Boy From Nowhere | Film Threat
Feb 16, 2023
Writer-director SJ Finlay’s feature film, Boy From Nowhere, brings awareness to the Filipino conflict between the government and rebels that we may hear on the news but know very little about. The dramatic thriller also shines the spotlight on the children soldiers, who are mostly unwillingly recruited into the conflict. The titular boy from nowhere is Gary (Gary Jumawan), who grew up in a small village called Matina with his father.
Gary’s tribe consisted of fishermen, and as he returned home from a day at sea, he saw his village razed to the ground. His father pleads with his son to escape to the city. That would be the last time Gary saw his father. Now a stranger in the city, no one wants to help Gary because they don’t recognize what tribe he is from. He’s told that his skin is not dark enough to be from the area.
However, Gary finds friendship with a graffiti artist but loses him when the police chase them. He then finds a “home” with a wannabe gang member named NackNack (Ronald Abugan). Gary looks up to NackNack and follows him everywhere, but fortunes change when he is asked to “take out” a drug dealer at a local nightclub. NackNack is now on the run, and Gary begs to go with him. So they duck out into the jungle, where they are captured, recruited, and trained to be soldiers for the Mindanao People’s Front.
It’s here that Boy From Nowhere digs deep into the conflict that is going on in the Philippines. It appears that its corrupt government has been selling mining and farming rights to large corporations on sacred lands given to the numerous tribes in the country. The “problem” is that the tribes have no legal paperwork or documentation to prove it is their land, so the government slowly and steadily is reclaiming all tribal lands.
“…they are captured, recruited, and trained to be soldiers for the Mindanao People’s Front.”
The motion picture is a stirring tale of a young man’s odyssey to find a home. Gary finds himself in an existential tug-of-war between his family home that he’s always known and finding a new one to lay his roots in. Now add communist rebels who claim they love their homeland versus the government using shady deals to modernize the land, and the complex layers of the political onion start to unfold.
Finlay grounds the story by shooting it like a documentary. He uses handheld cameras, and the movie looks as if it’s shot on film and uses nothing but natural light. This documentary look gives a sense of realism and authenticity to a harrowing narrative that might feel too Hollywood if shot any other way.
For an indie production, it doesn’t get much more grassroots than Boy From Nowhere. Much of the cast comprises of locals who probably didn’t study acting for long. Though the performances are rough around the edges, they fit right in with the context and setting. Finlay went so far as to employ the local army for the battle scenes as well as a group of former gangsters for additional realism.
Let’s ground things even further. Jumawan is not an actor by trade. As stated in the credits, he lives with his very large family in a very small home and hopes to become a farmer one day. Though he may not possess the qualities of an actor, Jumawan understands the role of Gary. Finlay wisely surrounds him with more seasoned thespians, particularly Ronald Abugan, who is the perfect counter to the raw but edgy lead.
Boy From Nowhere is not just a tale of Gary’s odyssey. It brings awareness to the struggles of the rural citizens of the Philippines and how they are caught in the middle of a bloody war between rebels and the military. Like many youths in the Philippines, they are being “recruited” into a war they know little about.
For more information about Boy From Nowhere, visit the Buffalo 8 official website.
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