“The Year I Did Nothing” describes the months leading up to the 1986 Philippines Revolution from the perspective of a family in Manila excitedly waiting to immigrate to America.
Los Angeles writer-director Ana Barredo’s semi-autobiographical film tells a funny story filled with heart, and its mini-history lesson really resonates, given the personal spin it casts on politics.
Nora Lapena plays Christina Santos, the movie’s 15-year-old narrator, whose voice-over (by Noreen Lanie) sets the stage: For years, the Santos family has been waiting to hear whether their application to go to the U.S., sponsored by Christina’s aunt, will be approved.
In the meantime, she and her younger siblings (George Washington, named in an attempt to impress U.S. immigration officials, played by Jared Xander Silva) and “Wonder Woman” fan Elena (Faith Toledo) acquaint themselves to their prospective home, via “Laverne & Shirley” and “The A-Team.”
“The more TV we watched, the more we wanted to go America,” says Christina.
Her dad Ricky (Rhandy Torres) loves to talk politics, badmouthing dictator Ferdinand Marcos, while no one in the family listens, while her mom Lucy (Maria Noble) one day in 1985, when the movie’s action really begins, gets a letter in the mail with the good news: Their application has been accepted and they’ll begin the gradual immigration process.
Given the pending move, the kids don’t enroll in school. With their close cousins Belinda (Bianca Buena) and her little daughter Angeli (Rhianne Casey Ramos), instead, they hang out at the mall, go to church, and even become successful entrepreneurs, selling their Aunt Cecilia’s (Grace Baldiserri) delicious coconut juice to school kids at a street stand. When cousin Noel (Lyndon Apostol) shows up, they give him a discount, not a free cup.
And when the revolution really heats up in late February 1986, just days before they finally move to Los Angeles – and after they easily pass through an interview at the embassy and physical examinations – they serve the juice to the many protesters rallying for democracy.
And while they’re happy to finally leave, as they bid farewell to their extended family, it tugs the heartstrings.
Ultimately, as Barredo shows everyday family life – scenes at meals with Aunt Cecilia’s delicious food on the table are especially good – amid the changing, fervent state of the country, “The Year I Did Nothing” is a satisfying mix revealing both the connections, and disconnections, of what’s personal and what’s political.
The Year I Did Nothing
Starring: Nora Lapena, Jared Xander Silva, Faith Toledo, Rhandy Torres, Maria Noble, Grace Baldiserri
Written and directed by: Ana Barredo
Running time: 1 hour, 18 minutes
Note: Screening at 2 p.m. Sept. 29 at The World’s Independent Film Festival at New People Cinema, 1746 Post St., S.F.