Festivals, Reviews

QCinema 2019: ‘No Data Plan’ – Migration, fugitivism, and the Filipino diaspora

According to the Migration Policy Institute, there are approximately 1.6 million Filipinos living as immigrant workers in the United States, comprising roughly 4 percent of the country’s entire OFW population. Lack of employment opportunities and as the government’s labor export policy are among the primary reasons some Filipinos opt to leave the country in search of greener pastures, an effect of the prevailing neoliberal orientation of the world economy.

Under the Trump administration, however, the discourse on immigrant policies in the US has skewed in favor of purist and chauvinistic ideologies, with the President himself leading the unjust clamor for deportation of undocumented immigrants, notwithstanding that they have already been staying in the country for decades and had already established stable jobs and lives. Families are being torn apart, racial discrimination has intensified, and the police have been tasked to carry out yet another morally questionable order.

Hence Miko Revereza’s documentary comes not only from a place of importance but one of resistance. The entire film takes place during one long ride from Los Angeles to New York inside the Amtrak train, full of narrations and reminiscences on why and how his family migrated to the US. Through the unusual structure, he forces us to sit with him inside the train, using various methods of analysis–personal, historical, political–as he tries to understand why they are experiencing this kind of problem. Was it because of her mother’s illicit affair with another man? Maybe it’s karma for benefitting from the katulong/kasama (helper/tenant) system as one of the elites back in the Philippines? Or perhaps it’s because of their own foolishness for getting seduced by the illusion of the American dream?

No Data Plan doesn’t really offer any definite answer, but it makes one thing clear: Revereza and his fellow immigrants do not deserve this kind of hostility. Though Filipino by race, he identifies as an American citizen and has already been accustomed to the American way of life. Trump’s deportation policies have turned them into fugitives in their own home, once a life of relative comfort converted into one of constant fear and need for mobility. This continued exclusion and minoritization has seeped into every aspect of their lives, even in something as mundane as a train ride.

But they struggle and fight back. The mere existence of No Data Plan is already proof that the immigrant community is determined to assert their right to continue living in the US. It uses the element of time intelligently to develop empathy with its audience and enjoin them in the call to recognize immigrants’ rights. The documentary is effective precisely because it is authentic and personal, achieving profundity in its simplicity.

No Data Plan is a film that shines for its braveness to expose social realities in a time of political turmoil, more so for being told from the perspective of the marginalized sector involved in this distressing situation. It balances factual documentation with a hopeful vision for the future where immigrants are no longer ostracized in American society.

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