Berlinale Generation Kplus: About Venice Atienza’s documentary Last Days at Sea

LAST DAYS AT SEA by Venice Atienza. —

Again and again the viewer hears the sound of the sea. Like in a meditation, Venice Atienza’s documentary ensures that the young and adult viewers of the Berlinale screening in the open-air cinema in the Hasenheide can dream themselves into the distance. It is thanks to the new “side” screen in the Hasenheide, which can also be used during the day when the sun is shining, that the children’s section of the Berlinale was able to take place at all. Incidentally, that was the very first chance that children like our son could go to the cinema again since November 2020.

“When the crabs are big, they leave their clamshells. And then a little crab comes along and makes it her home, ” the filmmaker tells her young, 12-year-old protagonist Reyboy. Reyboy’s home is the tiny village of Karihatag in the Philippines, on the island of Mindanao, far from the capital Manila. There is only one elementary school in his village. His uncle Buboy is a fisherman. But the fishing profession has grown tough since the big fishing trawlers offshore overfished the waters and minimized the catches of local fishermen. More and more often they return without tuna. Once one of the fishermen shows his catch of the day: two tiny fish.

Reyboy loves to swim and dive and he is interested in nature and marine life. Even if he has no idea about the size and diversity of the world, even if he cannot even imagine that there are people on this earth who do not even know Karihatag, he still has dreams: “Can birds reach the clouds? Oh they can? I want that. To be able to play over there. That’s what I want. To be a bird. ”And because his parents realize that the only way for Reyboy to escape the hard, fruitless, poor and dangerous work of a fisherman in Karihatag is to go to the distant city. They decided to send him to high school. Reyboy knows, however, that he will then live a long way away from his parents, and he knows that when it comes up he can see his parents once a month.

The filmmaker accompanies Reyboy on his last days in the village, on the last days of his childhood, in his favorite place, the sea. And she already tells him a little bit about the big world that he will soon encounter, and she learns about his dreams, his thoughts, his wishes at this possibly significant turning point in his life. This creates a poetic dialogue from two different perspectives, that of the 10-year-old village boy on the one hand and that of the adult filmmaker on the other.

„This genuine curiosity in wanting to know a person who is different from you is very important. Because I feel this is the only way we can learn to care for one another, when we really open ourselves for them,” explains the director. I think instilling that curiosity into children is one of the most valuable things that parents can do for their children. And that can be just as successful in a family in a poor village on Mindanao as it is in a family like ours in Berlin-Neukölln or anywhere in the world. And maybe Venice Atienza’s film opened our son’s eyes a little bit to how children live in completely different regions of the world, and that completely different things are important for the ten-year-old Reyboy from Karihatag than for the six-year-old Julius from Berlin-Neukölln – and that they may still both be children with somehow similar dreams and needs.

The Filipino documentary filmmaker Venice Atienza was born in 1989. She lives partly in Manila and partly in Mumbai. In her work she is particularly interested in the question of how everyday actions can bring about changes in life. She is an alumna of the European DocNomads program and founded the production company Svemirko Film Productions together with the Taiwanese director and producer Fan Wu, which aims to offer a platform for documentary auteur films. Last Days at Sea is her feature film debut.


by Venice Atienza
with John Russel Rey „Reyboy“ Paño, Cresente „Buboy“ Betonio, Cleofe „Neneng“ Betonio, Florecita „Babe“ Paño, Emibie Paño
Philippines / Taiwan 2021
Tagalog, Cebuano, subtitles: English
71 minutes

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