Set in 1985 in the #Philippines, #TheYearIDidNothing follows a year in the life of the Santos family as they await their anticipated emigration to America. The film is based on a real-life family and is set during the build-up to the first presidential election in the Philippines since 1981, as the country prepares to unseat the infamous dictator, #FerdinandMarcos.
The informative opening introduces you to the family, as well as the politics of the time in the Philippines through photographs and footage. History is of great importance to the narrative and The Year I Did Nothing enforces how historical and political events impact on growing up and the decisions that people make throughout their lives.
The film opens in Manila in May 1985. Christina Santos, played by Nora Lapena, and her siblings George Washington Santos (Jared Xander Silva) and Elena Santos (Faith Toledo), are watching American TV programs. They are immersing themselves in American pop culture to prepare themselves for their big move to the States. They stop going to school to save money from the tuition for the move to America, and the film follows how they spend their days in the lead up to this life-changing event in the family. Whether it’s going to church, spending too much money on ice cream so they are unable to afford the taxi home, or watching Star Wars, the Santos siblings spend their days awaiting the news that they will finally be leaving for America.
The Year I Did Nothing is certainly a political film, but Ana Barredo’s script and direction are successful in capturing a comedic and lighter look at emigration. For example, the son in the film is called George Washington, as the parents hoped it would help them with their visa application and when the family arrives at their interview they are all wearing the American flag on various items of clothing. These lighter touches to the film add to its charm and make for a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging look at emigration and the politics surrounding it.
The overall filmmaking technique feels quite simple, yet still effective. Extended scenes of conversations around the dinner table allow for the performances to take center stage. The film boasts great performances from its cast, particularly from the three siblings of the Santos family. They all have believable chemistry with one another and it is easy to imagine that this is a real family.
Overall, The Year I Did Nothing is funny, charming and insightful in its depiction of the political history of the Philippines in 1985-6. This coming of age story is successful in intertwining important political milestones in a country’s history while documenting a family’s year while they await their own momentous change.