts to crumble in a cascade of tears. Few cinematic works can hold the gaze of the most sensitive and delicate of audiences, make them confront hard realities without flinching, go beyond pity and peculiarity, and inspire hope while portraying unvarnished reality.
Without a doubt children with special needs or disabilities and their families are a worthy subject. Without question the Center for Possibilities Foundation is sincere and effective in its advocacy. Yet even without these in consideration – and solely by its artistic merits – the documentary film Yakap is worth watching.
Yakap (Embrace) is a 56-minute documentary directed by independent filmmaker Danny Añonuevo, best known for editing acclaimed movies such as highly polished yet concise full length features such as Crying Ladies and Baler, as well as having directed Rekrut. For Yakap, Añonuevo collaborated with Jessie Lasaten, responsible for music, and Issa Gonzalez, responsible for post production color grading.
The film was produced by the Center for Possibilities Foundation, which provides free special education in basic reading, writing and arithmetic by teachers trained in the Special Education division of Reach International School for families in need at remote areas such as Sagada, with more soon to follow at Norzagaray, Tacloban, and Sorsogon, filling a need government has yet to meet. The Center for Possibilities Foundation was founded by Dolores Cheng, owner of Manprom Inc. and whose own son Andreas, now 22 years of age, was born with Global Developmental Delay.
The documentary focuses on three families well chosen to present the gamut of people with special children:
There is Evangeline—the 5-year-old daughter of blogger Michelle Ressa Aventajado and Nino Aventajado, Chief Operating Officer of RNA Holdings Inc.—who was born with Down Syndrome, otherwise known as trisomy 21, genetic disorder caused by a third copy of chromosome 21 associated with associated with characteristic facial features, physical growth delays, and intellectual disability. Born to a well-to-do family, Gelli melted hearts and made audience smile when she danced in person after the premiere showing of the movie last September 7 at the Carlos P Romulo Auditorium, Yuchengco Tower, RCBC Plaza, Makati City. On film, her entire family was no less endearing as her parents clambered with her at the playground and her siblings testified their heartfelt love for her on camera.
There is Aaron Joshua—eight-year-old son of office cleaner Arnel and housewife Jocelyn De Quiroz—who was born with autism, which impairs his communication and social interaction, and epilepsy, which causes seizures and can make him hit people. Born to a struggling family in a shanty home, AJ demonstrated great progress as a scholar at a special school in Muntinlupa while her mother father demonstrated enormous grace, dignity, and perseverance in accepting their situation and seeing the good in it.
There is Kevin Avelino—45-year-old son of divorced mother Lydia Schnabel—who was born with Global Developmental Delay, which causes delayed learning and physical growth. Born to a single parent who initially was in denial, Kevin is proof that special children can grow to become independent adults and useful members of society, having been employed in a variety of jobs, currently working as a teacher’s assistant at a special school in Marikina to which he rides public transportation to and from everyday by himself.
These 3 are well chosen also because there is a member in each of their families who is highly articulate, candid, insightful, and charming who narrates the family's story. For the Aventajados it is blogger Michelle. For the De Quiroz it is housewife Jocelyn. For the Schnabels it is Kevin himself.
The documentary continuously cycles through parallel anecdotes of the Aventajados, the De Quiroz, and the Schnabels, always in that order, highlighting as it does the symmetry as well as the vast differences between their respective experiences. From wealth to poverty, from infancy to middle age, and from single parent to married couples, Yakap explores the reality of raising a special child in the Philippines today.
“I believe that film is a very compelling medium that allows individual stories to be told. Through Yakap, we are telling stories which need to be heard. We hope to generate awareness about the need to respect the potential and promise of persons with special needs,” reveals Dolores Cheng.
Though authentic and candid, there is nothing rough hewn or amateurish with “Yakap.” Highly polished yet concise like his previous works, “Yakap” exemplifies Añonuevo's deft touch in editing, cinematography, and directing with a film that is tender without being indulgent, confessional without being melodramatic, and real without being harsh.
The film reveals the initial reactions of parents to discovering their child's special needs, how they accepted it, and their apprehensions about a future when they are no longer there for their child, and how they are preparing for this eventuality. From the onset to its very end, Yakap allows audiences to embrace the humanity of these special children and their families.
For special screenings of Yakap, call (+632)7231242 and (+63918)8881759 or visit visit centerforpossibilities.asia. – Rappler.com
Writer, graphic designer, and business owner Rome Jorge is passionate about the arts. Formerly the Editor-in-Chief of asianTraveler Magazine, Lifestyle Editor of The Manila Times, and cover story writer for MEGA and Lifestyle Asia Magazines,Rome Jorge has also covered terror attacks, military mutinies, and mass demonstrations as well as reproductive health, gender equality, climate change, HIV/AIDS and other important issues. He is also the proprietor of Strawberry Jams Music Studio.