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Overreaching but underwhelming effort does justice to a major news event

/ 12:25 AM October 07, 2017

At first glance, the decision of “Maalaala Mo Kaya” to present a dramatic depiction of the armed conflict in Marawi is an upbeat development.

Much too often, local drama shows are rapped for living in the distant past and opting for escapist fare. “MMK’s” drama about Marawi directly contradicted that passive stance, so it should definitely be encouraged.

Unfortunately, this particular “factual dramatization” turned out to be too big a challenge for its scripting and production team, and could even be described as an overreaching but underwhelming effort to do justice to a major news event.

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There’s a lot to be said for being timely and “connected,” but if the event is as huge and impactful as the Marawi standoff, it demands a lot from its depicters on TV—and, if they fall short, it glaringly shows.

Truth to tell, the production already hedged its bets and narrowed down its focus, in judicious recognition of the tall order it had set up for itself: It chose to tell just one of the many stories related to the huge war in Marawi, involving one “ordinary hero” who made it his mission to get a small group of escapees and refugees to safety at the start of the conflict.

The courageous protagonist (John Estrada) was a family man who was initially bent on fleeing only with his loved ones, but other mainly Christian escapees pleaded with him to help them, and he was “forced” to oblige.

He would have successfully brought his family to safety, but his new “dependents” were too much and too many to handle, so he had to forego that tempting option—and get his group to seek refuge in a big house.

Tragically for them, some enemy combatants got wind of their existence. While in hiding for a protracted period, the protagonist’s heretofore cooperative wards began to show their true colors and character flaws, fighting over food, wasting water, etc.

These “minidramas” were supposed to imbue the over-arching conflict with “texture” and a “representative” sampling of the “human landscape.”

But, too many of the bits and pieces were of the predictable sort, so they didn’t dramatically escalate and peak, as intended. In addition, most of the cameo performances were sketchy and obvious.

Even Estrada’s lead portrayal was too predictable to give the drama the strong spine and fulcrum it needed. Despite these lapses, we appreciated its attempt to be current and engaged, instead of just “generically” inspirational.

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Next time around, however, TV stalwarts who tackle an important news event should steel themselves for a really tough and complex challenge.

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TAGS: armed conflict in Marawi, factual dramatization, John Estrada, Maalaala Mo Kaya
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